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Everett v. Hann

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 20, 2017

JEVON A. EVERETT, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O HANN, C/O ROGERS, and LOUIS BOZELLI, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, with brief in support. (ECF Nos. 125 and 126). Plaintiff, Jevon A. Everett, has filed a Brief in opposition (ECF No. 135), to which Defendants have filed a Reply Brief. (ECF No. 136). The issues have been fully briefed and the factual record has been thoroughly developed. (ECF Nos. 126 and 128). For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted and the Clerk of Court will be directed to close this case.

         Background

         Plaintiff, Jevon A. Everett (“Plaintiff” or “Everett”) is a state prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) currently confined at SCI-Greene. The events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at SCI-Fayette. Plaintiff brings suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against three DOC employees: C/O Hann, C/O Rogers, and Unit Manager Louis Bozelli. After prescreening and the granting in part of Defendants' motion to dismiss, two claims remain: (i) First Amendment retaliation and (ii) Eighth Amendment failure to protect.

         Plaintiff alleges that he has been the subject of retaliation due to his filing a lawsuit and grievances and that Defendants failed to protect him from his cellmate and issued him a false misconduct. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that on June 5, 2016, Michael Jones, Plaintiff's former cellmate, was placed back in Plaintiff's cell in retaliation for Plaintiff's filing of a lawsuit and grievances. According to Plaintiff, Jones was originally placed with Plaintiff for four days in December 2015, but “was removed due to incompatibility and conflict of cases.”[2](ECF No. 135-2 at 64). Jones was returned to Plaintiff's cell on June 5, 2016 because, according to Plaintiff, Defendants “wanted to get [Everett] . . . and that they were putting this rapist in my cell and wanted me to respond so that could write me up.” (ECF No. 135-2 at 23). Plaintiff further contends that as soon as Jones walked into the cell, he stated that “CO Hann, wants us to fight, that is why he told your celly Ryan to move out, so we could fight and you can go to the hole (RHU).” Pl's Br. at 11.

         It is not disputed that on July 31, 2016, there was an altercation between Plaintiff and Jones while in their cell. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff was the aggressor or the victim. Jones sustained injuries to his face and head which required hospitalization. At the time, the medical staff noted only superficial injuries to Plaintiff's right knuckles. Plaintiff now claims that he also suffered a hernia in his pelvic area from the altercation with Jones.

         Following the close of discovery, Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment. In response to the instant motion, Plaintiff submitted 68 pages of documents, which include his own Statements and Affidavits; the Affidavits / Declarations of fellow inmates Ronald G. Gilmore, Jr., Steven S. Wilson, Milton Johnson, Rondell Ellis, Khareem Little, and Abdul Murray; the Cell History for Plaintiff and Michael Jones; various documents regarding his grievances and misconduct; a newspaper article; and employee locator search results, with job descriptions, for Defendants Hann, Bozelli, and Rogers.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment may be granted “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). “A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Burton v. Teleflex Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court's function is not to weigh the evidence, to determine the truth of the matter, or to evaluate credibility. See Montone v. City of Jersey City, 709 F.3d 181 (3d Cir. 2013). Rather, the Court is only to determine whether the evidence of record is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. In evaluating the evidence, the Court must interpret the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 147 (3d Cir. 2007).

         Discussion and Analysis

         Plaintiff's claims for First Amendment retaliation and Eighth Amendment failure to protect are based on the incident with his cellmate Michael Jones on July 31, 2016. Defendants move for summary judgment as to each claim arguing that (1) Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, (2) Plaintiff has not established that Defendants were personally involved in the decision to place Jones in Plaintiff's cell; (3) there is insufficient evidence to establish a failure to protect claim; and (4) there is insufficient evidence to support a retaliation claim regarding the issuance of the misconduct report. These arguments will be addressed seriatim.

         A. The Administrative Exhaustion Requirement

         Defendants' first argument is that summary judgment should be entered in their favor because Plaintiff has not exhausted his administrative remedies.

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), a prisoner is required to pursue all avenues of relief available within the prison's grievance system before bringing a federal civil rights action concerning prison conditions. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289, 291 (3d Cir. 2000), aff'd, 532 U.S. 731 (2001). In order to fully exhaust remedies, a plaintiff must pursue a grievance through final administrative review. Salley v. PA Dept. of Corr., 181 F.App'x 258, 264 (3d Cir. 2006).

         Plaintiff argues that the administrative process was not available to him because prison officials prevented him from exhausting his administrative remedies. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the “staff refuse[d] to address” his grievances. The summary judgment record evidence contains a Request to Staff Member, dated 7/8/16 in which Plaintiff voices his concern to Unit Manager Hawk about Jones being placed back in his cell, to which she responds on July 15, 2016, that while his concerns are noted, at this time he is appropriately housed. (ECF No. 135-2 at 23, 39). The summary judgment record evidence also contains Grievance No. 635667, dated 7/22/16, in which Plaintiff again expresses his concern about Jones being placed in his cell. On 8/3/2016, his grievance was denied and it was explained to Plaintiff that “housing inmates is an institutional decision and up to the discretion of the staff and the needs of the institution. There are no “separations” available from all rapists, as this grievant is requesting.”

         During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he didn't believe he had appealed this decision because he was in RHU at the time of the decision and staff interfered with his ability to appeal. Such interference, if true, would render the administrative remedies “unavailable” to Plaintiff for purposes of ...


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