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Sloan v. Pitkins

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

August 25, 2014

AARON SLOAN, Plaintiff
DAVID PITKINS, et al., Defendants.

The Honorable Kim R. Gibson United States District Judge.


SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge.


It is respectfully recommended that Defendants’ partial motion to dismiss [ECF No. 22] be granted in part and denied in part. It is further recommended that, pursuant to the authority granted the Court by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants John Doe and Jane Doe be dismissed. In addition, Plaintiff’s “motion for Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d) relief” [ECF No. 25] should be denied as moot.


A. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff Aaron Sloan, a prisoner incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset, Pennsylvania (“SCI Somerset”), instituted this pro se civil rights action on May 16, 2013, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are David Pitkins (“Pitkins”), Western Region Deputy Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), Gerald Rozum (“Rozum”) Superintendent at SCI Somerset, and the following staff members at SCI Somerset: C.O. Ronald Coutts (“Coutts”); Lieutenant Thomas Fultz (“Fultz”); C.O. Mark Baker (“Baker”); C.O. Shawn Hause (“Hause”); C.O. Michael Valko (“Valko”); Hearing Examiner Joseph Dupont (“Dupont”); C.O. Jason Sossong (“Sossong”); and Grievance Coordinator Heidi Sroka (“Sroka”). Plaintiff also named as Defendants two unnamed individuals identified as C.O. John Doe and Nurse Jane Doe, neither of whom has been served with the complaint in this matter.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the first, eighth, and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights, and committed conspiracy. In addition, Plaintiff raises a number of state tort claims, including negligence, medical negligence, defamation, assault and battery, and negligent/intentional infliction of emotional distress. As relief for his claims Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages.

On December 5, 2013, Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss [ECF No. 22], seeking dismissal of Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against Defendant Dupont, his supervisory claims against Defendants Pitkins, Rozum and Sroka, and his conspiracy claim, arguing that they fail to state claims upon which relief may be granted. In addition, Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff’s state tort claims on the basis of sovereign immunity. Plaintiff has since filed a response to Defendants’ motion. [ECF No. 26].[1] This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Relevant Factual History

On July 1, 2010, Plaintiff was taken by Defendant Coutts and another unnamed prison official to be seen by the Program Review Committee (“PRC”) (ECF No. 6, Complaint, at Section IV.C at ¶1). On the way, Defendant Coutts allegedly became “verbally aggressive” toward Plaintiff, threatening that Plaintiff would physically suffer for statements he made about Coutts in his appeal to the PRC (Id. at ¶ 2). During his meeting with the PRC, Plaintiff informed the PRC about Defendant Coutts’s “wrongs and other issues, ” after which Coutts continued to be threatening and verbally aggressive toward Plaintiff (Id. at ¶ 3).

On July 15, 2010, while Plaintiff was in the recreation pen, Defendants Coutts and Sossong began laughing and joking about Plaintiff being “ready, ” while making reference to complaints filed by Plaintiff against prison officials (Id. at ¶ 4). Plaintiff called to Defendant Fultz for assistance because he became concerned about Coutts’s aggressive behavior, but Defendants Fultz, Sossong, Baker, Hause, and Valko, among others, just laughed and made no attempts to separate Coutts from Plaintiff (Id. at ¶ 5). Coutts then “viciously yanked” Plaintiff and “sadistically slammed” him into the door of the building (Id. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff was then “slammed to the floor and sadistically assaulted on or about the body and face” by Defendants Coutts, Sossong, Baker, Valko, Fultz, Hause, and other unnamed prison officials, with no one attempting to stop the assault (Id. at ¶ 7). The same Defendants then dragged Plaintiff by his wrist and ankle restraints across the floor, threw him on his bed and then to the floor, where they began “administering sadistic kicks and stomps on and about Plaintiff’s person (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). Plaintiff alleges that he was then lifted off the floor by his restraints and repeatedly punched “on and about the head” (Id. at ¶ 10).

After the alleged assault, Defendant Hause and the unidentified Jane and John Doe Defendants went to Plaintiff’s cell where Plaintiff asked for medical attention and showed them his injuries; nonetheless, said Defendants denied Plaintiff medical treatment and “left him suffering in excruciatingly severe pain” (Id. at ¶ 12). Later the same day, Defendant Coutts issued a misconduct against Plaintiff for showing acts of aggression and refusing to obey orders (Id. at ¶ 13). A hearing on the misconduct was subsequently held on or about July 23, 2010, before Defendant Dupont, who allegedly denied Plaintiff the opportunity to call witnesses and indicated that no video footage of the incident was available. Defendant Dupont then found plaintiff guilty of the misconduct and ordered Plaintiff to serve “an extended time in atypical and significant hardship confinement, ” after which Plaintiff’s appeals were allegedly ignored (Id. at ¶ 14).[2]

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Coutts, Sossong, Baker, Valko, Fultz, Hause, and other unnamed prison officials, all denied him access to grievance forms to allow him to grieve the alleged assault and subsequent denial of medical attention (Id. at ¶ 15). As a result, on or about July 21, 2010, Plaintiff submitted a “letter form complaint” about the assault and denial of medical attention to Defendants Rozum, Sroka, and Pitkins, among others; however, Plaintiff alleges that no response was ever provided and no investigation of the incident was ever conducted (Id. at ¶ 16).

On August 3, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred from SCI-Somerset to SCI-Camp Hill, where he was provided grievance forms, one of which he completed and mailed to Defendant Sroka regarding the alleged assault and denial of medical attention; however, no response was ever provided (Id. at ¶ 17).

C. Standards of Review

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