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Brandon M. Simeone, Administrator D.B.N. of the Estate of John v. Dana Phillips

November 13, 2012

BRANDON M. SIMEONE, ADMINISTRATOR D.B.N. OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN SIMEONE, III, DECEASED, ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF JOHN SIMEONE, III, DECEASED AND BRANDON M. SIMEONE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL THE WRONGFUL DEATH HEIRS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DANA PHILLIPS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER OF ALLEGHENY CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC., ALLEGHENY CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC., AND ALLEGHENY COUNTY,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF No. 43

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Allegheny County (hereinafter "Defendant" or "Allegheny County") (ECF No. 43). Defendant has filed a Brief in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 45) and a Concise Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 44). Plaintiff Brandon M. Simeone (hereinafter "Plaintiff") has filed a Response to the Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 46), a Brief in Opposition thereto (ECF No. 49) and a Response to Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (ECF No. 47). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

I.Procedural Background

Plaintiff initiated this matter in state court and it was removed to this Court on February 17, 2010. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint asserts that John Simeone, III (hereinafter "Decedent") was incarcerated in the Allegheny County Jail on November 25, 2007, when he hung himself in his cell with his shoelaces. Plaintiff, who is Decedent's son, named the following individuals and entities as Defendants: Ramon C. Rustin (Warden of the Allegheny County Jail), Dan Onorato (Chief Executive of Allegheny County), Bruce Dixon (Director of the Allegheny County Health Department), Dana Phillips (Chief Operating Officer of Allegheny Correctional Health Services), Allegheny Correctional Health Services, Allegheny County Health Department, and Allegheny County. All individual Defendants were sued in their individual and official capacities.

Defendants Rustin, Onorato, Dixon, Allegheny County Health Department, and Allegheny County filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (ECF No. 3), and said Motion was granted in part and denied in part on December 23, 2010 (ECF No. 14). By Order of Court, Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Rustin, Onorato, Dixon, and the Allegheny County Health Department were dismissed with prejudice. (ECF Nos. 14, 15.) As to Defendant Allegheny County, the only remaining claims are those asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 found in Counts I and II of the Complaint.

II.Factual Background

The following recitation of facts is adduced from the submissions of both parties. Decedent was admitted into the Allegheny County Jail (hereinafter "ACJ" or "the jail") on November 22, 2007. Plaintiff contends that at the time Decedent was admitted, he exhibited signs and symptoms that he was suffering from severe withdrawal from an opiate addiction and such withdrawal affected his mental state and posed a threat to his own safety. Decedent was screened by medical staff upon intake at the jail and assigned to Pod 4B, the jail's intake detox pod. The level four pods are the intake pods and the inmates assigned to Pod 4B typically stay housed on that pod until they are done detoxing.

Corrections Officer Foriska was assigned to work the 3pm to 11pm shift on Pod 4B on November 25, 2007. According to Officer Foriska, he was required to make rounds once an hour from 3pm to 8pm then once every half hour starting at 8:30pm. He was relieved for his one hour lunch break by Corrections Officer Murchison at approximately 6:10pm. Shortly thereafter, Officer Murchison was notified that a pastor was on his way to the pod to conduct church service. The pastor arrived at 6:40pm and Officer Murchison announced that any inmate who wished to attend service should push their button so that she could open their cell. The button in Decedent's cell was activated but because Decedent was on disciplinary housing status Officer Murchison told him that he was not permitted to attend. Decedent's cellmate, however, was permitted to attend because he was not on disciplinary housing status.

According to Officer Murchison, Decedent became hostile and irate once he was told he could not attend service. Shouting from his cell and over the intercom, he called her numerous foul names and his yelling briefly disrupted the church service once it started at approximately 6:45pm. Officer Murchison then wrote an incident report taking away the Decedent's one hour recreation time for disrespecting an officer. At approximately 6:50pm, Officer Murchison received a call from intake for the release of two inmates and she interrupted the service to announce their names. The inmates collected their belongings and she placed them in the sally port at 7pm.

Upon returning from the sally port, Officer Murchison started her security check round of all the cells. As she arrived at cell 105 she saw Decedent hanging from the upper bunk in a sitting position with two shoe laces around his neck. She quickly returned back to her desk in order to open the cell door and notify central control of a medical emergency. Inmates Martin Williamson and Brian Luczki rushed into Decedent's cell and placed him on the ground. Officer Murchison felt a slight pulse and inmate Luczki administered CPR. Medical arrived at approximately 7:15pm and Decedent was transported to UPMC Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead two days later.

III.Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the record indicates that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element to that party's case and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence or the lack thereof that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. National State Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must set forth "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The inquiry, then, involves determining "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). If a court, having reviewed the evidence with this standard in mind, concludes that "the ...


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