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Schingler v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 21, 2014

JAMES SCHINGLER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

Before the court for disposition is plaintiff's motion to alter or amend a judgment.[1] Plaintiff's motion seeks to alter the court's memorandum and order (Docs. 41, 42), which dismissed plaintiff's cell placement claim with prejudice. This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

Background

The instant pro se Federal Tort Claims Act (hereinafter "FTCA") action arose from Plaintiff James Schingler's (hereinafter "plaintiff") incarceration at the United States Penitentiary-Lewisburg (hereinafter "USP Lewisburg").[2] Plaintiff alleges that on November 22, 2010, Inmate Taylor (hereinafter "Taylor") attacked him. (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 1). Evidently, the Corrections Officers were moving Taylor into plaintiff's cell. Specifically, Corrections Officers came to plaintiff's cell and handcuffed plaintiff's hands behind his back. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 18-19). Corrections Officers next ordered plaintiff to move away from his cell door and face the back of his cell. (Id. ¶ 19). Taylor was allowed to enter plaintiff's cell and Corrections Officers closed the cell door. (Id. ¶ 20). Corrections Officers then removed Taylor's handcuffs. (Id.)

Immediately after the removal of his restraints, Taylor brandished a previously hidden slicing weapon and viciously attacked plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 21). Taylor also struck plaintiff with his fist and foot. (Id.) Plaintiff claims he ran to his cell door and pleaded with officers to help or remove his handcuffs. (Id.) The Corrections Officers, however, failed to intervene. (Id.)

Taylor resumed his attack and inflicted a six (6) centimeter long laceration on plaintiff's neck. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 25). Corrections Officers repeatedly ordered Taylor to stop and eventually dispersed pepper spray into the cell until Taylor succumbed to its effects allowing Corrections Officers to enter the cell and handcuff him. (Id. ¶ 22).

Plaintiff was taken to a medical examination room and treated for cuts, abrasions and the six (6) centimeter laceration, which required skin adhesive and sutures. (Id. ¶ 25). In addition to the physical trauma, plaintiff contends that he suffers from emotional and psychological pain and suffering and has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety. (Id. ¶ 26).

Based on these allegations, plaintiff filed a three-count negligence complaint under the FTCA. Plaintiff alleges that the government was negligent in: (1) placing Taylor in plaintiff's cell; (2) allowing Taylor to possess an illegal razor-type weapon; and (3) failing to immediately enter plaintiff's cell to stop the attack.

On August 23, 2013, the government filed a motion to dismiss all claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). (Doc. 17). On January 23, 2014, Magistrate Judge Schwab recommended denying the government's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 31). On March 13, 2014, the court did not adopt Judge Schwab's recommendation regarding plaintiff's cell placement claim and dismissed this claim with prejudice. Plaintiff then filed the instant motion bringing the case to its present posture.

Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) provides that "[o]n motion and just terms, the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order or proceeding" on one of six grounds, which include: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud or other misconduct by the opposing party; (4) a void judgment; (5) the judgment has been satisfied or 6) any other reason that justifies relief. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b). Plaintiff does not specify on which of these grounds he attempts to proceed. Based on plaintiff's motion and supporting brief, the court assumes that plaintiff brings his motion under the "any other reason" ground in Rule 60(b)(6). None of the other grounds appear to apply.

Rule 60(b)(6) is "intended to be a means for accomplishing justice in extraordinary situations." Ackermann v. United States , 340 U.S. 193, 199 (1950); Kock v. Gov't of the V. I. , 811 F.2d 240, 246 (3d Cir.1987). It is well settled that relief under Rule 60(b)(6) is "extraordinary and may be granted only upon a showing of exceptional circumstances." In re Fine Paper Antitrust Litig. , 840 F.2d 188, 194 (3d Cir. 1988); U.S. Steel Corp. v. Fraternal Ass'n of Steel Haulers , 601 F.2d 1269, 1274 (3d Cir.1979).

Discussion

In our order dated March 13, 2014, we granted the government's motion to dismiss plaintiff's cell placement claim. Specifically, we stated in our memorandum that the United States, as a sovereign, is generally immune from suit. S.R.P. ex rel. Abunabba v. United States , 676 F.3d 329, 332 (3d Cir. 2012). The FTCA, however, waives the government's immunity "for torts committed by any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be ...


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