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Montanez v. Tritt

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 20, 2017

SUPERINTENDENT MS. TRITT, et al., Defendants



         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Jose Montanez, an inmate who, at all relevant times, was housed at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Frackville")[1], initiated the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint, wherein Montanez alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated because Defendants failed to protect him from an assault by his former cellmate. (Doc. 21). The remaining Defendants are Lieutenant Hannon and Sergeant Reed. (See Docs. 49, 50). Currently pending before the Court is a motion for summary judgement filed by the remaining named Defendants. (Doc. 81). For the reasons provided herein, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         Through summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to materiality, ... [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must offer specific facts contradicting those averred by the movant to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may not oppose summary judgment simply on the basis of the pleadings, or on conclusory statements that a factual issue exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record... or showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). In evaluating whether summary judgment should be granted, "[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir.1992), cert, denied 507 U.S. 912 (1993).

         However, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). If a party has carried its burden under the summary judgment rule,

its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.

Id. (internal quotations, citations, and alterations omitted).

         III. Statement of Undisputed Facts [2]

         Montanez alleges that in May 2014 he began having trouble with his cellmate at SCI-Frackville. (Doc. 82, ¶¶ 2, 5). On May 29, 2014, Montanez and his cellmate were involved in an altercation and the ceilmate stabbed Montanez with an ink pen. (Doc. 84-1, pp. 6-7, Declaration of William Reed ("Reed Decl."), ¶ 8).

         Montanez never spoke to Defendant Hannon about his concerns with his cellmate. (Doc. 82, ¶ 6; Doc. 84-1, pp. 4-5, Declaration of Joseph Hannon ("Hannon Decl."), ¶ 5).

         In May 2014, prior to May 29, 2014, Montanez spoke with Defendant Reed about the issue with his cellmate and asked to be moved out of the cell. (Doc. 21, p. 9; Doc. 82, ¶ 7; Reed Decl., ¶ 5). Defendant Reed asked Montanez if there had been any physical altercations, to which Montanez responded that there had not been. (Doc. 21, p. 9; Doc. 82, ¶ 8). Montanez allegedly told Defendant Reed that he had "been threatened" by his cellmate, but provided no further detail. (Doc. 21, p. 9; Doc. 82, ¶ 9). Defendant Reed advised Montanez to attempt to find a cellmate on his own, and that the matter could be discussed with the Unit Manager. (Doc. 82, ¶ 10; Reed Decl., ¶ 6). This is the normal protocol followed at SCI-Frackville when cellmates are generally dissatisfied with each other. (Doc. 82, ¶ 11; Hannon Dec!., ¶ 4; Doc. 84-1, pp. 8-9, Declaration of Michael Wenerowicz ("Wenerowicz Decl."), ¶ 8).

         Most inmates prefer a single cell and will often stage fights with cellmates to attempt to obtain a single ceil. (Doc. 82, ¶ 12; Wenerowicz Deck, ¶ 6). Inmate complaints about cellmates are carefully scrutinized by the unit team. (Doc. 82, ¶ 13; Wenerowicz Decl., ¶ 7). Placing responsibility on the inmates to locate an amiable cellmate serves to foster their ability to solve problems, assume responsibility for themselves, and assist with their reentry. (Doc. 82, ¶ 14; Wenerowicz Deck, ¶ 9).

         On May 29, 2014, Montanez and his cellmate were in an altercation regarding use of the cellmate's television. (Doc. 82, ¶ 15; Doc. 21, p. 9; Reed Decl., ¶ 8). During the altercation, Montanez's cellmate stabbed him in the shoulder with an ink pen. (Doc. 82, ¶ 15; Doc. 21, p. 9; Reed Decl., ¶ 8). This ...

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