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Wakeley v. Giraux

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

February 18, 2014


Caldwell Judge


THOMAS M. BLEWITT United States Magistrate Judge


On December 28, 2012, Plaintiff Josette Wakeley, formerly an inmate of the State Correctional Institution in Muncy, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Muncy”), filed, through counsel, the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff basically asserted a failure to protect claim under the Eighth Amendment regarding an assault on her by another inmate on March 3, 2011, at SCI-Muncy. Plaintiff paid the filing fee. It appears that Plaintiff is presently confined at SCI-Cambridge Springs.

Since Plaintiff alleges violations of her constitutional rights and brings this civil rights action under §1983, this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 and §1343. Venue is proper in this Court since Plaintiff was confined in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Defendants are located in this district and, the actions allegedly violating her constitutional rights occurred in this district.

Plaintiff named as a Defendant SCI-Muncy Superintendent Nancy Giroux[1] and five Jane/John Doe Defendants. (Id.). Defendant Giroux was served with Plaintiff’s Complaint and counsel entered an appearance for this Defendant. Plaintiff initially sued Defendant Giroux in her official and individual capacities, but voluntarily withdrew the claim against Defendant Giroux in her official capacity. (Doc. 1, ¶ 2; Doc. 13-1, p. 5). Plaintiff asserted three counts in her original Complaint: 1) a constitutional violation by Defendant Giroux relating to policy, custom, and practice with regard to housing within SCI-Muncy; 2) a failure by Defendant Giroux to adequately supervise and train prison staff; and 3) deliberate indifference by the unnamed Defendants for failing to protect her from an assault by another inmate. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-9).

We issued an Order directing Plaintiff to identify her Doe Defendants and we then extended the time to do so. (Docs. 7 & 9). We subsequently issued an Order on June 28, 2013, and gave Plaintiff until August 13, 2013, to name the Doe Defendants. (Doc. 15).

On March 25, 2013, Defendant Giroux filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff ‘s original Complaint. (Doc. 11). On April 8, 2013, Defendant Giroux filed a Brief in Support of her Motion. (Doc. 12). On April 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Brief in Opposition to Defendant Giroux’s Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 13).

On August 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 16). Plaintiff named the following as Defendants: Superintendent Giroux; Sgt. Hicks, Unit Sergeant; Dale Wertman, Counselor; Marci Boyer, Counselor Supervisor; Steve Tolomay, Unit Manager; Sgt. Flick, Control Center Sergeant; Wendy Nicholas, Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services; and Robert Smith, Deputy Superintendent for Facilities Management. All eight (8) Defendants were employed by the PA Department of Corrections (“DOC”) as SCI-Muncy during the relevant times of this case.

On August 12, 2013, we issued a Report and Recommendation regarding Defendant Giroux’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff ‘s original Complaint and we recommended that Giroux be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. 17). Plaintiff filed objections to our R&R. (Doc. 19).

On August 20, 2013, all eight Defendants jointly filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff‘s Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 23). Defendants basically argued that Plaintiff ‘s Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim should be dismissed since Plaintiff failed to properly state that they were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s safety, that they were all personally involved with Plaintiff ‘s claim, and that Plaintiff ‘s injury resulted from a specific policy or lack of supervision. While Defendants did not raise the exhaustion issue in their Motion to Dismiss with respect to Plaintiff ’s instant constitutional claims, they did repeatedly state that Plaintiff did not file a grievance complaining about inmate Houston prior to the March 3, 2011 assault. Defendants’ Doc. 23 Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff‘s Amended Complaint was briefed but, to date, it has not been decided by the Court.

On September 25, 2013, the Court issued an Order and rejected our Doc. 17 R&R as moot and, denied Defendant Giroux’s Doc. 11 Motion to Dismiss as moot since Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 28).

We then issued an Order directing service of Plaintiff‘s Amended Complaint on the eight Defendants. (Doc. 29). Defendants were served and on October 30, 2013, they jointly filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 31). Defendants simultaneously filed their support brief and their 18-paragraph Statement of Material Facts (“SMF”). (Docs. 32 & 33). Defendants also filed an Appendix of Exhibits (A-F). (Doc. 34). On November 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed her opposition brief with attached Exhibits. (Docs. 35, 35-2 & 35-3). Plaintiff also filed her Response to Defendants’ SMF with her Supplemental SMF. (Doc. 35-1). On December 4, 2013, Defendants filed their reply brief and a Supplemental Appendix of Exhibits (G-M). (Docs. 36 & 37).

In this R&R, we address Defendants’ Doc. 31 Motion for Summary Judgment which is ripe for disposition. We have been as Dated this case for pre-trial matters.


Plaintiff, who was serving a parole violation sentence, arrived at SCI-Muncy on February 28, 2011, and was placed in a cell with inmate Corrine Houston. Plaintiff averred that the decision to place her in a cell with Houston was made by Defendants Hicks, Wertman, Tolomay, Boyer, and Flick, pursuant to a policy, pattern, practice and/or custom and which was approved by supervisory Defendants Giroux, Nicholas, and Smith. (Doc. 16, ¶’s 13-14). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knew Houston had a violent past, especially toward females, and suffered from a serious mental illness. Plaintiff avers that Houston stabbed her former female lover and in 2007, Houston killed her female lover. Plaintiff states that after Houston killed her female lover and she threw the body from a third story window before going downstairs to dismember the corpse. Plaintiff states that Houston was convicted of violating a protection from abuse order, defiant trespass, stalking, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, and first degree murder. Plaintiff states that in April 2010, Houston received a life sentence. Plaintiff avers that Houston also violently assaulted her sister. (Doc. 16, ¶¶ 16-18). Plaintiff states that Judge Bronson of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia indicated in Houston’s sentencing order in March 2008 that Houston’s incarceration should be monitored by the Mental Health Unit and that Houston required psychiatric care including anger management. Plaintiff alleges that prior to being placed in a cell with Houston, it was recommended that Houston be placed in a cell alone on “Z” Code status, but that this recommendation was rejected by Defendants and Houston was celled with Plaintiff. (Doc. 16, ¶¶ 19-22). Prior to the March 3, 2011 assault, Plaintiff avers that Houston was sexually aggressive toward her, tried to hug and kiss her, and indicated to Plaintiff that she wanted a romantic relationship with Plaintiff. Plaintiff states that she rejected Houston’s advances. (Doc. 16, ¶’s 23-24). “Plaintiff did not however file a grievance/complaint about Houston’s aggressive sexual advances due to the fact that there were no request slips on the block and in her experience, requests to be re-celled were not honored.” (Doc. 16, ¶ 25).

On March 3, 2011, Plaintiff avers that Houston made a sexual advance at her and she rebuked Houston. Houston swore at Plaintiff and then grabbed Plaintiff around the neck and began choking Plaintiff until Plaintiff passed out. When Plaintiff was unconscious, Houston stripped Plaintiff’s clothes, attempted to sexually assault Plaintiff, beat her with a padlock, bit her hard enough to leave marks, and attempted to drown her in a toilet. (Doc. 16, ¶’s 26-28).

Plaintiff avers that Houston then rang the alert button and yelled to staff to get Plaintiff, and that she thought Plaintiff was dead. Prison staff found Plaintiff lying unconscious in a pool of blood. Plaintiff was life-flighted to Geisinger Medical Center and remained in the hospital for three days. (Doc. 16, ¶’s 29-30).

As a result of the assault, Plaintiff alleges that she suffered severe injuries, that she continues to suffer from pain, and that she suffered severe emotional injury. Plaintiff also states that her suffering, both physical and mental, will likely continue in the future. (Doc. 16, ¶’s 31-32 & 35).

Plaintiff avers that after she left the hospital, she was returned to SCI-Muncy and placed in the prison infirmary for about 1½ months. Plaintiff notes that on May 9, 2011, she was released from DOC custody to a halfway house.[2] (Doc. 16, ¶ 33).

Plaintiff avers that as a result of the assault, Houston was charged with several offenses, and on March 20, 2012, Houston pled guilty to Attempted First Degree Murder. Plaintiff states that Houston was sentenced to 168 months to 480 months in prison. (Doc. 16, ¶34).

In Count I, Plaintiff claims that Defendants had a policy regarding classification and/or housing of inmates which violated her Eighth Amendment rights. In Count II, Plaintiff clams that Defendants failed to properly train and supervise their staff which caused her to be celled with Houston. In Count III, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Boyer, Wertman, Tolomay, Flick and Hicks were deliberately indifferent to her serious safety needs.

As relief with respect to her three Counts, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages as well as costs and attorney’s fees. Inso far as Plaintiff seeks damages from the state actor Defendants, she correctly only sues Defendants in their individual capacities.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment may not be granted unless the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The court may grant a motion for summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue of fact is “‘genuine’ only if a reasonable jury, considering the evidence presented, could find for the nonmoving party." Childers v. Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-694 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). A fact is “material” if proof of its existence or non-existence could affect the outcome of the action pursuant to the governing ...

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