United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.
On June 5, 2012, Plaintiff, Eazs Harper, an inmate currently confined at the United States Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, filed, pro se, the instant action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ( Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of FederalBureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)), and the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq., for events that occurred while he was confined at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP-Lewisburg"). (Doc. 1). Plaintiff alleges that, despite reminding Defendants of his need to be separated from all persons who were in gangs or associated with gangs due to his cooperation with the government, Defendants failed to protect and intervene because they placed him in handcuffs and into a cell with a known gang member and failed to intervene when this cellmate assaulted him. (Id.).
On January 22, 2013, the case was verbally reassigned to Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson. On July 2, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment, a brief in support, and a statement of facts. (Docs. 21, 23, 24). On July 17, 2013, the case was verbally referred to Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick. On February 20, 2014, Magistrate Judge Mehlachick issued the first Report and Recommendation, recommending that the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's failure to protect and intervene claims, grant Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's FTCA claim, and dismiss Plaintiff's request for an injunction. (Doc. 43). On March 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed objections to the R&R. (Doc. 45).
On May 1, 2014, this Court issued a Memorandum and Order ("M&O") on May 1, 2014, adopting in part the first Report and Recommendation effectively: (1) denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the Eighth Amendment and FTCA claims; (2) granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the injunctive relief claim; (3) dismissing and terminating Defendants Samuels, Thomas, Bledsoe, and Young from the action; (4) dismissing the official capacity claims against Hudson; (5) denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on lack of personal involvement of Defendants Hudson, Snider, Gemberling, and Contri; (6) denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity as premature; and (7) directing Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. (Docs. 52, 53).
On May 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against Defendants Carrasquilla, Contri, Edinger, Eger, Gemberling, Hudson, Other Unknown Actors on Behalf of USP-Lewisburg, Poeth, Sampson, Snider, United States of America, and Webb. (Doc. 55). In his amended complaint, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages against these Defendants for failing to protect him from the assault of a new cellmate introduced to his cell on October 5, 2010. (Id.).
On August 12, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for partial summary judgment. (Doc. 61). Defendants filed a brief in support and a statement of facts on September 9, 2014. (Docs. 64, 65). This motion seeks to dismiss Defendants Hudson, Snider, Contri, Gemberling, Sampson, and Webb on the ground that they lacked personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violation. (Doc. 61); (Doc. 65, pp. 1, 6-13). Defendants also ask that the amount of compensatory damages be limited to $10, 000.00, and the punitive damages claim against the United States be dismissed from the action. (Doc. 65, pp. 14-15). On December 15, 2014, Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition. (Doc. 69). On December 29, 2014, Defendants filed a reply brief. (Doc. 70).
On January 7, 2015, Magistrate Judge Mehalchick issued a second Report and Recommendation ("R&R") regarding Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment, recommending that: (1) Defendants' motion for summary judgement be granted; (2) Plaintiff's Eight Amendment claim against Defendants Hudson, Snider, Contri, Gemberling, Sampson, and Webb be dismissed with prejudice; (3) Plaintiff's compensatory damages against the United States be limited to ten thousand dollars ($10, 000.00); (4) Plaintiff's FTCA claim for punitive damages against Defendant United States of America be dismissed with prejudice; and (5) this matter be remanded to Magistrate Judge Mehalchick for any further proceedings. (Doc. 71). After several extensions of time to file objections were granted, Plaintiff has failed to file objections to the R&R. The matter is now ripe for review, and for the reasons set forth below, the R&R will be adopted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When neither party objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court is not statutorily required to review the report, under de novo or any other standard. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 152 (1985); 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(c). Nevertheless, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that it is better practice to afford some level of review to dispositive legal issues raised by the report. Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987), writ denied, 484 U.S. 837 (1987); Garcia v. I.N.S., 733 F.Supp. 1554, 1555 (M.D. Pa. 1990) (Kosik, J.) (stating "the district court need only review the record for plain error or manifest injustice"). In the absence of objections, review may properly be limited to ascertaining whether there is clear error that not only affects the rights of the plaintiff, but also seriously affects the integrity, fairness, or public reputation of judicial proceedings. Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 377 (M.D. Pa. 1998) (Vanaskie, J.). The district court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations contained in the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); M.D. Pa. L.R. 72.3.
Initially, Magistrate Judge Mehalchick sets forth the procedural background and standard of review for a motion for summary judgment, which are adopted herein. (Doc. 71, pp. 1-4).
1. Lack of Personal Involvement
In the motion for partial summary judgment, Defendants argue that all claims against Defendants Hudson, Snider, Contri, Gemberling, Sampson, and Webb should be dismissed from this action for lack of personal involvement in the alleged violations of Plaintiff's federal constitutional and statutory rights. (Doc. 65, pp. 6-13). Plaintiff's claims of Defendants' personal involvement are based on his allegations that these Defendants were responsible for the cell assignment, and obtained personal knowledge of a substantial risk of harm as a result of the alleged warnings given by Plaintiff that the assigned cellmate was affiliated with a rival gang. (Doc. 55, pp. 16-19, 21, 25); (Doc. 69, pp. 9-11, 18, 20, 22, 24); (69-1, pp. 6-10); (Doc. 71, p. 5). Plaintiff also claims that the above-named ...