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Hill v. Edinger

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 13, 2015

HOWARD L. HILL, II, Plaintiff,
v.
Z. EDINGER, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

Howard L. Hill, II (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania (USP-Allenwood)[1] initiated this pro se Bivens[2] type civil rights action regarding his prior confinement at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg). An Amended Complaint (Doc. 35) was subsequently filed.

Named as Defendants are the following USP-Lewisburg officials: Correctional Officers Zachary Edinger, K. Kemmerer, and E. Good; Lieutenants Justin Foura, J. Seeba, and S. Prutzman; as well as Counselor J. Vayda. Defendants Good, Kemmerer, Prutzman, and Vayda are additionally described as being members of a prison Use of Force Team.

Plaintiff describes himself as suffering from mental health problems including severe depression, borderline personality disorder, and a history of suicide attempts. See Doc. 35, ¶ 12 & 14. According to the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff attempted suicide while confined at USP-Lewisburg on May 25, 2013 by overdosing on pills.

Plaintiff contends that upon being notified of his overdose by his cellmate and viewing the inmate lying on the floor of his cell, CO Edinger contacted Lieutenant Foura and a call was made for assistance from the Use of Force Team. See id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges that although he was lying unconscious and unresponsive on the floor of his cell, Lieutenants Foura and Seeba authorized the use of chemical agents, OC gas, against him. Hill adds that the members of the Use of Force team did not intervene to deter the use of the chemical agent.

The Amended Complaint next contends that Defendant Edinger failed to implement the procedures set forth in the prison's Suicide Prevention Program. In addition, the other Defendants allegedly failed to act in accordance with the prison's Use of Force procedures. See id. at ¶ 20.

Plaintiff concludes that the conduct of Defendants constituted use of unnecessary and excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, and deliberate indifference in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Hill seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Presently pending is Defendants' motion seeking entry of summary judgment. See Doc. 52. The Plaintiff has filed an opposing brief which includes a counterclaim for summary judgment.[3] See Doc. 59.

Discussion

Defendants claim entitlement to entry of summary judgment on the grounds that Hill's claim of excessive force fails (Doc. 56, p. 19); a viable claim of deliberate indifference has not been alleged (see id. at p. 25); and they are entitled to qualified immunity (see id.).

Summary Judgment Standard

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 - ...


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