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Walton v. Harkelford

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 15, 2014



CYNTHIA REDD EDDY, Magistrate Judge.


It is respectfully recommended that the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 32) be denied.


Plaintiff Marcus Walton is an inmate who is incarcerated at State Correctional Institution - Greene ("SCI-Greene") in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania and is bringing this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as Pennsylvania law against the following Defendants: Correctional Officer ("C.O.") Harkleroad, C.O. Rambler, C.O. Johnson, C.O. Baker, C.O. Smith, C.O. Gribble, C.O. Gould, C.O. Ramirez, Correctional Lieutenant ("C.L.") Eric Grego, C.L. Shrader, C.L. Tony, Hearing Examiner Frank Nunez, C.O. John Doe 1, Pennsylvania's Contract Monitor S. Karanski, RUM Barbier, and C.O. Craine. The Complaint contains three counts in which he claims an Eighth Amendment violation for failure to protect (Count I), a violation of his procedural due process rights (Count II), and the tort of conversion/violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment associated with two separate occurrences involving deprivation of his personal property (Count III).

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff initiated this action on July 11, 2013.[1] (ECF Nos. 1, 8). On December 3, 2013, Defendants filed an Answer with several documents attached thereto. (ECF Nos. 31, 31-1). Two days later, on December 5, 2013, Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), seeking to have the entire Complaint dismissed. (ECF Nos. 32, 33). Specifically, Defendants asserted that the allegations in paragraphs 8 through 106, which encapsulate Counts I and II, should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Defendants further asserted that the allegations within Count III should be dismissed on separate grounds, arguing that paragraphs 107 through 123 are barred by the statute of limitations and paragraphs 124 through 140 are precluded because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff responded to Defendants' Motion and Brief in Support thereof on March 25, 2014, (ECF Nos. 45-47).

On August 14, 2014, this Court entered an Order regarding Defendants' pending Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings only with respect to the issue of Plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies. The Court denied that portion of the Motion without prejudice to be refiled as a Motion for Summary Judgment under Rule 56 because Defendants had "attached a number of exhibits to their Answer which were neither attached to the Complaint nor referenced in the Complaint, see ECF No. 31-1, and relied on the same in support of their Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. See ECF No. 33." Order from 8/14/2014 (ECF No. 52), at 1.

Thus, the only remaining issue in the pending Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is whether Count III of the Complaint should be dismissed. Defendants have provided multiple arguments as to why all of the allegations contained in Count III should be dismissed, which will be addressed by the Court in turn. The remaining portion of the Motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

B. Factual Background[2]

While incarcerated, Plaintiff was transferred from SCI-Greene to Muskegon Correctional Facility ("MCF") located in Michigan in accordance with a contract between the two states, and was subsequently transferred back to SCI-Greene in May of 2011. Compl. (ECF No. 8), at ¶ 107. Plaintiff asserts that when he returned to SCI-Greene, he discovered that a "substantial amount" of his personal property items were missing. Id. at ¶¶ 107-112. Regarding this incident, Plaintiff has attached Grievance Number 366072 to his Complaint, which is dated May 20, 2011. Compl., Ex. B (ECF No. 8-1), at 34. On August 1, 2011, the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals issued a Final Appeal Decision denying Plaintiff's request for relief. Id. at 27.

According to the Complaint, on June 1, 2011, Plaintiff was called to intake by Defendant C.L. Tony and was "given a small portion of his property that was missing, " but was still missing a "great amount" of valuable and priceless items. Id. at ¶¶ 113-114. Plaintiff claims that Defendants from both MCF and SCI-Greene are liable for the loss, damage and/or misuse of his personal property that occurred during the transfer of his property from Michigan to Pennsylvania. Id. at ¶¶ 115-122. Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that the following Defendants are liable for this incident: C.L. Tony, C.O. Gould, C.O. Craine, C.O. John Doe I, Pennsylvania's Contract Monitor S. Karpinski, and RUM Barbier. Id. at ¶ 122. Plaintiff asserts that the Defendants' "conduct amounted to a tort of conversion" under Pennsylvania law as well as a violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at ¶¶ 123, 140.

Plaintiff also seeks relief for an incident that occurred on January 6, 2013. According to the Complaint, when Plaintiff was staying in the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU"), he was escorted to the property room by Defendants C.O. Gould, C.O. Craine and C.O. Ramirez to conduct an inventory of his property. Id. at ¶ 124. Plaintiff "advised defendant Craine that he wished to mail one (1) record center box of personal property home." Id. at ¶ 125. Plaintiff also requested that these Defendants first pack his commissary items, which mainly consisted of food, but they declined to do so, stating that they normally pack commissary items last. Id. at ¶¶ 126-128. Upon completion of the inventory, these Defendants told Plaintiff that there was no room left to pack the commissary items and that Plaintiff had to destroy them. Id. at ¶¶ 129-131. Plaintiff was issued a confiscation slip number, which he refused to sign. Id. at ¶¶ 131-132. He also informed these Defendants that he wished to dispute the confiscation of his commissary items, but was told that said items were not subject to dispute and the items were confiscated. Id. at ¶¶ 132-133.

Plaintiff avers that these Defendants are "known to extort inmates out of their commissary" and keep the items "for themselves (such as Plaintiff's) to eat while on duty in the RHU, and/or send it to the security department so they can resell it or give it to their informants for information on other prisoners." Id. at ¶¶ 134-135. Consequently, Plaintiff claims that the conduct of Defendants Gould, Craine, and Ramirez "constitutes a tort of ...

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