United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RYAN J. BLOOM, Plaintiff,
LISA HOLLIBAUGH, et al., Defendants.
Karoline Mehalchick, United States Magistrate Judge
a counseled civil rights action, initiated upon the filing of
the original complaint in this matter by Plaintiff, Ryan
Bloom (“Plaintiff”) on June 6, 2016. (Doc. 1).
The amended complaint, which stands as the operative pleading
in this matter, asserts federal civil rights and state law
claims against various employees of the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections (“DOC”), brought in
this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, U.S.C. §
1343, and 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Doc. 68). Plaintiff’s
claims arise from his alleged physical and sexual assault
while incarcerated at the State Correctional Institutions at
Smithfield (“SCI-Smithfield”) and Waymart
(“SCI-Waymart”). (Doc. 68).
before the Court are three separate motions for summary
judgment, filed by the remaining Defendants in this matter.
(Doc. 131); (Doc. 136); (Doc. 141). On February 27, 2019, the
following Defendants (collectively referred to as the
“Corrections Defendants”) filed a motion for
summary judgment, along with supporting papers: the DOC; Lisa
Hollibaugh, Assistant to the Superintendent at
SCI-Smithfield; Jay Whitesel, former Deputy Superintendent at
SCI-Smithfield; Defendant Oliver, a corrections officer at
SCI-Smithfield (“CO Oliver”); Justin Lear, a
corrections officer at SCI-Smithfield (“Lt.
Lear”); James Bard, a corrections officer at
SCI-Smithfield (“CO Bard”); Defendant Abrashoff,
a corrections officer at SCI-Smithfield (“CO
Abrashoff”); Wayne Gavin, Superintendent at
SCI-Waymart; Joseph J. Vinansky, Assistant to the
Superintendent at SCI-Waymart; Defendant Martin, a
corrections officer at SCI-Waymart (“Sgt.
Martin”); Defendant Strasburger, a corrections officer
at SCI-Waymart (“CO Strasburger”); Defendant
James, a corrections officer at SCI-Waymart (“CO
James”); and Defendant Broadhead, a corrections officer
at SCI-Waymart (“CO Broadhead”). (Doc. 131);
(Doc. 132); (Doc. 133); (Doc. 134); (Doc. 135). Defendant
Fisher, the former Superintendent at SCI-Smithfield, and
Defendant Gillmen, a former physician’s assistant at
SCI-Smithfield (“PA Gillmen”), then respectively
filed motions for summary judgment and supporting papers on
February 28, 2019. (Doc. 136); (Doc. 137); (Doc. 138); (Doc.
139); (Doc. 141); (Doc. 142); (Doc. 143).
reasons stated herein, the Corrections Defendants’
motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, Defendant
Fisher’s motion is GRANTED, and PA Gillmen’s
motion is GRANTED.
Background and Procedural History
events giving rise to this action occurred between June 2014
and September 2014, while Plaintiff was incarcerated at
SCI-Smithfield and then at SCI-Waymart. Plaintiff filed the
Original Complaint after he was released on parole in May of
2016, and, after a lengthy procedural history, filed the
Amended Complaint on June 19, 2017. (Doc. 68).
amended complaint alleges that Plaintiff, a known gang drop
out on the DOC’s mental health roster, received
administrative custody (“AC”) status for his own
protection while incarcerated at SCI-Smithfield. (Doc. 68, at
6). Based on his AC status, Plaintiff was placed in
SCI-Smithfield’s restricted housing unit
(“RHU”). (Doc. 68, at 6). On June 7, 2014, Lt.
Lear ordered that Plaintiff share a cell with another inmate,
Michael Holtzman (“Holtzman”). (Doc. 68, at 6).
Despite Plaintiff’s objections to the cell assignment,
and subsequent requests to be moved, Lt. Lear and CO
Abrashoff refused to move Plaintiff from the shared cell.
(Doc. 6, at 6). Until his move to a new cell on June 11,
2014, Plaintiff endured repeated acts of sexual assault by
Holtzman. (Doc. 68, at 10). Plaintiff alleges that he
received no medical or psychiatric care in response to the
injuries he sustained from Holtzman, and that several
Defendants mishandled his related inmate grievances. (Doc.
68, at 10-26).
amended complaint further alleges that, after attempting to
take his own life on July 26, 2014, Plaintiff was transferred
to a mental health facility at SCI-Waymart. (Doc. 68, at
27-28). While housed in the therapeutic housing unit at
SCI-Waymart, Plaintiff had a verbal altercation with CO
Strasburger on September 5, 2014. (Doc. 68, 29). CO
Strasburger, along with Sgt. Martin, CO James, and CO
Broadhead, then allegedly physically assaulted Plaintiff and
proceeded to place him in five-point restraints for
approximately sixteen hours. (Doc. 68, at 27-34). Plaintiff
attempted to grieve this incident through the DOC grievance
system but alleges that Defendants Gavin and Vinasky blocked
his grievance from moving forward. (Doc. 68, at 34-35).
also asserts that he was discriminated against and unfairly
denied, or limited access to, many aspects of DOC programming
because of his mental disability while incarcerated at
SCI-Smithfield and SCI-Waymart. (Doc. 68, at 38). These
resources included use of the law library, use of the
commissary, educational programming, sports activities,
physical exercise, common mealtimes, and a security installed
mailbox for sending correspondence and filing prisoner
complaints to DOC staff. (Doc. 68, at 38-39). Had the DOC
offered him reasonable housing accommodations, medical care,
and psychological counseling, Plaintiff claims that he would
have been able to participate in DOC programming on equal
footing. (Doc. 68, at 39). Plaintiff further alleges the DOC,
by and through its agents, discriminated against him on the
basis of his mental disability in violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12131-34, and the Rehabilitation Act
(“RA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 791-94g.
(Doc. 68, at 39).
stage of litigation, the following claims in the Amended
• A Deliberate Indifference to Imminent Harm and Failure
to Protect Claim brought under the Eighth Amendment against
Lt. Lear and CO Abrashoff (Count II);
• A Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs
Claim brought under the Eighth Amendment against CO Bard, CO
Abrashoff, and PA Gillmen (Count III);
• An Excessive Use of Force claim brought under the
Eighth Amendment against Sgt. Martin, CO Strasburger, CO
James, and CO Broadhead (Count V);
• A Failure to Intervene Claim brought under the Eighth
Amendment against Sgt. Martin, CO Strasburger, CO James, and
CO Broadhead (Count VI);
• A Deliberate Indifference to Imminent Harm and failure
to Protect claim brought under the Eighth Amendment against
Sgt. Martin, CO Strasburger, CO James, and CO Broadhead
• A Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs
Claim brought under the Eighth Amendment against Gavin,
Vinansky, Sgt. Martin, CO Strasburger, CO James, and CO
Broadhead (Count VIII);
• A Denial of Programs and Services because of
Disability claim brought under the ADA and RA against the DOC
• A Discrimination because of Disability claim brought
under the ADA and RA against the DOC (Count XII)
• A state law Assault and Battery Claim brought against
Sgt. Martin, CO Strasburger, CO James, and CO Broadhead
(Count XIII); and
• A state law Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress (“IIED”) Claim brought against all
individual Defendants (Count XIV)
(Doc. 68, at 42-52).
relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages,
declaratory relief, and injunctive relief. (Doc. 68, at 54).
February 27, 2019, the Corrections Defendants filed a motion
for summary judgment (Doc. 131), along with a supporting
brief (Doc. 133), a statement of material facts (Doc. 132),
and exhibits. (Doc. 134); (Doc. 135). After receiving an
extension of time, Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition
(Doc. 155) and an answer to the Corrections Defendants’
statement of material facts (Doc. 154) on April 22, 2019. The
Corrections Defendants then filed a reply brief and
supplemental exhibits on May 6, 2019. (Doc. 158); (Doc. 159).
Fisher then filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 136),
along with a supporting brief (Doc. 138), a statement of
material facts (Doc. 137), and exhibits (Doc. 19), on
February 28, 2019. Plaintiff filed his brief in opposition
(Doc. 149) and answer to Defendants Fisher’s statement
of material facts (Doc. 148) on April 21, 2019. Plaintiff
additionally filed several supporting exhibits on April 21,
2019. (Doc. 150); (Doc. 151); (Doc. 152); (Doc. 153).
Defendant Fisher filed a reply brief on May 6, 2019. (Doc.
Gillen also filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 141),
along with supporting papers (Doc. 143); (Doc. 143), on
February 28, 2019. Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition
(Doc. 143) and his answer to PA Gillmen’s Statement of
Material Facts (Doc. 156) on April 22, 2019. Defendant
Gillmen filed a reply brief in May 6, 2019 (Doc. 160), to
which Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on June 4, 2019. (Doc.
been fully briefed, Defendants’ motions are ripe for
Summary of Material Facts
Facts Regarding the Events at SCI-Smithfield
was formerly incarcerated at SCI-Smithfield from April 28,
2014 through August 28, 2014. (Doc. 132, at 9, ¶ 33).
The RHU at SCI-Smithfield, also known as the “K”
Block, housed inmates in administrative custody and
disciplinary custody. (Doc. 132, at 14, ¶ 49). According
to Plaintiff’s cell history, he was housed in the RHU
from May 12, 2014 to June 18, 2014 due to his administrative
custody status. (Doc. 150-1, at 2-3); (Doc. 154, at 14, 75).
During this time, Lt. Lear, CO Abrashoff, and CO Bard worked
as correctional officers assigned to the K Block. (Doc. 132,
at 14, ¶ 49); (Doc. 132, at 20, ¶ 72); (Doc. 132,
at 23, ¶ 84).
majority of inmates housed in the RHU are placed in single
cells. (Doc. 132, at 14, ¶ 49). On June 6, 2014,
however, Lt. Lear informed Plaintiff that he was being moved
into a cell with Holtzman. (Doc. 132, at 23, ¶ 85). The
receipt of new inmates into the RHU, and resulting need for
additional bed space, prompted Plaintiff’s cell
assignment with Holtzman. (Doc. 132, at 23, ¶ 85).
Although Plaintiff initially refused to move into the cell,
Lt. Lear indicated that Plaintiff would receive a misconduct
if he failed to comply with the re-assignment order. (Doc.
132, at 23, ¶ 85).
submits that he showed Lt. Lear his Form DC-141, which
indicated that he could not receive any cellmates, upon being
told to cell with Holtzman. (Doc. 154, at 16, ¶ 86).
Nonetheless, the Parties dispute whether Lt. Lear located any
such substantiating documentation when he ordered Plaintiff
to move. (Doc. 132, at 24, ¶ 86); (Doc. 154, at 16,
¶ 86). Lt. Lear contends that he contacted the Security
Office regarding any concerns with celling Plaintiff and
Holtzman together, but that the Security Office found none.
(Doc. 132, at 24, ¶ 86). As such, Plaintiff moved into
the same cell as Holtzman. (Doc. 132, at 24, ¶ 86).
Plaintiff claims that Holtzman proceeded to sexually assault
him in their cell between June 8, 2014 and June 11, 2014,
once he was moved to a different cell. (Doc. 142, at 1,
Lear did not believe that celling Plaintiff with Holtzman
posed a serious risk of harm to him. (Doc. 132, at 25, ¶
93). Plaintiff disputes this fact, however, and asserts that
Holtzman had threatened to kill Lt. Lear-a threat of which
Lt. Lear was purportedly aware-a few days prior to ordering
the June 6, 2014 cell assignment. (Doc. 154, at 17, ¶
81). Plaintiff further submits that Holtzman yelled loudly
that he would kill any cellmate Lt. Lear assigned to his
cell. (Doc. 154, at 18, ¶ 93). In addition, Plaintiff
highlights that he was incarcerated at SCI-Smithfield for a
non-violent offense, whereas Holtzman had a long history of
violent misconducts. (Doc. 154, at 17-18, ¶ 93).
undisputed that CO Abrashoff and CO Bard had no input in the
decision to cell Plaintiff with Holtzman. (Doc. 132, at 15,
¶ 50); (Doc. 132, at 21, ¶ 74). The Parties
dispute, however, whether Plaintiff asked for CO
Abrashoff’s help after his placement in the cell with
Holtzman. (Doc. 132, at 21, ¶ 75); (Doc. 154, at 15,
¶ 75). According to Plaintiff, he asked CO Abrashoff to
remove him upon fearing that Holtzman would harm him, but
that CO Abrashoff declined to assist him. (Doc. 154, at 14,
¶ 75). Plaintiff did not inform CO Abrashoff of the
alleged rape, of which CO Abrashoff only became aware upon
the initiation of the related investigation days after the
incident. (Doc. 132, at 21, ¶ 76). Plaintiff also did
not inform Lt. Lear that Holtzman had threatened him after
being placed in the cell. (Doc. 132, at 24, ¶ 89).
Plaintiff nonetheless indicates that he did not further
report his concerns because Holtzman had threatened to harm
him if he did. (Doc. 154, at 17, ¶ 89).
11, 2014, Plaintiff was removed from the cell with Holtzman
and placed in another cell in the RHU. (Doc. 132, at 15,
¶ 50). On June 17, 2014, CO Bard indicates that
Plaintiff told him that something had happened without
specifying what. (Doc. 132, at 15, ¶ 52). Plaintiff
disputes this notion, and contends that he gave CO Bard a
sick-call slip and further informed him of Holtzman’s
sexual assault. (Doc. 154, at 9, ¶ 52). CO Bard
subsequently took Plaintiff’s sick call slip to the
on-duty shift commander, who then directed CO Bard to call
the medical department. (Doc. 132, at 15, ¶ 53).
Plaintiff wanted to speak with a nurse privately, and
approximately three hours passed before a nurse arrived.
(Doc. 154, at 9-10, 53). Plaintiff asserts that the nurse did
not provide him with any medical treatment at that time.
(Doc. 154, at 10, ¶ 53).
18, 2014, Physician’s Assistant Vincent Capone
(“PA Capone”) saw Plaintiff. (Doc. 142, at 2,
¶ 3). PA Capone noted that Plaintiff would not initially
talk to him, but eventually came to his cell door and
reported that he was fine but experienced rectal bleeding the
day before. (Doc. 142, at 2, ¶ 3). PA Capone also noted
that Plaintiff then held up a note on which he wrote that he
had been raped. (Doc. 142, at 2, ¶ 3). PA Capone
immediately reported the contents of this note to the RHU
lieutenant, to which CO Abershoff responded that
Plaintiff’s statement was already under investigation.
(Doc. 142, at 2, ¶ 3). Thereafter, Plaintiff was
transferred to a Psychiatric Observation Cell
(“POC”) in the infirmary. (Doc 132, at 16, ¶
20, 2014, PA Gillmen saw Plaintiff in the POC cell to follow
up on his claims of a small amount of rectal bleeding. (Doc.
142, at 3, ¶ 4). PA Gillmen assessed that his problems
had resolved, and that no action was required at that time.
(Doc. 142, at 3, ¶ 4). Plaintiff, however, states that
PA Gillmen merely communicated with him through closed doors
and did not examine, or otherwise provide treatment for, him.
(Doc. 156, at 2, ¶ 4). Plaintiff also asserts that he
attempted to file grievances while confined in the POC, but
that Defendant Fisher, amongst others, tampered with the
grievance process at SCI-Smithfield. (Doc. 148, at 3, ¶
30). Plaintiff eventually returned back to a cell in the RHU
on July 23, 2014. (Doc. 156, at 2, ¶ 5).
allegations of sexual assault were referred to
SCI-Smithfield’s Security Office and subsequently
investigated. (Doc. 132, at 18, ¶ 65). On June 18, 2014,
the State Police interviewed Plaintiff before he was moved to
the POC. (Doc. 154, at 10, ¶ 54). In a memo dated June
4, 2015, the Security Office concluded that Plaintiff’s
allegations against Holtzman were unsubstantiated. (Doc. 132,
at 18, ¶ 64). Plaintiff disputes this fact insofar as it
implies that the State Police determined he had fabricated
Holtzman’s attack. (Doc. 154, at 11-12, ¶ 65).
Facts Regarding the Events at SCI-Waymart
facts regarding Plaintiff’s alleged assault by prison
staff at SCI-Waymart on September 5, 2015 are relatively
sparse. Defendant Gavin contends that he did not have any
involvement in the day-to-day operations of the individual
housing units at SCI-Waymart, and that the officers involved
in the alleged use of force-Sgt. Martin, CO Strasburger, CO
James and CO Broadhead-did not report to him. (Doc. 132, at
26-27, ¶¶ 95, 98). Both Defendants Gavin and
Vinansky (collectively, the “Supervisory
Defendants”) assert that they were not responsible for
staffing the Forensic Treatment Unit where Plaintiff was
housed. (Doc. 132, at 27, ¶ 99); (Doc. 132, at 32,
¶ 115). Additionally, the Supervisory Defendants claim
that they did not supervise SCI-Waymart’s mental health
or medical department staff. (Doc. 132, at 28, ¶ 102);
(Doc. 132, at 32, ¶ 116).
Supervisory Defendants also submit that they did not tolerate
profanity, bigotry or the use of hate language by SCI-Waymart
staff. (Doc. 132, at 28, ¶ 103); (Doc. 132, at 33,
¶ 117). Nor did Defendants Gavin and Vinansky
purportedly condone the mistreatment of inmates or the
improper use of restraints by staff. (Doc. 132, at 28, ¶
104); (Doc. 132, at 33, ¶ 118). Plaintiff disputes these
facts, however, insofar as his grievances regarding the
“racially motivated violence” he endured were
either diverted or not processed while at SCI-Waymart. (Doc.
154, at 18, ¶¶ 103-04). Similarly, Plaintiff
disputes that Defendant Vinansky, the grievance coordinator
at SCI-Waymart, properly recorded and processed his inmate
grievances. (Doc. 154, at 19, ¶ 106). III. Standard
of Review Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, summary judgment should be granted only if
“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” only if it might affect the outcome of
the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material fact is
“genuine” only if the evidence “is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-moving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party
need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In deciding a
summary judgment motion, all 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.” Pastore v. Bell Tel. Co. of __ Pa. __,
24 F.3d 508, 512 (3d Cir. 1994).
party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion,” and demonstrating the absence of a
genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant makes
such a showing, the non-movant must set forth specific facts,
supported by the record, demonstrating that “the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
251–52. The Court need not accept mere conclusory
allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a
sworn statement. Lujan v. National Wildlife
Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990); Schaar v.
Lehigh Valley Health Servs., Inc., 732 F.Supp.2d 490,
493 (E.D. Pa. 2010) (finding that “unsupported
assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions”
are insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment)
(citing Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d
458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989)); see also Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
586 (1986) (noting that the nonmoving party “must do
more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt
as to the material facts”). In deciding a motion for
summary judgment, the court’s function is not to make
credibility determinations, weigh evidence, or draw
inferences from the facts. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249. Rather, the court must simply “determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249.