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Owens v. Coleman

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 4, 2015

STEVEN OWENS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN COLEMAN; SCOTT NICKELSON, JOHN ALBRIGHT, ROBERT HAWKINBERRY, RONALD HOSTIVICH, and CARL WALKER, sued in their individual and official capacities, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Cynthia Reed Eddy, United States District Magistrate Judge.

Presently pending is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants John Albright, Robert Hawkinberry, and Ronald Hostovich, with brief in support (ECF Nos. 52 and 53), and the brief in opposition filed by Plaintiff, Steven Owens (ECF No. 63). The issues have been fully briefed and the factual record has been developed. See ECF Nos. 54, 55, 58, 59, Sealed 59, and 62. After careful consideration of the motion, the filings in support and opposition thereto, the memoranda of the parties, the relevant case law, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that the motion should be granted.[1]

Procedural Background

Plaintiff, Steven Owens (“Plaintiff” or “Owens”), is a state prisoner committed to the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and at all times relevant to this lawsuit was incarcerated at SCI-Fayette, where the Defendants were employed.[2] This action was initiated by Owens on March 6, 2013, by the filing of a prisoner civil rights Complaint. (ECF No. 1.) Named as Defendants were Brian Coleman, Superintendent of SCI-Fayette; Scott Nickelson, Major of the Unit Management Team at SCI-Fayette; Ronald Hostivich, Maintenance Supervisor; Carl E. Walker, Captain of the Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”); John Albright, and Robert Hawkinberry, Lieutenants of the RHU, all sued in their individual and official capacities. As a result of the Court’s ruling on Defendants’ motion to dismiss, Defendants Coleman, Nickelson, and Walker were dismissed from the lawsuit. Additionally, Plaintiff’s claim for retaliation against Defendant Albright was dismissed. The remaining three defendants are Hostovich, Albright, and Hawkinberry.

Owens’ surviving claim against Defendants Hostovich, Albright, and Hawkinberry is for cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment due to their alleged deliberate indifference to a known “hazardous condition” his cell. Owens contends that Defendants knew of the unsafe condition and that the Maintenance Department failed to respond to numerous work orders to fix the problem. Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment as the record does not establish deliberate indifference as there is no evidence of a known dangerous condition in his cell.

Factual Background

The summary judgment evidence of record reflects that on July 14, 2012, Plaintiff was placed in Cell JD-1012 in the RHU. On July 15, 2012, according to Plaintiff, as an inmate in the adjacent cell, JD-1011, took his in-cell shower, the shower in Plaintiff’s cell “turned on by itself flooding” Plaintiff’s cell.[3] Plaintiff contends that as a result of the flooding, he slipped and fell allegedly injuring his back and hitting his head on the floor. On the day of his fall, Owens was seen by medical personnel. The medical record evidence indicates that Plaintiff said that he could not move, but when he was assessed, it was observed that he could move his extremities and neck without difficulty. It was noted that there were no apparent injuries to his back, neck, head, legs, or and knees.

The next day, Owens was seen by the medical department for a follow-up checkup. It was noted that he was standing and walking without difficulty. His C-spine was checked and he exhibited a full range of motion.

Plaintiff contends that Nurse Ida Ross informed him that another inmate, Stacey Vance, who also had been housed in cell JD-1012, was recently injured in the same manner in the same cell. Plaintiff claims that he was also informed by Sergeant Dobish that prior to his fall several work orders had been placed with the Maintenance Department requesting to have cell JD-1012 repaired; however, Sergeant Dobish denies ever requesting the Maintenance Department to repair the shower in the cell. (ECF No. 55-1 at pps. 3, 6.)

From the Complaint, it appears that Plaintiff was transferred to a different cell three (3) days after his fall. Complaint, at ¶ 31 (ECF No. 3).

On July 22, 2012, Owens filed an unsuccessful grievance against the “Maintenance Department and anyone responsible for the unsafe conditions of JD-1012 cell.”[4] (ECF No. 55-1, Attachment 1-A.)[5] The next day, on July 23, 2012, Carl Walker, the Captain of the RHU, submitted Work Order No. 2012-FYT-5816 reporting a potential plumbing problem in cell JD-1012. The maintenance problem was described as follows: “JD-12 in cell shower when the water is turned on in the pipe chase, the shower does not stop running and the water is leaking from the shower onto the cell floor.” (ECF No. 55-1, Exh. 5.) Upon investigation, it was discovered that the diaphragm was broken causing the water to leak when the water was turned on in the pipe chase. The part was replaced and the shower was repaired on August 7, 2012. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 7.)

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the record indicates that “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). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element to that party's case and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence or the lack thereof that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. National State Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must set forth “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial” or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith RadioCorp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The inquiry, then, involves determining “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251–52). If a court, having reviewed the ...


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