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Daniels v. Pitkins

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 17, 2017



          RICHARD P. CONABOY, United States District Judge


         This pro se civil rights action was initiated in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas by William M. Daniels, Jr., an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Albion, Pennsylvania (SCI-Albion). Following submission of an amended complaint, This matter was removed to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441 (a). See Doc. 1, ¶ 9. By Order dated June 26, 2015, Plaintiff's objections to the removal were denied. See Doc. 19.

         Daniels' action regards events which allegedly transpired during his prior confinement at the Benner State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Benner). Defendants are the following SCI-Benner employees: Superintendent David Pitkins, Deputy Superintendents Tammy Ferguson and Leo Glass, Counselor Bobbi Jo Salamon, and Security Lieutenant L. W. Hoffman who are all employed at SCI-Benner, by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC Defendants). Also named as a Defendant is Physician's Assistant (PA) Maria Leahy, who was contracted to provide medical care to SCI-Benner inmates.

         The Amended Complaint concerns conduct taken by prison officials following an April 25, 2014 SCI-Benner encounter between Plaintiff and a female visitor. Specifically, it is alleged that because Daniels was suspected of swallowing contraband after being kissed by his visitor he was strip searched by a non-defendant, Lieutenant Green, and placed in a POC[1] dry cell for almost an entire week where he was allegedly subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement as well as other violations of his constitutional rights.

         By Memorandum and Order dated August 19, 2015, Defendant Leahy's motion to dismiss was partially granted. See Doc. 10. Specifically, it was determined that Leahy was entitled to entry of dismissal with exception of the allegation that she failed to protect Plaintiff from unconstitutional conditions of confinement.[2] See Doc. 24. Presently pending is Leahy's motion seeking entry of summary judgment. See Doc. 44. The opposed motion is ripe for consideration.


         With respect to the remaining claim against Defendant Leahy, the Amended Complaint alleges that on or about April 26, 2014 Leahy went to Plaintiff's POC cell to check his vital signs and was asked to do something about the unsanitary conditions of his confinement. She purportedly told Daniels that there was nothing she could do. According to the Amended Complaint, Leahy allegedly acted with deliberate indifference by allowing Plaintiff to continue to suffer extreme deprivations while in the POC cell. See id. at ¶ 28.

         Defendant Leahy claims entitlement to summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, and (2) the Amended Complaint fails to allege a viable failure to protect claim.

         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)).

         Administrative Exhaustion

         Defendant Leahy asserts that based on information provided by the DOC during discovery, Plaintiff did not file any administrative grievances against Leahy or anyone else which “had been appealed to the final level of review.” Doc. 45, p. 7. Plaintiff's opposing brief counters that he did file and administratively appeal a ...

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