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Alphonso Sanders, et al v. Jeffrey A. Beard

April 19, 2013

ALPHONSO SANDERS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion in Limine filed by Defendants Art Varner, James Fouse, and William Felton. (Doc. 394.) In their motion, Defendants, current or former managers at the State Correctional Institution at Smithfield ("SCI--Smithfield"), contend that Plaintiffs Alphonso Sanders, Steve Stewart, Anthony Williams, Dwight Bowen, and John Diaz, who were, at all relevant times, incarcerated at SCI--Smithfield, have not exhausted their administrative remedies prior to instituting this action. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Plaintiff Williams' claims will be dismissed; all claims against Defendant Fouse will be dismissed; the remaining Plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims against Defendants Varner and Felton will proceed to trial insofar as they seek injunctive relief and concern the ventilation system, air quality, and water quality at SCI--Smithfield; and Plaintiff Sanders' claims for monetary damages arising from his Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims against Defendants Varner and Felton will proceed to trial.

BACKGROUND

I. The Complaint

This case concerns Eighth Amendment claims brought by pro se Plaintiffs Alphonso Sanders, Steve Stewart, Anthony Williams, Dwight Bowen, and John Diaz pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs, who were incarcerated at SCI--Smithfield at all relevant times,*fn1 allege that their conditions of confinement were inadequate and that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to their medical needs. The remaining Defendants in this case are:

(1) Art Varner, the former SCI--Smithfield Facility Maintenance Manager; (2) James Fouse, the current SCI--Smithfield Safety Manager; and (3) William Felton, the current SCI--Smithfield Facility Maintenance Manager.

In their Complaint, filed July 16, 2009, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants knowingly housed them in unsafe and life-threatening conditions, and that SCI--Smithfield was so unstable that it could collapse at any moment. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 28, 38.) Specifically, Plaintiffs were required to live and work in buildings "that are sinking and 'mold infested' . . . from years of flooding and water damage, poor and neglected maintenance." (Id. at ¶ 29.) They state that the prison has inadequate ventilation, which exposed them to secondhand tobacco smoke, viral and bacterial infections, stale air, odorous smells, and unusual amounts of dust, soot, dirt, and felt-like lint. (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that there are scabie and staphylococcus aureus outbreaks in SCI--Smithfield. (Id. at ¶ 43.) They further allege that the prison has "Sick Building Syndrome" that has caused ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, emphysema, and conjunctivitis. (Id. at ¶¶ 28, 32.) In addition, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants denied them proper medical care and concealed the hazardous conditions at the prison. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 30, 54.) They seek an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 111, 113.)

II. The Grievances

A. DC-ADM 804 Inmate Grievance System

The administrative procedure that Pennsylvania state inmates must use to prosecute grievances is laid out in the DOC's DC-ADM 804. (Defs.' Ex. 26.) This inmate grievance system consists of three stages. At the initial review stage, the inmate must submit a grievance to the Facility Grievance Coordinator within fifteen working days of the event on which the grievance is based. (Id. at 5.) An inmate who is dissatisfied with the initial decision may appeal to the Facility Manager within ten working days from the date of the initial review decision. (Id. at 7.) If an inmate is dissatisfied with the Facility Manager's decision, he may then appeal to final review with the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals ("SOIGA") by filing an appeal within fifteen working days of the date of the Facility Manager's decision. (Id. at 9.) An inmate appealing a grievance to final review is responsible for providing SOIGA with all required documentation relevant to the appeal: photocopies of the initial grievance, initial review response, inmate appeal to the Facility Manager, and the Facility Manager's decision. (Id. at 10.) An inmate's failure to provide such documentation may result in the appeal being dismissed. (Id.)

DC-ADM 804 also dictates what information an inmate must include in his initial grievance. First, an inmate "will include a statement of facts relevant to the claim" in the initial grievance. (Defs.' Ex. 26 at 4.) The inmate "will identify any person(s) who may have information that could be helpful in resolving the grievance" as well. (Id. at 5.) Additionally, if an inmate "desires compensation or other legal relief normally available from a court, the inmate shall request the specific relief sought in his/her initial grievance." (Id.)

B. Plaintiffs' Grievances

A search by Tracy Williams, a Grievance Review Officer for SOIGA, indicates that Plaintiffs filed the following grievances about the issues in their Complaint prior to instituting this action.

1. Plaintiff Sanders

On April 10, 2007, Plaintiff Sanders filed Grievance No. 184543. (Defs.' Ex. 28.) In the grievance, he alleges that the ventilation ducts at SCI-Smithfield are not cleaned frequently or thoroughly enough, which has contributed to "Sick Building Syndrome." (Id.) Plaintiff Sanders cites Sick Building Syndrome as the cause of his various ailments, such as respiratory discomfort and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. (Id.) He further claims that the prison's HVAC system circulates dust mites and mildew spores to each cell, and inadequate ventilation impairs the air quality of the prison block and cells each day.

(Id.) In his grievance, he seeks $60,000.00 in compensatory damages as well as injunctive relief. (Id.) Specifically, he seeks to have the prison's HVAC system "opened . . . and thoroughly cleaned every 60 to 90 days" or, alternatively, an increased "outside air mixture into the system." (Id.) Plaintiff Sanders appealed this grievance to final ...


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