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Katona v. Asure

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 5, 2015

MATTHEW KATONA, Plaintiff,
v.
DONNA ASURE, Warden, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

KAROLINE MEHALCHICK, Magistrate Judge.

This is a prisoner civil rights action, initiated upon the filing of the original complaint in this matter on October 3, 2011. (Doc. 1). An amended complaint was filed with leave of court on June 12, 2012. (Doc. 71; see also Doc. 70). A second amended complaint was filed with leave of court on February 6, 2013. (Doc. 116; see also Doc. 118). The current complaint alleges federal civil rights claims against the warden and several correctional officers at Monroe County Correctional Facility, two nurses and a psychiatrist employed by a contractor for medical services at the Monroe County Correctional Facility, and two Monroe County deputy sheriffs related to events that occurred while Katona was incarcerated at the Monroe County Correctional Facility and in the holding cells of the Monroe County Courthouse to attend hearings before the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. Katona is currently incarcerated at SCI Fayette, located in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where he is serving a sentence for robbery and aggravated assault.

Katona has filed a motion for partial summary judgment against one of the several correctional officer defendants, James Shea. (Doc. 144; see also Doc. 145; Doc. 146). Shea has filed a brief in opposition. (Doc. 150).

The Medical Defendants - licensed practical nurses Wendy Michele Johnson and Michelle Lynn Oswald, and an unnamed facility psychiatrist[1] - have filed a motion for summary judgment as well. (Doc. 151; see also Doc. 152; Doc. 153). Katona has not filed a brief in opposition, nor otherwise responded to the Medical Defendants' motion.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment should be granted only if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is "genuine" only if the evidence "is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In deciding a summary judgment motion, all inferences "should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of Pa., 24 F.3d 508, 512 (3d Cir. 1994).

The party seeking summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, " and demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the non-movant must set forth specific facts, supported by the record, demonstrating that "the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

"The rule is no different where there are cross-motions for summary judgment." Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia, 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d Cir. 2008).

Cross-motions are no more than a claim by each side that it alone is entitled to summary judgment, and the making of such inherently contradictory claims does not constitute an agreement that if one is rejected the other is necessarily justified or that the losing party waives judicial consideration and determination whether genuine issues of material fact exist.

Rains v. Cascade Indus., Inc., 402 F.2d 241, 245 (3d Cir. 1968). Thus, "when presented with cross motions for summary judgment, the Court must consider the motions separately, and view the evidence presented for each motion in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Borrell v. Bloomsburg Univ., ___ F.Supp. 3d. ____, 2014 WL 5365322, at *11 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 2014). "[E]ach movant must demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists; if both parties fail to carry their respective burdens, the court must deny [both] motions. Quarles v. Palakovich, 736 F.Supp.2d 941, 946 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (citing Facenda v. N.F.L. Films, Inc., 542 F.3d 1007, 1023 (3d Cir. 2008)).

II. DISCUSSION

On March 8, 2010, Katona pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and robbery before the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas, and on May 19, 2010, he was sentenced to serve a term of 3½ to 8 years in prison. Commonwealth v. Katona, No. CP-45-CR-0002024-2009 (Monroe County C.C.P.). In February 2011, Katona was temporarily transferred from SCI Coal Township, where he was then serving his prison sentence, to the Monroe County Correctional Facility for a PCRA hearing concerning this same conviction and sentence. On February 22, 2011, [2] Katona claims to have been subjected to the use of excessive force by several correctional officers at the Monroe County Correctional Facility, followed by the denial of medical care by the three Medical Defendants.[3] Katona has moved for partial summary judgment as to liability alone against one of the correctional officers, defendant James Shea, who was later fired and criminally prosecuted for kicking Katona in the ribs when he had already been subdued by the other officers. The Medical Defendants have moved for summary judgment with respect to all surviving claims against them.[4] Neither side has moved for summary judgment with respect to Katona's claims against the warden or the other correctional officers.

Katona's second amended complaint also raised excessive force claims against two deputy sheriffs whom he claims assaulted him on January 4, 2012, when he was in a Monroe County Courthouse holding cell for a hearing in criminal proceedings against him arising from the February 22, 2011, incident. See Commonwealth v. Katona, No. CP-45-CR-0000509-2011 (Monroe County C.C.P.). Neither of these defendants has been served or entered an appearance in this matter as yet.

A. KATONA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AGAINST SHEA

In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must first determine if the moving party has made a prima facie showing that it is entitled to summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331. Once that prima facie showing has been made, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331.

1. Katona's Prima Facie Case for Partial Summary Judgment

Katona has filed a motion for partial summary judgment against one of the several correctional officer defendants, James Shea, seeking summary judgment on Shea's liability for the use of excessive force against Katona, but reserving the issue of damages for trial. (Doc. 144). In support, he has submitted a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746 (Doc. 145), a brief in support of his motion (Doc. 146, at 1-4), and copies of several incident reports prepared and signed by defendants Carver, Cain, Travis, Desimone, and Stasulli describing Shea's actions during the February 22, 2011, incident (Doc. 146, at 5-11).[5]

The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment, including "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992). To prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate must show: (1) a deprivation that is objectively sufficiently serious; and (2) "a sufficiently culpable state of mind" of the defendant official. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

There are different standards for Eighth Amendment violations depending on the type of claim. An Eighth Amendment challenge to prison conditions is subject to the deliberate indifference standard. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835-36. Prison officials are deliberately indifferent when they know of and disregard a substantial risk of harm to a prisoner. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836. Moreover, a prisoner must produce evidence of serious or significant physical or emotional injury resulting from the challenged prison condition. Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995). An Eighth Amendment challenge asserting excessive force is subject to a malicious and sadistic standard. The inquiry under this standard is whether prison officials applied force "in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6. In an excessive force case, a prisoner need not show significant injury; however, an objectively de minimis use of force is insufficient to establish an Eighth Amendment violation. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9-10.

In determining whether a correctional officer has used excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, courts look to several factors including: (1) "the need for the application of force"; (2) "the relationship between the need and the amount of force that was used"; (3) "the extent of the injury inflicted"; (4) "the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as reasonably perceived by responsible officials on ...

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