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Fattah v. Rackovan

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 18, 2019

ABDEL FATTAH, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF RACKOVAN, et al., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge.

         Presently before me is Magistrate Judge Arbuckle's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. 202) regarding Defendants Rackovan, Somich, and Granlund's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 155). Plaintiff Abdel Fattah, a prisoner at SCI Rockview, claims that Rackovan, Somich, and Granlund (the “Defendants”) violated his civil rights. The Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Fattah failed to exhaust administrative remedies at the prison and that Fattah has not produced evidence supporting his claims. (See Doc. 158). I will adopt Magistrate Judge Arbuckle's Report and Recommendation in full, as the Defendants did not violate Fattah's constitutional rights to adequate medical care and safe conditions of confinement under the Eighth Amendment. The Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will therefore be granted.

         I. Background

         The parties are familiar with the facts, so I provide here only a brief background. (I will address additional facts as they become relevant to my analysis of Fattah's specific objections.) During the time period relevant to this action, Fattah was an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview (“SCI-Rockview”). (See Doc. 119, at 3).While incarcerated, Fattah developed an eating disorder, and as a result, had a feeding tube implanted. (See Doc. 196-2). Fattah filed grievances regarding a number of matters during his time at SCI Rockview, which can be categorized two ways: medical grievances and grievances about the conditions of his confinement, i.e., detention in a suicide cell. (See Doc. 196-7, at 4-6). Fattah's medical grievances stated, inter alia, Somich and other members of the medical staff at SCI-Rockview did not: (1) provide his medication with milk as instructed by his medical provider, Dr. Symons, (2) administer his medication on schedule, causing pain and vomiting, or (3) use sanitary syringes to complete his gastric feedings. (See Id. at 4-5). In Fattah's confinement grievances, he alleged, inter alia, Granlund placed him in a suicide cell and clothed him in a suicide smock. (See Id. at 5-6). Accordingly, Fattah filed this action. (See Doc. 1).

         Fattah has since amended his complaint three times, and the operative complaint is the Third Amended Complaint. (See Doc. 119). After a lengthy period of motions practice, only two causes of action remain, i.e., the Defendants violated Fattah's Eighth Amendment right to medical care and Eighth Amendment right to safe conditions of confinement. (See Docs. 35, 61, 144, 145). The only remaining Defendants in this case are: Rackovan, Somich, Granlund, and Dr. Symons[1]. (See id.).

         The Defendants moved for summary judgment in December 2017, filing a Brief in Support (Doc. 158) and a Statement of Facts (Doc. 159). In response, Fattah filed a Brief in Opposition (Doc. 180-1), and a two page response to the Defendants' Statement of Facts (Doc. 179). When the Defendants failed to comply with one of the Middle District of Pennsylvania's Local Rules, Magistrate Judge Arbuckle, acting sua sponte, gave the Defendants leave to file compliant evidentiary exhibit indices in support of their Motions for Summary Judgment. (See Docs. 173). The Defendants timely did so. (See Docs. 176-78). In answering the Defendants' Statements of Facts, however, Fattah also failed to comply with one of the Middle District of Pennsylvania's Local Rules. (See Doc. 179). In light of this error, Magistrate Judge Arbuckle, proceeded to issue a Report and Recommendation granting the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which rested upon deeming Defendants' facts admitted. (See Doc. 187 at 40).

         I rejected Magistrate Judge Arbuckle's Report and Recommendation after concluding that it was inequitable for the Defendants to receive a chance to remedy a failure to comply with the Local Rules when Fattah was not afforded the same opportunity. (Doc. 193). I granted Fattah a similar opportunity to cure his noncompliance with Local Rule 56.1 and recommitted the matter to Magistrate Judge Arbuckle for further proceedings. (See Doc. 193). Fattah timely complied. (See Docs. 194-196). Magistrate Judge Arbuckle proceeded to recommend that summary judgment be granted in favor of the Defendants, because Fattah has not demonstrated as a matter of law any violation of either his Eighth Amendment right to medical care or his Eighth Amendment right to safe conditions of confinement. (See Doc. 202). Fattah objected to the Report and Recommendation. (See Doc. 203). The Report and Recommendation and the objection is thus now ripe for review.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Review of the R&R

         If objections to a magistrate judge's R&R are filed, I must conduct a de novo review of the R&R's contested portions. Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)). I may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F.Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the law permits me to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent I deem it proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985). At the least, courts should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment shall be granted “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 court may grant a motion for summary judgment if, after it considers all probative materials of record, with inferences drawn in favor of the non-moving party, the court is satisfied that there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Chavarriaga v. N.J. Dep't of Corrs., 806 F.3d 210, 218 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2556, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Brooks v. Kyler, 204 F.3d 102, 105 n.5 (3d Cir. 2000)). “A fact is ‘material' under Rule 56 if its existence or nonexistence might impact the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. A dispute over a material fact is ‘genuine' if ‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410, 416 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). “In determining whether the dispute is genuine, the court's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter . . . .” American Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 587, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49, 106 S.Ct. 2505).

         The moving party bears the initial burden to identify “specific portions of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Santini, 795 F.3d at 416 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553). If this burden is satisfied by the movant, the burden then “shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and ‘come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). The nonmovant's burden is not satisfied by “simply show[ing] that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Chavarriaga, 806 F.3d at 218.

         III. Discussion

         As explained by Magistrate Judge Arbuckle, the operative complaint is best construed as asserting the following claims against the Defendants: (1) Rackovan is liable for the allegedly unconstitutional acts committed by Somich, Granlund, and other DOC staff members as a “supervisor” who had actual knowledge of and acquiesced to the conduct of his subordinates (See Doc. 202, at 13-14), (2) Somich is liable for violating Fattah's Eighth Amendment right to medical care (See Doc. 202, at 14-15), and (3) Granlund is liable for violating Fattah's Eighth Amendment right to safe conditions of confinement (See Doc. 202, at 15-16).[2]

         A. ...


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