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Hellams v. Swartz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2018

C.O. SWARTZ, et al., Defendants



         I. Background

         On October 10, 2017, Plaintiff, Jamal Hellams, an inmate confined in the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania, (“SCI-Mahanoy”) filed the above captioned civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. (Doc. 1, complaint). On November 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 12). The named Defendants are the following SCI-Mahanoy Correctional Officers: Brett Machuga, Christopher Swartz and Kevin Martin.

         On December 21, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff's action should be dismissed for Plaintiff's failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a). (Doc. 18).

         On April 25, 2018, in accordance with Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. Mar. 16, 2018), (holding that the District Court shall provide the parties notice that it will consider exhaustion in its role as fact finder under Small v. Camden Cty., 728 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2013), this Court issued an Order, converting Defendants' motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and allowing the parties an opportunity to supplement the record with supporting evidence relevant to the exhaustion of administrative remedies. (Doc. 26). The motion has been fully briefed, and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[T]his standard provides that 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, parties may not rely on unsubstantiated allegations. Parties seeking to establish that a fact is or is not genuinely disputed must support such an assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, ” by showing that an adverse party's factual assertion lacks support from cited materials, or demonstrating that a factual assertion is unsupportable by admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (requiring evidentiary support for factual assertions made in response to summary judgment). The party opposing the motion “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Parties must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case that they bear the burden of proving at trial, for “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). Failure to properly support or contest an assertion of fact may result in the fact being considered undisputed for the purpose of the motion, although a court may also give parties an opportunity to properly provide support or opposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         III. Statement of Facts

         Plaintiff states that “Defendants violated his Constitutional rights by using excessive force on him on September 23, 2017 and then denied him the basic necessities.” (Doc. 29).

         On October 2, 2017, Plaintiff “submitted two difference grievances outlining the violations of his rights when the Defendants used excessive force and the denial of [his] showers, yard, toothpaste, soap, toilet paper.” Id.

         On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff “saw the Grievance Coordinator come on the pod to collect the grievances that was placed in the locked box on the pod and [Plaintiff] had to yell out of his cell to get her attention so he [could ask] if she received his grievances he filed two days ago and her answer was no, she did not receive any grievances of his.” Id. Plaintiff then asked the Grievance Coordinator to come to his cell and “take the grievances he wished to file against C/O's that used excessive force and other things to him and her answer was no because she is not allowed to pick up grievances off inmate's doors in the RHU.” Id. Plaintiff states “that night during 10:00 pm to 6:00 am shift the Plaintiff gave a John Doe Correctional Officer the two grievances he wanted to submit about the use of excessive force and the denial of his yards, showers, toilet paper, soap toothpaste and tooth brush.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that he “kept his inmate's Golden Rod copy for his own record but submitted the other 3 copies to go to the Grievance Coordinator per policy.” Id. Also, on October 4, 2017, Plaintiff penned his original complaint, which was filed in this Court on October 10, 2017. (Doc. 1).

         Plaintiff claims that “to date [he] never his Pink Action Return Copy indicating that the Grievance was received by the Grievance Coordinator, nor did ...

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