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Kates v. Packer

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

January 27, 2014

DAVID E. KATES, Plaintiff,
C.O. ROBERT PACKER, et al., Defendants.



KAROLINE MEHALCHICK United States Magistrate Judge

This matter comes before the Court upon the Plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. (Doc. 5). For the reasons stated herein, it is recommended that the motion be denied.

I. Background

On June 7, 2013, the Court received a pro se complaint against the Defendants in which the Plaintiff, David E. Kates, alleged a violation of his federal constitutional rights pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), together with a memorandum of law and several exhibits in support of his claims. (Doc. 2; Doc. 2-1; Doc. 2-2; Doc. 2-3; Doc. 5). Because the Plaintiff is a prisoner, the complaint is considered to have been filed on May 29, 2013, the date upon which he signed the complaint and submitted it to prison officials for mailing. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270–71 (1988) (articulating the “prison mailbox rule”). In his complaint, Kates alleges that, on May 24, 2012, he was severely beaten by several correctional officers, that he was refused appropriate medical care in the days and weeks that followed this alleged beating, and that his rights were further violated in the conduct of a related disciplinary hearing and administrative appeals process, which was completed in November 2012. (Doc. 1; Doc. 2; Doc. 6). Along with the complaint, Kates also submitted the instant motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, seeking an order directing that he be transferred to another institution or, alternatively, an order enjoining the Defendants from “future retaliation, harassment, assaults, threats, intimidation, [and] taking of his legal documents, ” and directing that he be assigned “single cell status” to prevent any harm that might result if his cellmate is “bribed” by correctional officers to injure or kill him. (Doc. 5).[1]

II. Discussion

Preliminary injunctive relief is extraordinary in nature and should issue in only limited circumstances. See Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Winback & Conserve Program, Inc., 42 F.3d 1421, 1426– 27 (3d Cir. 1994). Moreover, issuance of such relief is at the discretion of the trial judge. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. v. Chamberlain, 145 F.Supp.2d 621, 625 (M.D. Pa. 2001). In determining whether to grant a motion seeking preliminary injunctive relief, courts in the Third Circuit consider the following four factors: “(1) likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm resulting from a denial of the relief; (3) the harm to the non-moving party if relief is granted; and (4) the public interest.” United States v. Bell, 238 F.Supp.2d 696, 699 (M.D. Pa. 2003); see also Bieros v. Nicola, 857 F.Supp. 445, 446 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (“The standards for a temporary restraining order are the same as those for a preliminary injunction.”). It is the moving party who bears the burden of satisfying these factors. Bell, 238 F.Supp.2d at 699. “Only if the movant produces evidence sufficient to convince the trial judge that all four factors favor preliminary relief should the injunction issue.” Opticians Ass’n of Am. v. Indep. Opticians of Am., 920 F.2d 187, 192 (3d Cir. 1990).

“[A]n essential prerequisite to the grant of a preliminary injunction is a showing by the movant of irreparable injury pendente lite if the relief is not granted.”[2] United States v. Pennsylvania, 533 F.2d 107, 110 (3d Cir. 1976). A preliminary injunction “may not be used simply to eliminate a possibility of a remote future injury.” Holiday Inns of Am., Inc. v. B&B Corp., 409 F.2d 614, 618 (3d Cir. 1969). “[T]he irreparable harm must be actual and imminent, not merely speculative.” Angstadt ex rel. Angstadt v. Midd-West Sch., 182 F.Supp.2d 435, 437 (M.D. Pa. 2002). “[M]ore than a risk of irreparable harm must be demonstrated. The requisite for injunctive relief has been characterized as a ‘clear showing of immediate irreparable injury, ’ or a ‘presently existing actual threat ....’” Continental Grp., Inc. v. Amoco Chems. Corp., 614 F.2d 351, 359 (3d Cir. 1980) (citations omitted). “A preliminary injunction cannot be issued based on past harm. The purpose of a preliminary injunction is to prevent future irreparable harm.” Fisher v. Goord, 981 F.Supp. 140, 168 (W.D.N.Y. 1997) (emphasis in original).

Moreover, “[t]he ‘requisite feared injury or harm must be irreparable — not merely serious or substantial, ’ and it ‘must be of a peculiar nature, so that compensation in money cannot atone for it.’” ECRI v. McGraw-Hill, Inc., 809 F.2d 223, 226 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Glasco v. Hills, 558 F.2d 179, 181 (3d Cir. 1977)). “In order to demonstrate irreparable harm the plaintiff must demonstrate potential harm which cannot be redressed by a legal or an equitable remedy following a trial. The preliminary injunction must be the only way of protecting the plaintiff from harm.” Instant Air Freight Co. v. C.F. Air Freight, Inc., 882 F.2d 797, 801 (3d Cir. 1989) (emphasis added). “The key word in this consideration is irreparable.... The possibility that adequate compensatory or other corrective relief will be available at a later date, in the ordinary course of litigation, weighs heavily against a claim of irreparable harm.” Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90 (1974) (emphasis in original).

Reviewing the complaint, the supporting exhibits, and the motion papers, it is clear that no immediate irreparable injury is alleged. The facts averred therein are concerned solely with an alleged assault that occurred on May 24, 2012, more than one full year before Kates filed his complaint in this action and his motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. These materials fail to articulate a presently existing actual threat of irreparable injury, outlining nothing more than a speculative possibility of future harm, based upon a single past assault and generalized allegations of threats and harassment by correctional officers. Such generalized allegations are insufficient to establish a “clear showing of immediate irreparable injury.” See Continental Grp., 614 F.2d at 359; Hendricks v. Hazzard, No. 2:11-cv-399, 2013 WL 2635729, at *5 (S.D. Ohio June 12, 2013) (finding that allegations of ongoing general harassment and threats, and allegations of specific threats of physical harm that were never acted upon, were insufficient to demonstrate imminent irreparable harm).

Moreover, notwithstanding Kate’s allegation that he was the victim of a “brutal” assault on May 24, 2012, the only documented injuries he suffered at that time were a small laceration to his wrist and an abrasion to his knee, both of which were promptly treated by medical personnel. While Kates alleges further unspecified and untreated injuries that he may have suffered as a result of this alleged assault, these vague and conclusory allegations fall far short of the “clear showing of immediate irreparable injury” required to establish irreparable harm. See Continental Grp., 614 F.2d at 359; White v. Corr. Med. Servs., No. 1:08-CV-277, 2009 WL 529082, *8 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 2, 2009) (finding conclusory statements regarding plaintiff’s alleged injuries and treatment, without evidentiary support, were insufficient to demonstrate irreparable injury).

Finally, Kates has an adequate remedy at law for the bodily injuries alleged in this case, both past and potential. See City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 111, 113 (1983) (damages were adequate remedy at law in 1983 action concerning excessive force). “The availability of adequate monetary damages belies a claim of irreparable injury.” Frank’s GMC Truck Ctr., Inc. v. Gen. Motors Corp., 847 F.2d 100, 102 (3d Cir. 1988); see also In re Arthur Treacher’s Franchisee Litig., 689 F.2d 1137, 1145 (3d Cir. 1982) (“[W]e have never upheld an injunction where the claimed injury constituted a ... loss capable of recoupment in a proper action at law.”).

III. Recommendation

Based on the foregoing, it is recommended that the motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (Doc. 5) filed by the ...

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