United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge
Adams, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional
Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania (SCI- Coal Twp.)
initiated this pro se civil rights action. Named as
Defendants are Correctional Officers Walter Cornelius and
Joshua Clark, both of whom are employed at Plaintiff's
prior place confinement, the Smithfield State Correctional
Institution, (SCI-Smithfield). A second amended complaint
(Doc. 45) was previously accepted by the Court.
states that on June 21, 2013 he was housed in the Restricted
Housing Unit (RHU) of SCI-Smithfield. After being escorted
back to his cell from the shower area on said date, the
Plaintiff alleges that he “had to be taken down to the
ground” at his cell door by the two Defendants. Doc. 1,
¶ 4. Adams asserts that Correctional Officer Cornelius
was allegedly holding one end of a tether which was attached
to Adams. It is alleged that Cornelius pulled on the tether
forcing Plaintiff's arms through the wicket of his cell
door “leaving permanent scars on his right
forearm.” Id., ¶ 7. Adams next avers that
after Defendant Clark uncuffed one of Plaintiff's wrists
a struggle ensued during which Plaintiff pulled the tether
and handcuffs towards his cell door. Clark purportedly
responded by stabbing Adams in the left hand three times with
an RHU set of eight inch keys. Following the incident, Nurse
Eberling was called to Plaintiff's cell and applied
sutures and gauze to his wounds. Although the second amended
complaint admits that “some force was needed to secure
Adams in his cell”, Plaintiff concludes that the
actions of the Defendants were excessive and violated his
rights under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at ¶ 19.
the incident, Plaintiff's property was taken from his
cell and he was left with only bed linen and a jumpsuit by
unidentified officials. The following day Plaintiff passed
out from not eating. Adams, who indicates that he suffers
from mental illness, was then placed by unnamed staff in a
psychiatric observation cell (POC) for purposes of
protection. See Id. at ¶ 33.
pending is Defendants' motion seeking entry of summary
judgment. See Doc. 56. The partially opposed motion
is now ripe for consideration.
claim entitlement to summary judgment on the grounds that:
(1) Correctional Officer Cornelius was not personally
involved in the alleged constitutional misconduct; (2) the
amount of force used was constitutionally acceptable as it
was only that which was necessary to subdue the Plaintiff and
restore order; and (3) Defendants are entitled to qualified
Standard of Review
judgment is proper if “the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); See also Saldana v. Kmart
Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual
dispute is “material” if it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual
dispute is “genuine” only if there is a
sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable
fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party.
Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to
the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of
the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232;
see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142
F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments
made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts.
Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370
(3d Cir. 1993).
the moving party has shown that there is an absence of
evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the
non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the
allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must
“go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits,
or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.
(internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260
F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be
granted where a party “fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at
322-23. “‘Such affirmative evidence - regardless
of whether it is direct or circumstantial - must amount to
more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the
evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'”
Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v.
Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir.
initially contend that Correctional Officer Cornelius is
entitled to entry of summary judgment on the basis of lack of
personal involvement. See Doc. 58, p. 9. It is
asserted that the undisputed record establishes that
Cornelius' only involvement in the alleged altercation
was when Adams pulled on a tether and this Defendant pulled
back. It is undisputed that this action was constitutionally
acceptable. Adams' opposing brief does not address this
order to state an actionable civil rights claim, a plaintiff
must plead two essential elements: (1) that the conduct
complained of was committed by a person acting under color of
law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a
right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States. See Groman v. Township of
Manalapan, 47 ...