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Marshall v. Sobina

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 30, 2013

RAYMOND SOBINA, et al., Defendants.




It is respectfully recommended that the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Baker, Telega, Gilreath and Mowry [ECF No. 82] be granted in part and denied in part. The Clerk of Courts should be directed to terminate Defendants Baker and Gilreath from this action.

It is further recommended that the partial motion for summary judgment filed by the Commonwealth Defendants [ECF No. 86] be granted in part and denied in part. The Clerk of Courts should be directed to terminate Defendant Breckenridge.


A. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff, a state inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, initiated this civil rights action on July 13, 2010. Plaintiff, acting pro se , alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment in numerous ways. Plaintiff claims he was assaulted by Defendant Hewitt, a guard, received inadequate medical care following the assault, and he was retaliated against by the Commonwealth Defendants after he filed grievances. ECF No. 4. As Defendants to this action, Plaintiff names the following: Raymond Sobina, Superintendent; Maxine Overton, Health Care Administrator; Lieutenant William McConnell; Lt. Robertson; Col. Hewitt; Scott Breckenridge, an employee of the Food Service Department; and Ralph Lucas, an RN, all of the Department of Corrections of the Commonwealth (hereinafter referred to as the "Commonwealth Defendants"); and Daniel Telega; Tammy Mowry; Dr. Mark Baker; and Dr. Valerie Gilrealth, all of Prison Health Services, Inc. (hereinafter referred to as the "PHS Defendants"). These two groups of Defendants are represented separately.

In response to the Complaint, the Commonwealth Defendants Robertson, Lucas, McConnell, Breckenridge, Sobina, and Overton[1] filed a partial motion to dismiss arguing that Plaintiff has failed to adequately allege personal involvement by Defendants Robertson, Lucas, McConnell, Breckenridge, Sobina, and Overton. ECF No. 24. The PHS Defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing for dismissal based in part upon Plaintiff's failure to state a claim of deliberate indifference. ECF No. 33. These motions were granted in part and denied in part and Defendants Robertson and Overton were dismissed from this action. ECF Nos. 53, 55.

Presently pending before this Court are motions for summary judgment filed by both sets of Defendants. These issues are fully briefed and are ripe for disposition by this Court.

B. Standards of Review

1) Pro Se Litigants

Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, " must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall , 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley , 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969)(petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance"); Smith v. U.S. District Court , 956 F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Dep't of Corrections , 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman , 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver , 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co. , 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990)(same). Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court may consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.

2) Motion for summary judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted if the "movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." When applying this standard, the court must examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Andreoli v. Gates , 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007); UPMC Health System v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. , 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004). The burden then shifts to the non-movant to come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa. , 891 F.2d 458, 460-461 (3d Cir. 1989)(the non-movant must present affirmative evidence - more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance - which supports each element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion for summary judgment). The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by information contained in the filed documents (i.e., depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim. Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322. See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp. , 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). The non-moving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue." Garcia v. Kimmell , 2010 WL 2089639, at * 1 (3d Cir. 2010) quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv. , 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

C. Plaintiff's General Factual Allegations

1) Allegations against the Commonwealth Defendants

Plaintiff alleges that around January 28, 2010, he and Defendant Hewitt became involved in a verbal and physical confrontation that resulted in injuries to Plaintiff. ECF No. 4, Complaint, ¶¶ 21-29.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lucas, an RN, initially denied him emergency admission to the Medical Department until Plaintiff wrote up a sick call slip requesting medical attention. Id. at ¶¶ 32-34. Plaintiff alleges that once he eventually arrived at the Medical Department, he was seen by Defendant Lucas who only took his vital signs and interrogated him in a hostile manner about the cause of his injuries. Id. at ¶ 34. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lucas deliberately advised Defendant Telega, the physician assistant who conducted the physical examination, that Plaintiff was alluding to an assault by an officer and Defendant Lucas attempted to "sabotage and deprive the Plaintiff of treatment to cover evidence of Defendant Hewitt's assault." Id.

Defendant McConnell allegedly engaged in a campaign of retaliation against Plaintiff beginning after January 29, 2010, when he was assigned as the grievance officer (presumably to investigate the physical encounter between Defendant Hewitt and Plaintiff). Defendant McConnell allegedly watched Plaintiff on the security camera and directed another officer (not named as a defendant to this action) to ...

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