United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE BAXTER TO DENY DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Melissa Bucano, a former prisoner at the State Correctional
Institution at Cambridge Springs (“SCI Cambridge
Springs”) brings the present 42 U.S.C. § 1983
action against Defendants in their personal capacity. Am.
Compl., Doc. 13. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Keith Austin, a correctional officer formerly
employed at SCI Cambridge Springs, violated Plaintiff's
Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment by sexually harassing and abusing her (Count I);
and that Austin intentionally inflicted emotional distress
upon her (Count VI). Plaintiff further alleges that other
employees of SCI Cambridge Springs (“the Cambridge
Springs Defendants”) violated her Eighth Amendment right by
acting with deliberate indifference to her safety and medical
needs both before and after the abusive events at issue
(Counts II-V). Austin and the Cambridge Springs Defendants
moved for summary judgment, respectively, arguing, in
relevant part, that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her
the Court is the Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”)  of the Honorable Susan Paradise
Baxter, United States Magistrate Judge, recommending that the
Court deny the motion for summary judgment filed by Austin
 and grant the motion for summary judgment filed by the
Cambridge Springs Defendants . Specifically, the R&R
found that Plaintiff did not fail to exhaust her
administrative remedies as to her claims against Defendant
Austin, but that Plaintiff did fail to exhaust her
administrative remedies as to her claims against the
Cambridge Springs Defendants. Doc. 85. Plaintiff and Austin
each filed objections [Pl's. Objs., Doc. 88; Austin's
Objs., Docs. 86, 87]; Plaintiff filed a response to
Austin's objections ; and Austin filed a reply in
support of his objections . Additionally, the Cambridge
Springs Defendants filed a response to Plaintiff's
objections ; and Plaintiff filed a reply in support of
her objections . Having reviewed the Complaint, the
briefs of the parties, the R&R, and the entirety of the
record, the Court adopts in part the decision of the
Magistrate Judge, and respectfully remands the matter for the
Magistrate Judge's consideration of the merits of
Plaintiff's claims against the Cambridge Springs
Defendants, and whether these Defendants are entitled to
party files objections to an R&R, the district court must
review the Magistrate's findings de novo.
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). To obtain de novo review, a
party must clearly and specifically identify those portions
of the R&R to which it objects. Goney v. Clark,
749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). The district court may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
and recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge.
Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 673-74; see also 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
judgment is proper “if the movant shows 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.
Pro. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). “[T]he substantive law will identify which
facts are material. Only 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). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine . .
. if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return
a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. In
deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. Weldon
v. Kraft, Inc., 896 F.2d 793, 797 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing
Sorba v. Pennsylvania Drilling Co., 821 F.2d 200,
204 (3d Cir.1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1019
PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANT AUSTIN
facts of this case are presented fully in the R&R and in
the Court's previous orders. See Doc. 85;
see also Doc. 26; Doc. 33. Accordingly, the Court
addresses here only those facts and legal issues relevant to
the parties' objections and responses thereto. Docs.
86-87, 88, 92, 95, 96, 99. The gravamen of the parties'
objections and responses thereto concern whether Plaintiff
exhausted the DOC's administrative remedies; and, if not,
whether she should be excused from not having exhausted
because those remedies were unavailable to her.
Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a), requires that prisoners exhaust their
available administrative remedies before filing any suit
involving prison life, “whether they involve general
circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege
excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v.
Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002); see also Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007) (“There is no
question that exhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and that
unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.”).
Indeed, exhaustion is required “even where the relief
sought-monetary damages-cannot be granted by the
administrative process.” Woodford v. Ngo, 548
U.S. 81, 85 (2006). In order to properly exhaust their
claims, prisoners must comply with the administrative review
process set forth by the relevant prison's grievance
process, including properly availing themselves of “all
administrative remedies.” Spruill v. Gillis,
372 F.3d 218, 231 (3d Cir. 2004). “The level of detail
necessary in a grievance to comply with the grievance
procedures will vary from system to system and claim to
claim, but it is the prison's requirements, and not the
PLRA, that define the boundaries of proper exhaustion.”
Jones, 549 U.S. at 218; accord Spruill, 372
F.3d at 231 (“Mandatory exhaustion (with a procedural
default component) ensures that inmate grievances will be
addressed first within the prison's own system-in this
respect, the PLRA is thus appropriately
defederalizing”). Failure to exhaust is an affirmative
defense; prisoner-plaintiffs are not required to plead or
demonstrate exhaustion. Jones, 549 U.S. at 216.
following are Plaintiff's allegations, which, in the
context of Austin's motion for summary judgment, the
court must view in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.
Weldon, 896 F.2d at 797. Plaintiff was initially
incarcerated at SCI Muncy, but was transferred to SCI
Cambridge Springs in September 2012. Moves Report, Doc. 63-2
at 4. Beginning in February 2013, Defendant Austin subjected
Plaintiff to a series of inappropriate sexual comments and
directives, and unwanted sexual contact. Compl.
¶¶ 19-23; Pl's. Dep., Doc. 75-1 at 10.
Austin's conduct persisted until June 4, 2013, when
Plaintiff reported some of Austin's behavior to Defendant
Sittig, Plaintiff's Unit Manager. 6/4/13 Employee Report of
Incident, Doc. 78-1 at 20.
this meeting, Plaintiff was immediately placed in the
Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”), where inmates
are housed in solitary confinement and kept in their cells
for 23 hours per day. 6/4/13 Employee Report of Incident,
Doc. 78-1 at 20; Pl's. Decl., Doc. 78-1 at 5. Plaintiff
remained in the RHU during the pendency of the Office of
Special Investigations and Intelligence (“OSII”)
investigation into Austin. See Employee Reports,
6/4/13 DC-141, Doc. 78-1 at 23; 6/9/13 DC-141, Doc. 78-1 at
25; 7/3/13 DC-141, Doc. 78-1 at 27. Plaintiff spoke with an
OSII investigator at some point in June 2013. Pl's. Dep.,
Doc. 75-1 at 19. After approximately six weeks in the RHU,
Plaintiff was transferred to SCI Muncy on July 11, 2013. DOC
Cell History, Doc. 78-2 at 17-18.
three-sentence letter dated August 6, 2013, OSII informed
Plaintiff that its investigation had been closed. Doc. 78-1
at 60. Specifically, OSII stated that Plaintiff's
“allegations of abuse against staff at [SCI] Cambridge
Springs have been thoroughly investigated. Abuse was not
established; however, based on this investigation, further
administrative action will be taken. The investigation is now
closed and no further action will be taken by this office
regarding this matter.” Id. Plaintiff did not
“appeal” or otherwise formally challenge
Plaintiff Exhausted Her Claims Against Austin
in his objections, argues that in order to properly initiate
the DOC's administrative process, inmates must file
DC-804 Official Grievances within 15 days of the event(s) at
issue, as set forth in the Department of Corrections
Administrative Direct (“DC-ADM”) 804,
“Inmate Grievance System.” See Objs.,
Doc. 87 at 8-11; see also Br. in Support of Summ.
J., Doc. 58 at 8-9. Here, Plaintiff only reported
Austin's conduct to Sittig; she did not file a
corresponding DC-804 grievance. Thus, Austin argues,
Plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies.
See Doc. 87 at 10; Doc. 58 at 3-9.
804 sets forth the DOC's “Inmate Grievance
System.” DC-ADM 804 Policy Statement, Doc. 66-3 at 6
(“It is the policy of the Department that every
individual committed to its custody shall have access to a
formal procedure through which to seek resolution of problems
or other issues of concern arising during the course of
confinement.”). DC-ADM 804 provides for an initial
review and two levels of appeal. At the initial stage,
inmates must file a written DC-804 Official Grievance Form
within 15 days of the event(s) giving rise to the grievance.
Id. § I.A, Doc. 78-2 at 47.
“allegations of abuse shall be handled in accordance
with Department Policy DC-ADM 001, ‘Inmate Abuse
Allegation Monitoring Process' and/or DC-ADM 008,
‘Sexual Harassment of or Sexual Contact with
Inmates.'” DC-ADM 804 § I.B.10. Here, Plaintiff
maintains that she exhausted her administrative remedies
pursuant to DC-ADM 008. Pl's. Resp., Doc. 92 at 5-16.
008 states that an inmate who is “sexually
harassed” by a prison employee “should report it
to a staff member as soon as possible.” DC-ADM 008
§ I.A.2, Doc. 64-7 at 10. Though the Directive instructs
prison employees as to their duties following an inmate's
report of sexual harassment, id. § I.A.5-6, it
provides no further information as to how inmates should-or
must-report sexual harassment. See generally id.;
see also Id. § I.A.4 (“An inmate who
reports sexual harassment, should provide details of the
2009 Inmate Handbook (“Handbook”), however, which
Plaintiff received upon her 2012 orientation of the DOC, Doc.
63-2 at 5, instructs inmates as follows:
If you believe you have experienced sexual harassment by
staff…you must report it as soon as
possible. You may report it to the Unit Manager
and/ or submit a grievance in accordance
with DC-ADM 804. If you file a report, you must include
[certain demographic information]. The Unit Manager will