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Hankins v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 3, 2015

ROBERT HANKINS, Plaintiff
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY United States District Judge

Background

Robert Hankins, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (SCI-Camp Hill), initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. By Memorandum and Order dated January 12, 2014, this Court partially granted a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Parole Board); Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and two Parole Board employees, Parole Supervisor Burke and Parole Agent McGinnis (Commonwealth Defendants).[1] See Doc. 31.

The Complaint also named as Defendants the following officials at Hankins' former place of incarceration, the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI- Rockview):Superintendent Marirosa Lamas; Counselor Melissa Reed; Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Horton; ex-Deputy Superintendent Robert Marsh; Tim Miller; Superintendent Assistant Jeffrey Rackovan and John/Jane Doe Maintenance Department employees (Corrections Defendants).

By Memorandum and Order dated March 24, 2014, the Corrections Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint was partially granted. See Doc. 37. Dismissal was granted in favor of Corrections Defendant Counselor Melissa Reed and with regards to the allegations of conspiracy, mishandling of coal, and denial of parole review. In addition, Plaintiff's informal request that this matter be certified as a class action was denied. However, the claim that the Remaining Corrections Defendants were deliberately indifferent to water quality related problems was allowed to proceed.[2]

Presently pending is the Remaining Corrections Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 42. The motion is opposed.

Discussion

The surviving claim asserted against the Corrections Defendants contends that the water that SCI-Rockview prisoners must use to wash and rely on "is dark and murky at times with a distinct smell." Doc. 1, p. 5, ¶ 16. Hankins adds that he is afraid to drink the water "at times" and it once caused him to vomit. Id.

The Plaintiff also asserts that each of the Remaining Corrections Defendants was advised of the water purity problem.

Remaining Corrections Defendants argue that they are entitled to entry of summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's surviving claims against them on the basis that there is no evidence of record to support Hankins' bald allegation that the water at SCI-Rockview was unfit to drink and they have submitted irrefutable evidence to the contrary. See Doc. 43, p. 6.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non- moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986) . Instead, it must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "‘Such affirmative evidence – regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial – must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'" Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).

As previously discussed by this Court's March 24, 2014 Memorandum and Order, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment requires prison officials to provide prisoners with the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care and personal safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) ; Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). A condition of confinement may amount to cruel and unusual punishment if it causes "unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs ... [that] ...


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