United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO United States District Judge
23, 2016, pro se Plaintiff Vernon Bradley, an inmate
currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution
at Fayette, Labelle, Pennsylvania
(“SCI-Fayette”), filed a complaint pursuant to
442 U.S.C. § 1983 against the following seven
correctional officers employed at SCI-Rockview: Joshua
Spelas, Michael Rains, Cheadan Rogers, C.O. Rothrock, Sgt.
Heath, C.O. Heverly and Lt. Lowry. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff
claims, inter alia, that he was subjected to cruel
and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference in
violation of his Eighth Amendment by the correctional
officers. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he was thrown
down a flight of fourteen steps by correctional officer
Rothrock acting in concert with the other correctional
officers in retaliation for throwing urine on Correctional
Officer Spelas. Plaintiff admits that he threw urine on
Correctional Officer Spelas.
November 9, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, for summary
judgment along with a brief in support, exhibits, and a
statement of facts. (Doc. Nos. 25, 26, 27, and 29.) On
January 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed a brief in
opposition. (Doc. No. 30.) The matter having been
fully briefed, is ripe for disposition.
October 10, 2015, while working in the Restricted Housing
Unit (“RHU”), C.O. Spelas had urine thrown on him
by Plaintiff after an argument between the two broke out.
(Doc. No. 26 at 2, Def's Statement of Facts; Doc. No. 1.
at ¶ 17, Am. Compl.) C.O Rains and C.O. Rogers who were
also working in the RHU on that day, witnessed Plaintiff
throw urine on C.O. Spelas. (Id. at 2 and 3.) C.O.
Rothrock, Sgt. Heath, and Lt. Lowry then came to
Plaintiff's cell when Plaintiff alleges that Lt. Lowry
told C.O. Rothrock to “make sure you get him.”
(Doc. No. 26 at 4; Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 20.) Plaintiff was
handcuffed behind his back and C.O. Rothrock, by himself,
escorted Plaintiff to a Psychiatric Observation Cell
(“POC”). (Doc. No. 26 at 3 and 4; Doc. No. 1 at
¶¶ 19, 21, and 22.)
alleges that while being escorted to the POC by C.O.
Rothrock, who was holding a tether attached to
Plaintiff's handcuffs, C.O. Rothrock threw Plaintiff down
a flight of fourteen steps and “actually rode down the
flight of steps while on the Plaintiff's back.”
(Doc. No. 26 at 3; Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 22 and 23.)
Plaintiff also alleges that C.O. Rothrock made false claims
that “Plaintiff made ‘several threats to spit and
kill' him” and that C.O. Rothrock, Sgt. Heath, and
Lt. Lowry “claimed (falsely) that the Plaintiff
‘had propelled himself down the stairwell, taking [C.O.
Rothrock] with him.' ” (Doc. No. 26 at 4 and 5;
Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 31.) Finally, as to this alleged
incident, Plaintiff claims that Sgt. Heath and Lt. Lowry knew
that C.O. Rothrock was going to assault Plaintiff and did
nothing to stop it. (Doc. No. 26 at 5; Doc. No. 1 at ¶
response to this incident, Plaintiff submitted Grievance No.
594705 wherein he alleged excessive force by C.O. Rothrock
when he was “pushed down the stairs” while being
escorted to the POC. (Doc. 27-1 at 50.) Upon Initial Review,
the grievance was denied as unsubstantiated. (Id. at
54.) Plaintiff appealed this grievance to the Facility
Manager which denied his appeal. (Id. at 58.)
Plaintiff exhausted this grievance when he appealed to the
Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances & Appeals
(“SOIGA”) which upheld the denial of this
grievance. (Doc. 27-2 at 9.)
Plaintiff alleges that between November 2 and November 6,
2015, C.O. Rains denied Plaintiff access to the exercise yard
and showers. (Doc. No. 26 at 3; Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 51.). In
response, Plaintiff filed Grievance No. 598088 alleging he
was denied access to the yard and showers. (Doc. No. 27-1 at
60.) This grievance was denied on Initial Review.
(Id. at 62.) Plaintiff did not appeal this grievance
to the Facility Manager. (Doc. No. 27-1 at ¶ 25, Paul
also alleges that on November 2 and 6, 2015, C.O. Rains along
with C.O. Spelas banged on the property room gate directly in
front of Plaintiff's cell and on November 13, 2015, again
banged on the property room gate along with C.O. Rogers.
(Doc. No. 26 at 2; Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶46 and 48.)
Additionally, on November 12 and 13, 2015, Plaintiff alleges
that C.O. Rains told C.O. Spelas that Plaintiff was mentally
unstable and an “idiot” and a
“nigger.” (Doc. No. 26 at 2; Doc. No. 1 at
¶¶ 47 and 48.) With regard to C.O. Rains and C.O.
Spelas, Plaintiff also alleges that they served him a meal
tray containing tobacco chew that they had placed on the
tray. (Doc. No. 26 at 2; Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 50.)
appears that Plaintiff filed Grievance No. 597964 and
complained that he “found something [chew] in [his]
barbecue beef, and C.O. Spelas and C.O. Rains delivered [the]
trays.” (Doc. No. 27-1 at 64.) This grievance was
rejected for failure to comply with the requirements of
DC-ADM 804. (Id. at 66.) Plaintiff then resubmitted
this grievance (Id. at 68), which was denied on
Initial Review. (Id. at 70.) Plaintiff did not
appeal this grievance to the Facility Manager. (Doc. No. 27-1
at 7, ¶ 30, Paul Decl.)
also filed Grievance No. 597962, alleging that from November
2 through November 6, 2015, C.O. Rains banged on the property
room gate to retaliate against him and that he also talked
about Plaintiff to C.O. Spelas. (Doc. No. 27-1 at 72.) He
further provided that C.O. Rogers and C.O. Spelas also banged
on the property room gate in front of his cell on November
13, 2015. (Id. at 73.) On Initial Review,
Plaintiff's grievance was denied. (Id. at 75.)
Plaintiff appealed this grievance to the Facility Manager
(Id. at 77), which denied his appeal. (Id.
at 79.) Plaintiff then sent documents related to Grievance
No. 597962 to SOIGA, but did not file anything labeled as a
Final Appeal. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 11.) As a result, SOIGA
acknowledged receipt of the documents but advised Plaintiff
that he had not submitted a Final Appeal. (Id.)
Plaintiff subsequently submitted his final appeal to SOIGA.
(Id. at 13.) SOIGA issued a Final Appeal decision
denying his grievance. (Id. at 15.)
Plaintiff alleges that on January 6, 2016, C.O. Rothrock
called Plaintiff a “faggot, ” told him to
“suck his dick, ” and stated “[d]o you want
to take a walk on the steps again[.]” (Doc. No. 26 at
4; Doc. No. 1 at ¶¶ 53 and 54). Plaintiff also
alleges that on January 7, 2016, C.O. Rothrock along with
C.O. Heverly called Plaintiff a “rat” (Doc. No.
26 at 4; Doc. No. 1 at ¶ 54), and C.O. Heverly
additional told Plaintiff that he would give him “a
filed Grievance No. 605816 alleging the above name-calling
and threats. (Doc. 27-1 at 81.) However, in this grievance,
Plaintiff alleges that it was C.O. Wasson (a correctional
officer not named in this instant complaint) that stated he
would give Plaintiff a “buck-fifty.”
(Id.) On Initial Review, this grievance was denied
as being unsubstantiated. (Id. at 87.) Plaintiff
appealed to the Facility Manager, but left out allegations
related to C.O. Wasson's alleged threats. (Id.
at 89.) The Facility Manager denied this appeal providing
that Plaintiff “continues to file false allegations,
all of which have been investigated and deemed to have no
merit.” (Id. at 91.) Plaintiff then appealed
to the SOIGA wherein he asserts that he incorrectly put C.O.
Wasson as the officer that threatened him and it should have
been C.O. Heverly [sic]. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 17.) Plaintiff
reasserted his allegations as to C.O. Rothrock.
(Id.) SOIGA upheld the decisions of the Facility
Manager and Grievance Officer and denied Plaintiff's
Grievance No. 605816. (Id. at 19.)
final grievance, Grievance No. 606591 again alleges that C.O.
Rothrock antagonized him by calling him a “rat, ”
and then threatened him saying “he would throw him down
the steps again if he had the chance.” (Doc. No. 27-1
at 93.) On Initial Review, the grievance was denied as being
unsubstantiated. (Id. at 99.) Plaintiff appealed to
the Facility Manager and the Facility Manager denied the
appeal. (Id. at 103.) Plaintiff then appealed this
grievance to the SOIGA. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 21). SOIGA, in a
Final Appeal Decision, upheld the Facility Manager, and
Grievance Officer and denied the appeal. (Id. at
Standard of Review
have filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for
summary judgment. “When a motion to dismiss is
converted into a motion for summary judgment the parties must
be given notice of the conversion and an opportunity to
present material to the court.” Latham v.
U.S., 306 F. App'x 716, 718 (3d Cir. 2009); see
also Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 342 (3d Cir. 1989).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
held that filing a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative,
a motion for summary judgment is sufficient “to place
the parties on notice that summary judgment might be
entered.” Hilfirty v. Shipman, 91 F.3d 573,
578-79 (3d Cir. 1996).
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is “genuine” if
there is sufficient evidence with which a reasonable jury
could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Childers v.
Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A factual dispute is
“material” if it might affect the outcome of the
case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining
whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must
consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Skerski v. Time Warner Cable Co.,
257 F.3d 273, 278 (3d Cir. 2001); White v. Westinghouse
Elec, Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988).
seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of
informing the court of the basis of its motion and
identifying those portions of the record that it believes
demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The non-moving party then has the burden to “come forth
with ‘affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of
the pleadings, ' in support of its right to
relief.” U.S. Bank, Nat'l Ass'n v.
Greenfield, Civ. Action No. 1:12-CV-2125, 2014 WL
3908127, *2 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2014) (quoting Pappas v.
City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa.
2004)). “If a party fails to properly support an
assertion of fact or fails to properly address another
party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c),
” a court may grant summary judgment or consider the
fact undisputed for purposes of the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P.
set forth two arguments in their instant motion: (1) portions
of the amended complaint should be dismissed where Plaintiff
has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required
by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995