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Pressley v. Huber

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 21, 2017

SEAN PRESSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
ADAM HUBER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge. [1]

         Presently pending before the court is the motion for summary judgment of Defendants. (Doc. 99). The motion is ripe and will be granted in part and denied in part. However, the parties will be afforded until April 21, 2017, to file supplemental summary judgment motions, together with supporting briefs and exhibits, limited to the incomplete issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies as noted below. If none are filed within the time allotted, the matter will be scheduled for a final pre-trial conference and trial at the convenience of the court.

         I. Background

         Sean Pressley (“Plaintiff”) filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 with respect to an incident that occurred at the State Correctional Institution (“SCI”) at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, his former place of confinement. He is currently confined at SCI-Frackville. Following the resolution of a motion to dismiss and a long, tortured discovery process, the following three claims remain: (1) excessive force on October 30, 2006, by Defendants Huber, Zimmerman, Yohn, Gerber, Ayers, Tabias and Taylor; (2) failure to protect from this assault by Defendants Steigerwalt, March, Chambers, Taggart, Kelchner, O'Hara and Beard; and (3) the denial of due process when Defendant Moslak assessed Plaintiff costs at a misconduct hearing on November 1, 2006, without evidence, and Defendants Kelchner and Bitner refused or denied his appeal.

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the first two claims on the basis of Plaintiff's failure to exhaust. They move for summary judgment on the third claim on the basis that Plaintiff was provided by policy with notice and the opportunity to be heard regarding the assessment, and also that none of the Defendants personally assessed Plaintiff the costs owed of $694.00. In support of the motion, Defendants have filed a brief, a statement of material facts, and documents. Plaintiff has opposed Defendants' motion by filing a response to the statement of facts, an unsworn declaration, and a brief. Although Plaintiff references supporting exhibits, there are none attached to his submissions, and he states in an attached letter that he is in the process of acquiring copies of the exhibits and will submit them subsequent to the filing of the statement of facts, declaration and brief. (Docs. 118-1 at 3; 119-1 at 2.)

         The letter written by Plaintiff is old, and the referenced exhibits have never been submitted to the court. This is supported by the docket in this matter. Moreover, although some of the exhibits referenced by Plaintiff have been submitted by Defendants, and therefore are part of the record, many of the exhibits referenced are not part of the record, and therefore cannot be relied upon in examining the summary judgment motion.

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the SCI- Frackville. He claims that he was subjected to excessive force on October 30, 2006 at SCI-Camp Hill by Defendants Zimmerman, Huber, Yohn, Gerber, Ayers, Tabias and Taylor. The later five Defendants were identified by Plaintiff on May 17, 2010.[2] (Doc. 49.) Plaintiff further maintains that Defendants Steigerwalt, Marsh, Chambers, Taggart, Kelchner, O'Hara and Beard failed to protect him from this assault in that he was writing to them since June of 2003 notifying them that he was being stalked and harassed by Defendant Huber, but that he was never taken seriously. As such, the attack was predictable and could have been prevented. Also surviving in this action is Plaintiff's claim that he was denied due process when Defendant Moslak assessed him $694.00 at a misconduct hearing conducted on November 1, 2006, without evidence, and that Defendants Kelchner and Bitner refused or denied his appeal. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment stating that the first two claims raised by Plaintiff are unexhausted, and that they are entitled to summary judgment on the merits of the third claim.

         The Department of Corrections (“DOC”) has an Inmate Grievance System that provides an administrative procedure through which inmates can seek resolution of their problems. It is contained in DC-ADM 804. (Doc. 102-1, Ex. A.). If informal resolution fails, the Grievance Policy of the DOC provides a three-step process for resolution of inmate grievances. The three-step process is comprised of the initial grievance at the institutional level, an appeal to the Facility Manager (Superintendent) and final review with the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievance Appeals (“SOIGA”). (Id.) Plaintiff disputes an inmate's ability to “file or appeal” a grievance because they must submit them to Unit Officer for deposit into the inter-facility or U.S. Mail collection box on their housing unit, but he offers no support for this statement. Thus, while he disputes the purpose behind DC-ADM 804, he fails to offer any support for his statement. He does not dispute, however, that inmates received the DOC Inmate Handbook providing inmates with notice of the grievance policy and the requirements they must meet to grieve their issues through the grievance policy. (Doc. 102-2, Ex. B, Moore Decl.) Keri Moore works in the SOIGA and reviews the grievances and appeals, and is aware of what grievances are appealed to the SOIGA. She is the records custodian for all of the Grievance appeals submitted. (Id.)

         During his confinement at SCI-Camp Hill, Moore found that Plaintiff had filed 8 grievances (October 1, 2006 through December 31, 2006) and only appealed 1 grievance to final review with the SOIGA. The grievance appealed to final review was #165779 filed on October 4, 2006, and involved a medical issue. (Id.; Doc. 101-3, Ex. C, Grievance Chart). Plaintiff does not dispute that this grievance was exhausted. However, Plaintiff disputes that he only filed 8 grievances and appealed 1 of them to final review. He fails to submit any proof of the other grievances he claims to have submitted, or that they were properly filed and appealed to final review.

         Defendants state that the only grievance filed concerning the October 30, 2006 excessive force incident was Grievance 173331, which was filed on December 3, 2006, and deemed resolved on February 5, 2007. It was appealed to the Superintendent on February 8, 2007, and dismissed on February 16, 2007. No appeal was filed to final review with respect to Grievance 173331. (Doc. 102-3, Ex. C, Grievance Chart; Doc. 102-4, Ex. D, Grievance 173331). Again, Plaintiff disputes these statements, but offers no proof. He relies on past statements that he submitted grievances and appeals for mailing to unit officers, but that they were never mailed/processed.

         The DOC also has an Inmate Discipline Policy that provides the administrative procedure for addressing inmate violations of the DOC rules and policy. It is contained in DC-ADM 801. (Doc. 102-5, Ex. E.). If an inmate violates a rule or regulation, the matter is resolved either informally or formally. If resolved formally, a misconduct is issued. There is an appeal process for the inmate with respect to the misconduct issued and it is contained in DC-ADM 801. A hearing is conducted by the Hearing Examiner and then the matter goes to the Facility Manager for review. Appeals follow to the Program Review Committee (“PRC”) initially, to the second level of the Facility Manager, and then to final review with the Office of Chief Counsel. (Id. at 12-17.). If misconducts involve financial loss or cost because of an inmate's behavior, the Hearing Examiner may impose costs against the inmate in accordance with DC-ADM 801 policy. (Id. at 12, 13). If the cost is unknown at the time of the hearing, the Hearing Examiner gives the Business Manager notice of the order to pay costs and the Business Manager determines the amount of the loss or costs. The notice of the assessment is delivered to the inmate by the Business Manager. (Id. at 13, 19-22).

         Plaintiff does not dispute that Hearing Examiner Moslak did not know the costs of the medical care provided to staff at the time of the hearing. However, Plaintiff disputes Defendants' statement that Hearing Examiner Moslak found him guilty of assault and determined that injuries were sustained by staff who sought medical treatment. (Doc. 102-7 at 3-4; Doc. 102-8 at 3-4). Plaintiff argues that there was no evidence presented at the hearing pertaining to the injury suffered or medical treatment received. In support of this statement, Plaintiff cites to “Exhibit 33" which was never submitted. Defendants also state that an inmate can challenge the assessment by requesting a hearing. Plaintiff disputes Defendants' statement and cites to DC-ADM 801 VI(O)(3)(a) in support thereof. Plaintiff does agree that a cost hearing can be appealed, and that Defendant Hearing Examiner Zachary Moslak is aware that Plaintiff has alleged that Moslak violated due process at the misconduct hearing wherein Plaintiff was assessed medical expenses of $694. (Id. at 22; Doc. 102-6, Ex. F.). Defendants state that Moslak did not assess Plaintiff costs owed at $694 on November 1, 2006. In support of this statement, they submit the Declaration of Moslak and the misconduct reports issued on October 30, 2006. (Docs. 102-6; Doc. 102-7 and Doc. 102-8.) Plaintiff disputes Defendants' statement that Moslak did not assess Plaintiff costs owed as $694 on November 1, 2006. He offers no support other than his self-serving statement that Moslak “did assess liability for costs. . . .” (Doc. 119, Pl.'s SMF ¶ 37.) Plaintiff agrees that the misconducts issued on October 30, 2006, A 635625 and A 635626, memorialize the results of the November 1, 2006 misconduct hearing. (Docs 102-7, 102-8).

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the first two claims (excessive force and failure to protect) on the basis that Plaintiff failed to exhaust pursuant to DC-ADM 804. They seek summary judgment on the merits of the third claim (due process) claiming there exist no issues of fact that Plaintiff had notice of the cost sanction and an opportunity to be heard, and also that none of the Defendants named in this action were personally involved in assessing him $694.

         III. Summary ...


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