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Kovach v. Kerestes

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 25, 2014

MICHAEL KOVACH, Plaintiff,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT KERESTES, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

This pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was filed by Michael Kovach, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Somerset, Pennsylvania (SCI-Somerset). An Amended Complaint (Doc. 29) was thereafter filed.

By Memorandum and Order dated August 7, 2015, a motion to dismiss by Defendant Doctor Tony Ianuzzo was granted. See Docs. 45 & 46. Remaining Defendants are the following officials at Plaintiff's former place of confinement the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania (SCI-Mahanoy): Superintendent John Kerestes; Unit Manager Burnedette Mason; and Correctional Officer (CO) Cebulak.

Plaintiff states that he was placed in an SCI-Mahanoy cell with Inmate Dean Palmer on October 16, 2012. The Complaint asserts that at the time of that placement, Superintendent Kerestes, Unit Manager Mason, and CO Cebulak were "totally aware" that Palmer had a "history of assaultive behavior" and required single cell status. See Doc. 29, ¶ 8.

Plaintiff states that he was sleeping on the top bunk in his cell during the early morning of October 17, 2012, when both he and his cellmate were awoken by Palmer's loud snoring. Palmer purportedly became restless, kept turning the light on and off, and began pacing back and forth. It is also alleged that Inmate Palmer told Plaintiff that "I can't sleep, your not either." Id . at ¶ 9.

A short while after Kovach attempted to go back to sleep, his cellmate allegedly poked him in the ear with a pen. When Plaintiff attempted to climb out of the top bunk, Inmate Palmer continued the attack by pulling Kovach to the floor of the cell. Following Kovach's activation of the cell's panic button, Co Cebulak responded to the incident but despite Palmer's ongoing agitated conduct would not allow Plaintiff to leave the cell for approximately forty-five (45) minutes until other officers arrived. The Amended Complaint suggests that if CO Ceulak had been making his proper rounds, he could have prevented the attack from occurring. See id. at ¶ 16.

After Plaintiff's removal from his cell, he was taken to the prison infirmary where his injuries to his ear and face were examined and cleaned by a nurse assistant.[1] However, because there was no doctor on duty Plaintiff went without treatment from 4:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. When the doctor arrived the following morning, Plaintiff's ear was stitched and glued "back together." Id . at ¶ 13.

The Complaint concludes that Cebulak's conduct that morning constituted deliberate indifference to his safety. Unit Manager Mason likewise acted with deliberate indifference by purportedly assigning Palmer, a prisoner with known psychiatric problem, a single cell classification, and a history of assaults, as his cellmate. The Complaint further contends that Superintendent Kerestes similarly acted with deliberate indifference by allowing Palmer to be housed with another prisoner, and by not instituting a policy which would allow correctional officers to immediately remove an inmate assault victim such as Kovach from his cell; by not having a doctor on duty at all times; and by not directing that be Plaintiff transported to a hospital for immediate treatment. The Amended Complaint seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Remaining Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. The unopposed motion (Doc. 32) is ripe for consideration.

Discussion

The Remaining Defendants, who are all employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, argue that they are entitled to entry of dismissal on the grounds that: (1) the claims for monetary damages against them in their official capacities are barred by the Eleventh Amendment; (2) the Amended Complaint fails to allege personal involvement by Kerestes and Mason in any constitutional misconduct; (3) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies and (4) a viable claim of deliberate indifference has not been alleged.

Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella , 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher , 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). A plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. ...


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