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Turner v. Tuttie

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 20, 2017

J. TUTTLE, et al., Defendants


          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, James Thomas Tuner, an inmate confined in the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, (“USP-Lewisburg”), Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned Bivens[1] action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331. (See Doc. 1, complaint). The named Defendants are the following Correctional Officers employed at SCI-Canaan, Plaintiff’s prior place of confinement: J. Tuttle, D. Clark and four Jane and John Doe Defendants. Id. However, J. Tuttle is the only individual who could be identified with certainty, and for whom service was accepted. (See Doc. 17). Because the waiver of service of summons for the remaining Defendants could not be executed, as the Defendants could not be identified as named by the Plaintiff, these Defendants will be dismissed pursuant to Rule 4(m), for Plaintiff’s failure to properly identify these Defendants and effectuate service within 120 days of the filing of the complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m).

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 24, 2015, at approximately 12:00 pm, while being processed into USP-Canaan, Defendant Tuttle entered the exam room and “lean[ed] on the high exam bed looking at [Plaintiff] while Jane Doe was asking [him] a lots of questions about [his] seizures” and states to Plaintiff “I think you are lying”, so “I’m going to take you off this medication”. (Doc. 1, complaint). Plaintiff claims that when he responded “isn’t that the doctor’s job to take me off my meds”, J. Tuttle stated “close your suck hole”. Id. Plaintiff states that he “found that remark to be very disrespectfully, so [he] responded man what’s your problem, what’s wrong with you.” Id. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Tuttle approached him while he was sitting in the chair, and “walked all the way up on [him] with his private parts in [his] face, trying to provoke [him].” Id. When Plaintiff asked Defendant Tuttle to “please move, you’re in my space” and “he refused to move”, Plaintiff “stood up and moved in front of the examination room door so the officers can see [him].” Id. Plaintiff states that “when Officer D. Clark and CO John Doe-4 saw that there was a problem in the exam room they entered the room, asking what’s the problem”. Id. Plaintiff told Defendant Clark that “this nurse is disrespecting me and C.O. Clark look at LPN J. Tuttle and J. Tuttle was denying it.” Id. So, Defendant Clark “ask[ed] [Plaintiff] to turn around and summit (sic) to hand cuff” and Plaintiff did as he was told. Id. Plaintiff claims that once the cuffs were on him “J. Tuttle hit [him] from the back in the back of [his] head, then C.O. Clark said take him down so Jane Doe-3, John Doe-4 and C.O. D. Clark slam [him] down on top of a small trash can, causing the corner of the trash can to cut deep into [Plaintiff’s] upper right chest and shoulder leaving three stab wounds.” Plaintiff contends that “after hitting or landing on the trash can they pull [him] out of the exam room on the floor faced down on [his] chest, the whole time the restraints were on [him].” Id. Once he was pulled out of the exam room into the hallway, Plaintiff claims “C.O. Clark lean[ed] down to [his] ear and stated while beating [his] face around [his] left eye, ‘you been talking shit all day’ and then beat [him] some more.” Id.

         Plaintiff was then taken to medical, where “an older male nurse examined and treated [him] for [his] injury, [his] left eye was very swollen, [his] upper chest was cut deep in three places, the bone in [his] left knee is out of place from the CO stepping on the leg restraints, causing [Plaintiff] to fall, landing on [his] knees.” Id. The nurse who examined Plaintiff “took pictures of [his] shoulder and [his] face, [his] whole body was hurting so bad but he took pictures of the scars he could see and all or most of this was caught on videotape.” Id.

         On February 16, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant action in which he alleges that the named Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Id. For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Id.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant Tuttle’s motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. (Doc. 18). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Bivens Standard

         Plaintiff’s claims are filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331, in accordance with Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, (1971). Under Bivens, the District Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 to entertain an action brought to redress alleged federal constitutional or statutory violations by a federal actor. Bivens, supra. Pursuant to Bivens, “a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest could invoke the general federal question jurisdiction of the district court to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official.” Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504 (1978). A Bivens-style civil rights claim is the federal equivalent of an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the same legal principles have been held to apply. See, Paton v. LaPrade, 524 F.2d 862, 871 (3d Cir. 1975); Veteto v. Miller, 829 F.Supp. 1486, 1492 (M.D.Pa. 1992); Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1200 n. 16 (M.D.Pa. 1992). In order to state an actionable Bivens claim, a plaintiff must allege that a person has deprived him of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of federal law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1199 (M.D.Pa. 1992).

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant’s pending dispositive motion is supported by evidentiary materials outside the pleadings. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) provides in part as follows:

If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) or 12(c), matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56. All parties must be given reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(d).

         This Court will not exclude the evidentiary materials accompanying the Defendant’s motion. Thus, the motion will be treated as solely seeking summary judgment. See Latham v. United States, 306 Fed. Appx. 716, 718 (3d Cir. 2009) (when a motion to dismiss has been framed alternatively as a motion for summary judgment such as in the present case, the alternative filing “is sufficient to place the parties on notice that summary judgment might be entered.”)

         C. Summary Judgment

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary ...

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