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Mertz v. Harmon

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 9, 2017

DONALD RICHARD MERTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN HARMON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

         Plaintiff Donald Richard Mertz (“Plaintiff”), an inmate at a Pennsylvania state correctional facility, was stabbed by another inmate on November 17, 2015, resulting in injuries to his head. Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against three prison officials, alleging that they failed to protect him from the assault in violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. After answering the complaint, the defendants deposed Plaintiff and filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims against them. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion.[1] For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         On or around November 5, 2015, Plaintiff began his incarceration at Northampton County Prison (“the Facility”), where he had stayed during several earlier periods of incarceration. See Mertz Dep. at 6:19-23, May 18, 2016, Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B, ECF No. 17. According to Plaintiff, on November 17, 2015, at around 11:15 a.m., fellow inmate Eshaun Martin (“Martin”) attacked him. See Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 3. Martin allegedly stabbed Plaintiff in the back of his head and used his fingernails to cut Plaintiff's face. Id. at 3. Plaintiff was taken to Easton Hospital, where he received eight staples in his head. Id.

         At his deposition, Plaintiff explained that he and Martin were acquaintances prior to their incarceration. See Mertz Dep. at 19:15-18. A few years ago, Martin and his girlfriend stayed with Plaintiff for about a month, when they did not have anywhere else to stay. See Id. at 19:19-25, 20:1-22. During one of Plaintiff's prior periods of incarceration, he signed a form requesting not to be housed with Martin. See Id. at 19:2-12.

         According to Plaintiff, he was placed in administrative segregation upon his arrival at the Facility in early November 2015. Id. at 17:13-19. While in administrative segregation, Plaintiff was permitted to have visitors only in the morning. See Id. at 22:8-15. Plaintiff wanted to move out of administrative segregation so that his mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time and could not visit in the morning, would be able to visit him. See Id. at 21:15-22, 22:4-17. Plaintiff claims that when he requested to move out of administrative segregation, Defendant John Harmon (“Harmon”) told Plaintiff that he could not move unless he signed a form stating that he revoked his prior request not to be housed with Martin. Id. at 34:18-22, 35:13-23. As a result, Plaintiff signed the form permitting him to be housed on the same cell block as Martin. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that about a month prior to his incident with Martin, prison officials caught Martin with a weapon in his cell - a piece of steel that could be used to stab someone. Id. at 36:9-17. Plaintiff claims that this information was in Martin's prison record, Id. at 36:18-25, and that if Plaintiff had known about it, he would never have signed the form agreeing to be housed with Martin, Id. at 35:24-25, 36:1-8.

         After Plaintiff signed the form agreeing to be housed on the same cell block as Martin, Plaintiff was moved to his new cell, which he occupied alone. Id. at 39:18-25. According to Plaintiff, the assault happened approximately two hours after he was moved. Id. at 40:11-13. Plaintiff claims that the correctional officer assigned to Plaintiff's cell block was not on the cell block during the assault. Id. at 40:16-25. According to Plaintiff, he and Martin were both in the hallway, where they had a brief verbal exchange. Id. at 41:3-6. After Martin said he did not have any problem with Plaintiff, Martin waited until Plaintiff's back was turned, and then stabbed him with a piece of a light bulb. Id. at 41:3-9. Plaintiff claims that the incident was captured on camera, although he is not sure whether the camera was working. Id. at 42:11-15.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed this action on December 14, 2015, bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Harmon, Deputy Warden Joseph Kospiah, and Deputy Warden David Penchishen (collectively, “Defendants”). ECF No. 1. The Court granted in forma pauperis status on December 18, 2015. ECF No. 2. Plaintiff's complaint appears to bring an Eighth Amendment claim based on Defendants' failure to protect him from Martin's attack. See Compl. at 3.

         Defendants answered the complaint on March 2, 2016. ECF No. 11. Plaintiff moved for the appointment of counsel on March 14, 2016. ECF No. 12. The Court held a pretrial status conference on April 18, 2016. See ECF No. 13.

         On April 19, 2016, the Court issued an order (1) granting Defendants leave to depose Plaintiff by June 17, 2016; (2) ordering Defendants to file a motion for summary judgment by July 18, 2016; and (3) scheduling a status conference for August 1, 2016, to determine whether Plaintiff would need any discovery in order to respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 16. The Court also denied Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel without prejudice. Id.

         Defendants deposed Plaintiff on May 18, 2016, see ECF No. 18, and subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment on July 11, 2016, ECF No. 17. The Court held a status conference on August 1, 2016, during which the Court reviewed with Plaintiff the materials Defendants produced and found that Defendants had given Plaintiff sufficient discovery. See ECF No. 18. The Court ordered Plaintiff to respond to any motion for summary judgment by August 31, 2016. See Id. The Court noted that if Plaintiff did not file a response, the Court would proceed to consider Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the basis of Defendants' submission alone. See id.

         As of today, Plaintiff has not filed a response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court ...


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