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Richardson v. Prisoner Transport Services of America

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2018

DARREN RICHARDSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PRISONER TRANSPORT SERVICES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo, United States District Judge.

         Presently before me is Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito, Jr.'s Report and Recommendation (Doc. 96) regarding Defendant Pike County's (the “County”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 81.) Because Richardson has failed to introduce evidence from which a reasonable jury could find the County liable for his alleged injuries, the Report and Recommendation will be partially adopted and partially rejected, and I will grant summary judgment to the County.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The relevant factual background on summary judgment is as follows. In July 2009, President Judge Kameen of the Pike County Court of Common Pleas issued a bench warrant for Richardson's arrest because he had failed to pay an outstanding fine of $250 under the terms of his probation from a misdemeanor conviction. (Doc. 82 at ¶ 2.) On May 29, 2013, police stopped Richardson in Florida for rolling through a stop sign. (Doc. 9 at ¶ 14.) He was arrested and taken into custody due to the outstanding Pennsylvania bench warrant. Id. On May 30, 2013, Richardson signed a waiver of extradition. (Doc. 82 at ¶ 5.) He was incarcerated in a local jail for several days while he awaited extradition to Pennsylvania. (Doc. 9 at ¶ 14.)

         On June 10, 2013, Richardson was transferred into the custody of Prisoner Transport Services of America (“PTS”), a private company that had been retained by the Pike County Sheriff's Office[1] to transport Richardson from Florida to the Pike County Correctional Facility in Lords Valley, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 82, Ex. A, p. 48.) PTS transported Richardson to Pike County in two vehicles over the course of five days. Id., pp. 49-55. The first vehicle, a prisoner transport bus, transported Richardson from Florida to Owensboro, Kentucky. Id., pp. 50-52. Richardson claims that he and other prisoners were abused and extorted by PTS employees on the bus, and subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while in transit. (See Doc. 9.)

         After a brief wait at a local jail in Owensboro, Richardson was transported in the second vehicle from Kentucky to Pennsylvania. (Doc. 82, Ex. A, pp. 52-54.) While the PTS employees aboard this vehicle treated Richardson better, he claims that he and other prisoners were nevertheless subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement while en route. (See Doc. 9.) Richardson claims that, among other things, he was placed in unreasonably tight shackles and confined in a small cage in the back of the van, which prevented him from moving his legs or changing positions. Id.

         On June 15, 2013, Richardson was delivered by PTS to the Pike County Correctional Facility in Lords Valley. (Doc. 82, Ex. A, p. 54.) Richardson's ankles and legs were swollen and he had difficulty walking. (Doc. 86, Ex. 1 at 33:20-34:22; Doc. 9 at ¶24.) Due to his readily apparent condition, he was immediately examined by a nurse, Linda Monaghan, upon his arrival. (Doc. 86, Ex. 1 at 39:17-24, 41:1-9.) Monaghan is employed by a company called PrimeCare Medical. (Doc. 86-10 at 6:16-22.) While examining him, Richardson claims Monaghan stated she had “seen much worse come off that bus.” (Doc. 9 at ¶ 26.) Monaghan took no photos of Richardson's injuries, but commented in her treatment notes that both of Richardson's ankles were swollen and painful, and that his mobility was restricted as a result. (Doc. 9 at ¶ 26; Doc. 86, Ex. 10.) Monaghan told Richardson to “put your feet up. You'll be fine.” (Doc. 86, Ex. 1 at 55:2.) After about a week of elevating his legs as recommended, the swelling subsided. Id. at 55:5-10. Richardson has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from this experience. (Doc. 86, Ex. 3.)

         Richardson admits that prior to his claim, no one ever notified Pike County, its Sheriff's Office, or any County employee that PTS agents injured them during transport. (Doc. 82 at ¶ 22; Doc. 87 at ¶ 22.) Richardson also admits that neither Deputy Gerard Poher, who hired PTS to transport Richardson, nor anyone in the Sheriff's office, knew that PTS had a history of injuring inmates. (Doc. 82 at ¶ 23; Doc. 87 at ¶ 23.)

         On May 29, 2015, Richardson filed his original Complaint in this matter. (Doc. 1.) On July 23, 2015, Richardson filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 9), which alleges violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On July 31, 2017, Pike County filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 81.) On August 28, 2017, Richardson filed his Brief in Opposition to Pike County's Motion. (Doc. 86.) Pike County filed its Reply on September 2, 2017. (Doc. 88.)

         B. Report and Recommendation

         On February 26, 2018, Magistrate Judge Saporito issued the instant Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 96.) After reviewing the record and both parties' arguments, the Magistrate Judge first rejected Pike County's argument that Sheriff Bueki was a state, rather than local, policymaker, and thus Pike County cannot be held liable for his hiring practices under Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs. of City of New York. See 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 54 (1978)(limiting finding of municipal liability to “local government units which are not considered part of the State for Eleventh Amendment purposes”). The County does not object to this portion of the Report and Recommendation. After reviewing the record and the relevant case law, I find that Magistrate Judge Saporito correctly analyzed this issue, and that Sheriff Bueki was a local policymaker under the Pennsylvania state constitution. See Pa. Const. Art. IX, § 4 (providing that “[c]ounty officers shall consist of [] sheriffs, ” among other officers); Stuby v. Bedford Cnty., No. 12-47, 2013 WL 5724065, at *10-11 (W.D.Pa. Oct. 21, 2013). I therefore adopt this portion of the Report and Recommendation.

         Next, the Magistrate Judge addressed Pike County's argument that Richardson failed to introduce sufficient evidence that the hiring of PTS as an extradition agent was the “moving force” behind Richardson's injuries. The Magistrate Judge reviewed the relevant case law and concluded that, for purposes of summary judgment, the County had actual or constructive knowledge of prior abusive treatment of prisoners by PTS. The Magistrate Judge reached this conclusion based solely on Monaghan's statement that she had “seen much worse come off that bus.”

         Pike County timely filed objections, arguing that (1) there is no evidence in the record other than Richarson's testimony that Monaghan made the relevant statement; (2) Monaghan was not an employee of the County, and therefore even assuming she had knowledge of abuses by PTS, her statement is inadmissible hearsay that cannot be considered on summary judgment; and (3)there is no evidence that any County employee was aware of any problems involving PTS abusing inmates in the more than 16 years that the County had worked with PTS. (Doc. 98.) Richardson filed a Brief in Opposition on March 26, 2018 (Doc. 99), and the County filed a Reply on April 9, 2018.0 (Doc. 100.) This Motion is therefore now ripe ...


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