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Wadlington v. Ferguson

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 4, 2019

ETHAN WADLINGTON, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN TAMMY FERGUSON, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Ethan Wadlington (“Wadlington”), an inmate who, at all relevant times, was housed at the State Correctional Institution at Benner, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Benner”), commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Named as defendants are Warden Ferguson, Sergeant Koeck, and a John Doe Correctional Officer. (Id.) The allegations of the complaint relate to alleged violations of Wadlington's rights arising out of an attack by other inmates in his cell. (Id.)

         Presently ripe for disposition is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant defendants' motion. The court will also dismiss the action against the John Doe defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m).

         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” and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden of proof tasks the non-moving party to come forth with “affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings, ” in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The court is to view the evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Thomas v. Cumberland County, 749 F.3d 217, 222 (3d Cir. 2014). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. See Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.

         II. Statement of Material Facts[1]

         The events giving rise to this action occurred at SCI-Benner. (Doc. 26, ¶ 5, Statement of Material Facts; Doc. 31, ¶ 8, Counterstatement of Material Facts). While housed at SCI-Benner, Wadlington was in general population and had a cellmate. (Doc. 26, ¶ 6; Doc. 31, ¶ 9). In general population at SCI-Benner, the cell doors can be opened by pressing a button at a station. (Doc. 26, ¶ 7; Doc. 31, ¶ 10). The doors can be opened individually or all at once. (Doc. 26, ¶ 8; Doc. 31, ¶ 11). An inmate can request for his cell door to be opened. (Doc. 26, ¶ 9; Doc. 31, ¶ 12). An inmate in a cell has access to an intercom that allows the inmate to communicate with the correctional officer in charge of the doors when he would like the cell opened. (Doc. 26, ¶ 10; Doc. 31, ¶ 13).

         On November 5, 2017, Wadlington and his cellmate were in their cell during the morning hours. (Doc. 26, ¶ 11; Doc. 31, ¶ 14). At some point, Wadlington's cell door opened, and several inmates entered and began to assault him. (Doc. 26, ¶ 12; Doc. 31, ¶ 15). Wadlington does not know who caused his cell door to be opened and does not know why his cell door was opened. (Doc. 26, ¶¶ 13-14; Doc. 31, ¶¶ 16-17). Wadlington did not know the individuals who attacked him and did not know why he was assaulted. (Doc. 26, ¶¶ 15-16; Doc. 31, ¶¶ 18-19). Wadlington did not feel in danger at SCI-Benner until after the attack. (Doc. 26, ¶ 17; Doc. 31, ¶ 20).

         After the attack, Wadlington was taken to the medical department. (Doc. 26, ¶ 18; Doc. 31, ¶ 21). After he was released from medical, he was immediately placed in administrative custody. (Doc. 26, ¶ 19; Doc. 31, ¶ 22). Administrative custody is essentially protective custody for inmates in danger. (Doc. 26, ¶ 20; Doc. 31, ¶ 23).

         On November 6, 2017, at 3:10 a.m., medical records indicate that Wadlington was treated for trauma to his right eye following the assault by other inmates. (Doc. 26, ¶ 21; Doc. 31, ¶ 24). On November 6, 2017, at 10:10 a.m., medical staff ordered an x-ray of Wadlington's facial bones with attention to the right orbital side. (Doc. 26, ¶ 22; Doc. 31, ¶ 25). On November 6, 2017, at 12:00 p.m., medical records indicate that Wadlington had blurry vision and swelling to his right eye. (Doc. 26, ¶ 23; Doc. 31, ¶ 26). He did not lose consciousness, he ambulated well, and had swelling to his forehead and the back of his head. (Id.) The medical records also note that Wadlington's pupils were equal, round, and reactive to light, he had no raccoon eyes and no drainage from his ear. (Doc. 26, ¶ 24; Doc. 31, ¶ 27).

         The x-ray revealed a broken nose. (Doc. 26, ¶ 25; Doc. 31, ¶ 28). Wadlington was not diagnosed with a skull fracture. (Doc. 26, ¶ 26; Doc. 31, ¶ 28).

         On November 17, 2017, Wadlington was again treated by medical. (Doc. 26, ¶ 27; Doc. 31, ¶ 29). The medical records indicate that the swelling in his right eye decreased and his broken nose would continue to improve. (Id.) It was noted that Wadlington's condition was improving. (Doc. 26, ¶ 28; Doc. 31, ¶ 30). Wadlington did not have a fractured skull, and the records do not reference a swollen left eye. (Doc. 26, ¶¶ 29-30; Doc. 31, ¶¶ 31-33).

         While he was in administrative custody, Wadlington had access to sick call slips and requests to staff members. (Doc. 26, ¶¶ 31, 33; Doc. 31, ¶¶ 34, 36). After the attack, and while in administrative custody, Wadlington filed approximately two sick call slips, and two or three requests to staff members per week. (Doc. 26, ¶¶ 32, 34; Doc. 31, ¶¶ 35, 37).

         Wadlington was not released back to general population while at SCI-Benner. (Doc. 26, ¶ 35; Doc. 31, ¶ 38).

         Wadlington is aware of the grievance procedure. (Doc. 26, ¶ 36; Doc. 31, ¶ 39). On December 22, 2017, Wadlington filed a grievance related to the assault on November 5, 2017. (Doc. 26, ¶ 43; Doc. 31, ¶ 46). The grievance was received by the Grievance Coordinator on December 29, 2017 and assigned grievance number 713441. (Doc. 26, ¶ 44; Doc. 31, ¶ 47). Grievance number 713441 does not name defendant Koeck. (Doc. 26, ¶ 45; Doc. 31, ¶ 48). Grievance number 713441 names “the officer working 1st shift.” (Doc. 26, ¶ 46; Doc. 31, ¶ 49). Wadlington cannot specify whether “the officer working 1st shift” is defendant Koeck or a John Doe. (Doc. 26, ¶ 47; Doc. 31, ¶ 50). In the grievance, Wadlington states that he was a low security inmate housed on a block with high risk and violent inmates. (Doc. 26, ¶ 48; Doc. 31, ¶ 51). The grievance also complains that the location of his cell made ...


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