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Hairston v. United States

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 21, 2013

UNITED STATES F.B.O.P., et al., Defendants.


SUSAN E. SCHWAB, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by the remaining defendants in this civil rights matter. For the reasons set forth herein, I recommend that the motion be granted.

I. Background.

A. Procedural History.

On May 7, 2012, the plaintiff, Arthur Hairston Sr. ("Hairston"), an inmate formerly imprisoned at the United States satellite prison camp in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP Lewisburg"), initiated this action by filing a complaint in accord with Bivens. [1] Doc. 1. In the complaint, Hairston named the following 11 defendants: (1) the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"); (2) Harrell Watts, the National Inmate Appeal Administrator; (3) J.L. Norwood, a Regional Director; (4) W. Scism, the former Warden at Allenwood Low Security Correctional Institution ("LSCI Allenwood"); (5) B.A. Bledsoe, Warden at USP Lewisburg; (6) S. Gosa, a Physician's Assistant at USP Lewisburg; (7) D. Hollenbach, a Unit Manager at USP Lewisburg; (8) M. Nicholas, a Case Manager at USP Lewisburg; (9) G. Ulsh, a Correctional Counselor at USP Lewisburg; (10) H. Hunsinger, a Correctional Officer at USP Lewisburg; and (11) D. Kiefaber, a Correctional Systems Officer at USP Lewisburg. Id. at 2-3. Generally, Hairston claims that the defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in connection with actions taken by prison staff at the time of his intake screening upon arriving at USP Lewisburg. See Doc. 1. Hairston also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, ( Doc. 6) which was granted on May 22, 2012. Doc. 8.

After waiving service, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. Doc. 13. With regard to the summary judgment portion of that motion, the defendants argued that summary judgment was warranted based solely on Hairston's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies. Doc. 17 at 13-15. Once the motion to dismiss and for summary judgment was ripe for review, Magistrate Judge Carlson issued a report and recommendation granting it in part and denying it in part. Doc. 29. Specifically, Magistrate Judge Carlson recommended that: (1) the claims against the BOP be dismissed; (2) the claims against the defendants in their official capacities be dismissed because sovereign immunity barred those claims; (3) the claims against the supervisory defendants based on their handling of Hairston's administrative remedies be dismissed; and (4) there was a genuine dispute of fact about whether the administrative remedy process was available to Hairston. Doc. 29 at 2, 27. On November 5, 2012, the Court adopted Judge Carlson's report and recommendation in its entirety and the case was remanded for further pretrial management. Doc. 38. As a result, the following defendants, sued in their individual capacity, remain: (1) Gosa; (2) Hollenbach; (3) Nicholas; (4) Ulsh; (5) Hunsinger; and (6) Kiefaber. On December 3, 2012, the case was verbally referred to the undersigned.

Subsequently, on January 18, 2013, the remaining defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. 45. Within 14 days, as required by Local Rule 7.5, the defendants filed their brief in support, statement of facts, and other documents. Docs. 47, 48, & 49. Hairston then filed a timely brief in opposition, a counterstatement of facts, and his own affidavit that is rife with conclusory allegations and self-serving statements. Docs. 50, 51, & 52. Thereafter, the defendants filed a reply brief. Doc. 55. The motion, having been fully briefed and argued by the parties, is ripe for disposition on the merits.

B. Facts.[2]

On May 20, 2010, at approximately 12:47 p.m., Hairston arrived to the camp component at USP Lewisburg. Doc. 48 at ¶ 1. Upon arrival, Kiefaber conducted the initial processing of Hairston in the Receiving and Discharge area of the camp. Id. at ¶ 2. During the initial processing phase, Hairston was strip searched, fingerprinted and photographed for inmate identification, and provided with institutional clothing. Id. at ¶ 3. Further, Hairston acted belligerently. Id. at ¶ 4.

After initial processing, Hairston was seen by medical staff for an intake interview, and he continued acting belligerently. Id. at ¶¶ 5, 11. Neither Kiefaber, Hunsinger, Ulsh, Hollenbach, nor Nicholas were a part of the prison's medical staff. Id. at ¶ 6. Instead, Gosa, a physician's assistant, performed the medical portion of Hairston's intake screening. Id. at ¶ 7. At this stage, inmates are interviewed in order to determine if there are any medical reasons for housing the inmate away from the general population or for restricting temporary work assignments. Id. at ¶ 8. A comprehensive physical examination is performed at a later date. Id. at ¶ 9. According to his medical history, Hairston had been diagnosed with diabetes, and he complained of persistent pain following a back surgery that had taken place at some point in the past. See generally, Doc. 48-1 at 47-48. After meeting with Hairston, Gosa wrote him a medical pass for a lower bunk based on his medical history. Id. at ¶ 12; but see ¶ 31.

Next, following his medical interview, Hairston was seen by a member of his unit team for a social interview. Hairston's unit team consisted of Hollenbach, Nicholas, and Ulsh. Id. at ¶¶ 13, 14, 15, 17, 19. In Hairston's case, though, Hollenbach did not directly participate in the intake process, and neither Ulsh nor Nicholas recalls interviewing Hairston. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 18, 20.

After the social interview was completed, Hairston was given his cell and bunk assignment. In general, Hunsinger made the assignments based on the availability of beds. Id. at ¶ 23. Hollenbach, Nicholas, and Ulsh were not involved with assigning cells to inmates. Id. at 21. If an inmate completed the intake process and the medical staff determined that an inmate required a bottom bunk, Hunsinger would change the assignment to meet the staff's recommendation. Id. at ¶ 24. Regarding Hairston's bunk assignment, however, Hunsinger does not recall being contacted by anyone regarding a recommendation that Hairston be assigned to a lower bunk. Id. at ¶ 25. As a result, Hariston was assigned to an upper bunk, and his assignment was turned over to Kiefaber. See id. at ¶¶ 26, 28.

Thereafter, at approximately 2:20 p.m., Kiefaber handed Hairston his bunk assignment. Id. at ¶ 28. When Hairston saw that he was assigned to an upper bunk, he acted disrespectfully, refused to leave the area, and insisted that he had a lower bunk assignment. Id. at ¶¶ 29, 30. Based on Hairston's assertions that he required a lower bunk assignment, Kiefaber asked him to produce a lower bunk slip, but he could not. Id. at ¶ 31. Because Hairston did not comply and could not produce a lower bunk slip, Hairston was taken to the Receiving and Discharge holding cell. Id. at ¶ 32. On the way to the holding cell, Kiefaber admitted that he placed his hand on Hairston's neck, but denied doing anything more. See Doc. 48 at ¶¶ 32, 33. Moreover, while he remained in the holding cell, Hairston told Kiefaber that he was lucky that he did not do anything to him (Hairston). Id. at ¶ 33.

At approximately 2:35 p.m., Kiefaber issued Hairston an incident report for refusing a program assignment and insolence towards a staff member. Id. at ¶ 34. The incident report was delivered to Hairston at approximately 2:53 p.m. Id. at ¶ 35. ...

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