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Davis v. Mooney

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 10, 2017

RAFIYQ DAVIS, Plaintiff
v.
SUPERINTENDENT MOONEY, et al., Defendants

          Judge Schwab Chief Magistrate.

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge.

         Before the court is a Report and Recommendation filed by Chief Magistrate Judge Schwab in which she recommends granting in part and denying in part the Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 84.) Defendants have filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 88.) For the reasons that follow, the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation will be adopted in part, and this case will be listed for trial.

         I. Background

         The relevant facts and procedural history can be summarized as follows: In or about December 2011, Plaintiff Rafiyq Davis sent a letter to Timothy Riskus in the Central Security Office, seeking separations from a fellow inmate, Jesse Wade (“Inmate Wade”), and other inmates at the State Correctional Institution at Coal Township, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Coal Township”). (Doc. 73 ¶ 36.) As Plaintiff was housed at SCI-Graterford at the time, he was instructed to raise the issue with the Superintendent upon his return to SCI-Coal Township. (Id.) On December 29, 2011, Plaintiff was transferred back to SCI-Coal Township. (Id. ¶ 37.) He had a meeting with Lt. Richard Shipe, after which Plaintiff authored an Inmate Statement on January 26, 2012, asserting that his issues with other inmates at SCI-Coal Township had been resolved and that he did not anticipate any problems. (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff subsequently raised issues about his safety at SCI-Coal Township again but did not specifically mention Inmate Wade. (Id. ¶¶ 39-41.)

         On January 5, 2014, while housed at SCI-Coal Township, Plaintiff was assaulted and stabbed by Inmate Wade as he was returning from afternoon activities in the yard. (Id. ¶ 18.) Immediately following the incident, Plaintiff was seen by the prison's medical department. (Id. ¶ 19.) During his evaluation, Plaintiff exclaimed, “I don't know why that dude hit me!” (Id. ¶ 20.) Upon examination, it was noted that Plaintiff had a 1/8-inch puncture wound in his right cheek located 1-inch from his right eye, as well as ecchymosis and abrasions to the left side of his nose and corner of his left eye. (Id. ¶ 21.) He denied having any pain or other injury. (Id.) Steri-strips were applied to Plaintiff's cheek and he was given instructions regarding hygiene to prevent infection. (Id. ¶ 22.) Over the following two months, Plaintiff was seen by the medical department on several occasions for complaints of pain, and decreased or blurred vision in his right eye. (Id. ¶¶ 23-26.) However, no doctor has opined that the blurred vision is related to the January 5, 2014 incident. (Id. ¶ 26.)

         Following the altercation with Inmate Wade, Correctional Officer Hopwood issued Misconduct #A543277 to Plaintiff for fighting and refusing to obey an order. (Id. ¶ 48.) The misconduct was ultimately dismissed by the hearing officer. (Id.) On March 25, 2014, a correctional officer trainee issued Misconduct #B428705 to Plaintiff for refusing to obey an order and for failing to stand count, or for otherwise interfering with count. (Id. ¶ 49.) This misconduct was also dismissed, without prejudice, by the hearing officer. (Id. ¶ 50.) Further, Plaintiff was granted parole on April 7, 2014. (Id. ¶ 52.)

         On July 24, 2014, Plaintiff initiated this action against several officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) with a complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution.[1] (Doc. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff raises the following claims related to the January 5, 2014 incident: (1) a failure to protect claim under the Eighth Amendment; (2) a failure to intervene claim under the Eighth Amendment; (3) a cruel and unusual punishment claim under the Eighth Amendment; and (4) a retaliation claim under the First Amendment. Defendants filed an answer to the complaint (Doc. 24), the parties exchanged written discovery, and Defendants took the depositions of Plaintiff and another witness. On April 15, 2016, Defendants collectively filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 72.) On January 6, 2017, Chief Magistrate Judge Schwab filed a Report and Recommendation, recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (Doc. 84.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the following claims and Defendants survive: (1) a failure to protect claim against Defendant Williams; (2) a failure to intervene claim against Defendants Benson and Kimbrel; and (3) a retaliation claim against Defendant Hopwood. In addition, she recommended that the claims asserted against Defendant Trainee Doe be dismissed.

         On January 27, 2017, Defendants submitted objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 88.) In their filing, Defendants argue that the surviving claims determined by the Magistrate Judge should be dismissed. Plaintiff has not filed a response. Thus, the Report and Recommendation and the objections thereto are ripe for review.

         II. Discussion

         Pursuant to the Magistrate Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), any party may file written objections to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Where timely and specific objections are filed, the reviewing court must conduct a de novo review of those contested portions of the report and recommendation to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In making its de novo review, the district court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see Owens v. Beard, 829 F.Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Uncontested portions of the report are reviewed for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998). Guided by this standard of review, the court will now review the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and the objections thereto.

         A. Failure to Protect Claim against Defendant Williams

         Defendants first object to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that summary judgment be denied with respect to Plaintiff's claim for failure to protect against Defendant Williams. In the Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff “met his burden of proof in showing a genuine dispute of material fact that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of harm and that Williams was aware of this harm, yet disregarded it.” (Doc. 84 at 23.) In support of this finding, the Magistrate Judge noted that Plaintiff told Defendant Williams that Inmate Wade was going to kill him, on two separate occasions, just days before the January 5, 2014 incident. (Id.) In addition, Defendant Williams disregarded this risk because Plaintiff had filed numerous grievances and complaints in the past. (Id.)

         An inmate making a failure to protect claim has the burden of proof to establish that a prison official both knew of and chose to disregard an “excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 133 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has further held that the knowledge requirement is subjective, “meaning that the official must actually be aware of the existence of the excessive risk; it is not sufficient that the official should have been aware.” Id.; see Hamilton v. Leavy, 117 F.3d 742, ...


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