United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court for disposition is Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment, with brief in support (ECF Nos.
41 and 42). Plaintiff has filed a Memorandum of Law in
opposition (ECF No. 62). The issues have been fully briefed
and the factual record has been thoroughly developed. (ECF
Nos. 43, 44, 63, 64, and 70). For the reasons that follow,
the motion will be denied.
Brandon Wolowski (“Plaintiff” or
“Wolowski”) is a pro se inmate who has
been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Wolowski is a pre-trial detainee being held on a number of
state charges which were filed in the Court of Common Pleas
of Washington County at Criminal No.
CP-63-CR-0000151-2013. The alleged incidents giving rise to this
lawsuit occurred while Wolowski was housed at the Washington
County Correctional Facility (“WCCF”). Defendant
movants herein are Captain Adrian Fletcher, Officer Keith
Watson, Officer David Thorne, Officer Francisco Seciti, and
Officer Adam Smith, all of whom are current or former
officials and correction officers at WCCF.
purposes of this Memorandum Opinion, the facts are quite
simple. Wolowski alleges that he was seriously injured on
October 13, 2014, when Defendants assaulted him (i) during a
cell extraction, (ii) while being escorted after the cell
extraction, in an elevator as he was being taken to the
shower room for decontamination, (iii) in the shower area;
and (iv) when he was being escorted back to a cell in the
Special Housing Unit. As a result of the assaults, he
suffered a broken nose, fractured right orbital-socket,
several bruised ribs, a busted lip, “and a variety of
bumps” across his forehead and face.
period of discovery, Defendants filed the instant motion for
summary judgment in which they argue that they are entitled
to summary judgment because “[o]n the date of the
incident at issue, Plaintiff created a situation which
required WCCF personnel to respond with force; however, the
record of evidence clearly establishes that any force used
was reasonable and appropriate under the circumstances as
known to the Defendants at the time.” Defs' Mot. at
argues in response that summary judgment should not be
granted to Defendants on Plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment
excessive force claim because genuine issues of material fact
are in dispute. The motion is fully briefed and ripe for
disposition by the Court.
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).
turning to the merits, the Court must first decide whether
Wolowski has exhausted his administrative remedies in
accordance with the mandate of the Prison Litigation Reform
Act of 1996 (the “PLRA”). Defendants contend that
they are entitled to the entry of judgment in their favor as
a matter of law because Wolowski did not comply with all
requirements of WCCF's grievance system and thereby
failed to exhaust all administrative remedies available to
him. Plaintiff responds that the prison officials interfered
with his ability to utilize the grievance system, thereby
resulting in administrative remedies not being available to
exhaustion requirement is mandatory and a prisoner is
required to pursue all avenues of relief available to him
within the prison's grievance system before bringing a
federal civil rights action. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a);
Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289, 291 (3d Cir. 2000),
aff'd, 532 U.S. 731 (2001). Prisoners who fail
to fully exhaust administrative remedies may not subsequently
litigate those claims in federal court. Ghana v.
Holland, 226 F.3d 175, 184 (3d Cir. 2000).
the PLRA also requires “proper exhaustion”
meaning that a prisoner must complete the administrative
review process in accordance with the applicable procedural
rules of that grievance / appeal system and a procedurally
defective administrative grievance or appeal precludes action
in federal court. Fennell v. Cambria County Prison,
607 Fed.Appx. 145, 149 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Woodford v.
Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84, 90-91 (2006) and Spruill v.
Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)).
exhaustion requirement is a “bright-line rule”
and “it is beyond the power of this court - or any
other - to excuse compliance with the exhaustion requirement,
whether on the ground of futility, inadequacy, or any other
basis.” Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 73 (3d
Cir. 2000). Likewise, as previously stated, our appellate
court has been very clear that all available remedies must be
exhausted prior to filing suit. Oriakhi v. United
States, 165 Fed.Appx. 991, 993 (3d Cir. 2006).
broad rule favoring full exhaustion allows for a narrowly
defined exception, an exception with potential application
here. If the actions of prison officials in some fashion
contributed to an inmate's procedural default on a
grievance, the inmate will not be held to strict compliance
with this exhaustion requirement. See Camp v.
Brennan, 219 F.3d 279 (3d Cir. 2000). However, courts
have recognized a clear “reluctance to invoke equitable
reasons to ...