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Williams v. Nutter

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 12, 2019





         Plaintiff Robert Williams alleges that during his term of incarceration at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, [1] he was triple-celled[2] in violation of his constitutional rights, received inadequate medical care after sustaining injuries in a fall from the top bunk bed, and was retaliated against for filling grievances regarding the same. Named as Defendants are Michael Nutter, formerly the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia; Louis Giorla, formerly the Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System (“PPS”); John Delaney, formerly the Warden of CFCF;[3] and Corizon Medical Services, a private company contracted to provide medical care for inmates. For the reasons discussed below, there is no evidence showing that any Defendant violated Williams's constitutional rights and summary judgment is granted in favor of all Defendants on all claims.


         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 257.

         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 (1986). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (stating that the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”). The party opposing the motion must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case, which it bears the burden of proving at trial, because “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.


         Williams's initial complaint was dismissed for failure to state a claim, with leave to amend. See Order dated March 20, 2017, ECF No. 4. Williams thereafter filed an amended complaint, see Am. Compl., ECF No. 9, which all Defendants moved to dismiss. However, the proceedings were stayed when the case was referred to the Prisoner Civil Rights Panel to attempt to aid Williams in finding an attorney. See ECF Nos. 12, 16, 21. When no attorney agreed to represent Williams, the stay was lifted and the case proceeded to discovery. PPS Defendants and Corizon have since filed motions for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 46-51.


         The Amended Complaint asserts three counts. See Am. Compl. First, Williams alleges that PPS Defendants breached their duty to protect him by triple-celling him in unsanitary living conditions, and subjected him to constant lock-downs. See Id. Second, Williams alleges that Corizon was deliberately indifferent to his medical needs by delaying treatment for his rib injury until the evening after his early morning fall and then providing only pain relief but no diagnostic testing.[4] See Id. Third, Williams alleges that he was subjected to retaliatory transfers within the PPS for filing grievances. See Id. He also alleges that he filed grievances but received no response, and that Delaney and Giorla implemented a policy to dissuade inmates from filing grievances by ordering CFCF guards to confiscate and destroy copies of all grievances and complaints. See id.

         Williams was incarcerated in the PPS from February 2015 to July 12, 2016. See Pl.'s Dep. 8:8-18, ECF No. 46-2. During his incarceration, Williams never saw or had any interactions with Nutter or Giorla. See Pl.'s Dep. 10:5 - 11:5. Williams did see Delaney walk through the prison, but testified that Delaney did not “even walk on the blocks to see how the blocks are running [he] just walk[ed] around the bubble and le[ft] right out.” See Pl.'s Dep. 10:5 - 11:20. Williams never had any personal interaction with Delaney. See id.

         There is little or no evidence in the record regarding how long Williams was housed in each type of detention and/or cell. In fact, the Amended Complaint only refers to Williams being triple-celled between February 2015 and June 2015. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-23, 41-42. Over the course of those four months, Williams was in a three-man cell for approximately one month until he was transferred to a four-man cell, allegedly in retaliation for filing grievances. See Id. ¶¶ 9-13, 16-17. Two months later, Williams was transferred to the Detention Center, again allegedly in retaliation for filing grievances. See Id. ¶ 41. After a one-day stay in medical a few weeks later, Williams was transferred back on June 4, 2015, to the same four-man cell. See Id. ¶¶42-43. Although there are no other details about the housing placements in the record, in light of Williams's pro se status, [5] the Court assumes that when Williams testified about his treatment in the PPS, his complaints pertain to the entire period of incarceration: February 2015 to July 2016.

         There is also a lack of evidence regarding Williams's living conditions. Aside from Williams's statement that he was subjected to “constant lock-downs, ” see Am. Compl. ¶ 19, he offers no details about the length or frequency of such lock-downs. It is clear from the record, however, that “constant” does not literally mean every day, as Williams testified about leaving his cell for breakfast and for lunch on the day of his fall in June 2015. See Pl.'s Dep. 17:10-14, 21:3-17. Similarly, although Williams states that he was placed in a “boat” to sleep on the floor, see Am. Compl. ¶ 34, he slept in a bunk bed on the day of his fall, see Pl.'s Dep. 14:25 - 16:9.

         On the day of his fall in June 2015, [6] according to the undisputed facts, Williams rolled off the top bunk in the early morning hours. See Pl.'s Dep. 16:7-12. He testified that he repeatedly pushed the call button but it “didn't work” so, in an effort to avoid waking his cellmates, Williams climbed back into bed and waited until the next morning. See Id. at 16:19-25. A few hours later when all inmates were let out for breakfast, Williams first informed one of the correctional officers that he was injured, and that officer promptly called for medical. See Id. at 16:20 - 18:9. Williams went to medical, but could not be seen without an incident report. See Id. at 16:13 - 17:24, 19:1 - 23:15. After having lunch, Williams returned to his cell to wait. See Id. at 21:3-14. While waiting, he did not take pain medication or make any efforts to obtain the same. See Id. at 23:2-12. Williams returned to medical that evening, at which time Dr. DiLauro examined him, gave him a shot of morphine, which helped his pain, and ordered x-rays. See Id. at 23:13 - 24: 22; DiLauro Progress Notes 6/17/2015, ECF No. 48-3 (listing Williams's vitals at 8:00 p.m.). Dr. DiLauro, who explained to Williams why it was not appropriate to wrap his ribs, also prescribed a dose of pain medication for that night, which was administered. See id.; Marinho Note 06/17/2015, ECF No. 48-3.

         In addition to these undisputed facts, there is also disputed evidence regarding Williams's injuries and treatment following his fall from the top bunk bed. Specifically, Williams testified that Dr. DiLauro informed him that he had three fractured ribs, but that he did not get x-rays until two months later[7] and he continued to have pain. See Pl.'s Dep. at 25:1 - 26:12. However, Dr. DiLauro's Progress Notes dated June 17, 2015, describing Williams's fall and medical treatment, state that Williams was diagnosed with “very bad contusions of ribs, ” but that it was “less likely fracture.” See DiLauro Progress Notes. Also, medical records from Bustleton Radiology Associates, Ltd. show that x-rays were performed on June 19, 2015, two days after the fall, and revealed no evidence of a fracture. See ECF No. 48-3. Williams was treated again by medical on June 22, 2015, and June 25, 2015. The Progress Notes of PA Karen McKinney dated June 25, 2015, indicate that the x-rays were negative for rib fractures. See McKinney Progress Notes, ECF No. 48-3. The Progress Notes of PA Helen Sarskaya dated July 21, 2015, also mention the negative x-rays. See Sarskaya Progress Notes, ECF No. 48-3. Between June 2015 and May 2016, Williams received medical attention on twenty separates dates, [8] never more than two months apart. See Medical Records, ECF No. 48-3. However, the rib injury was not mentioned in the records beyond the second month of treatment.

         V. ANALYSIS

         A. The evidence does not support a constitutional claim for triple-celling against any Defendant.[9]

         Assuming for the sake of argument that the conditions of Williams's triple-celling rose to the level of a constitutional violation, [10] there is no evidence that any PPS Defendant was personally involved.

         A “defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior.” See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). “Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate particularity.” Id. at 1207-08. Additionally, a supervisory defendant may be liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 if the defendant, “with deliberate indifference to the consequences, established and ...

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