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Phillips v. Kerestes

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 20, 2019



          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Anthony Phillips ("Phillips"), an inmate who was housed at all relevant times at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, in Frackville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Mahanoy"), commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Named as Defendants are Superintendent John Kerestes, Deputy Superintendent Hugh Beggs, Lieutenant Kevin Clark[1], Lieutenant Charles Butts, Lieutenant Ryan Reese, Unit Manager Joseph Holly, Correctional Officer Eugene Kabilko, Correctional Officer James Murphy, Correctional Officer Thomas Connors, and Corrections Food Service Instructor Damian Joy. (Id.).

         Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 26). The motion is ripe for resolution and, for the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Legal Standard

         Through summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to materiality, ... [o]nly 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).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must offer specific facts contradicting those averred by the movant to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may not oppose summary judgment simply on the basis of the pleadings, or on conclusory statements that a factual issue exists. Anderson, Ml U.S. at 248. "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record ... or showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). In evaluating whether summary judgment should be granted, "[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir.1992), cert, denied 507 U.S. 912 (1993).

         However, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). If a party has carried its burden under the summary judgment rule,

its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. 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. When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.

Id. (internal quotations, citations, and alterations omitted).

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts[2]

         On September 16, 2015, at approximately 8:00 a.m., a use of force incident occurred between Phillips and Defendants Kabilko, Reese, and other unnamed correctional officers outside the inmate dining hall. (Doc. 27, Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 2). The incident began inside the dining hall. While in the dining hall, Phillips requested a diet meal, but he did not have a diet card. [Id. at ¶ 3). At this point, Defendant Kabilko called to Defendant Reese for assistance, and they escorted Phillips out of the dining hall. [Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). Defendants contend that video of the incident shows Phillips refusing orders and backing away from the officers. [Id. at ¶ 6). Defendant Joy and several other officers were then called to the area to help with a noncompliant inmate. [Id. at ¶ 7). Phillips maintains that he was not threatening anyone, and that it is unreasonable to conclude that by backing away from officers he placed them in fear. (Doc. 32, ¶¶ 7, 10, 32).

         Pursuant to the Use of Force Policy and Procedures Manual, DC-ADM 201, the Department of Corrections ("DOC") authorizes use of force against an inmate when a staff member reasonably believes such force is necessary to accomplish any of the following objectives: (1) protection of self or others; (2) protection of property from damage or destruction; (3) prevention of an escape; (4) recapture of an escapee; (5) prevention of an act of crime; (6) effect compliance with the rules and regulations when other methods of control are ineffective or insufficient; and/or, (7) protection of the inmate from self-inflicted harm. (Doc. 27, ¶ 8). When force is used, the least amount of force the staff member reasonably believes is necessary to achieve the authorized purpose is to be used and the use of force will stop once control is achieved. (Id. at ¶ 9). Use of force is applied in accordance with the force continuum, unless the acting staff member reasonably believes the situation requires immediate escalation to a greater degree of force to accomplish any of the above-mentioned objectives. (Id. at ¶ 10). The following components sequentially make up a force continuum: (1) show of force; (2) control techniques, oleoresin capsicum, Electronic Body Immobilizing Device ("EBID"), and/or Pepperball System; (3) chemical munitions other than oleoresin capsicum; (4) active counter measures (strikes against the inmate) and/or Specialty Impact Munitions; and, (5) firearms. (Id. at ¶ 11).

         Once Phillips was subdued and he was placed in restraints, he was escorted to the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") to be treated by medical. (Id. at ¶ 12). Phillips' medical injury report notes that the examining nurse treated small abrasions on his right hand middle and ring fingers, and suggested that he follow-up with a sick call slip. (Id. at ¶ 13).

         On September 17, 2015, a physician assistant treated Phillips. (Id. at ¶ 14). Phillips was informed that his finger looked dislocated, and an x-ray would be ordered. (Id. at ¶ 15). On September 18, 2015, Phillips returned to medical and was advised that his finger was dislocated. (Id. at ¶ 16). Medical staff wrapped his finger in a splint. (Id. at ¶ 17).

         Phillips contends that more than a de minimis amount of force was used against him. (Doc. 32, ¶ 5). Phillips claims that he was punched him in the eye, his finger was dislocated, and an EBID was twice used on him. (Id. at ΒΆΒΆ 10-11). He further contends that there is a genuine issue as to whether Defendant Reese punched him in the eye, and ...

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