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West v. Emig

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 24, 2015

CHRISTOPHER H. WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK EMIG and JEFFREY CARROTHERS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff Christopher H. West is a prisoner incarcerated at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC") located in Smyrna, Delaware. (D.I. 1.) Prior to his transfer to JTVCC, West was incarcerated at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution ("HRYCI") located in Wilmington, Delaware. ( Id. ) On December 30, 2013, West filed a complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. ( Id. ) West raises two related conditions of confinement claims. First, West alleges that from September 2011 to February 2012, he was repeatedly denied a mattress at HRYCI. ( Id. ) Second, he alleges that from April 2013 to June 2013, he was repeatedly denied a mattress at JTVCC.[1] ( Id. ) West filed the action against Mark Emig, Deputy Warden of HRYCI, and Jeffrey Carrothers, a Major at JTVCC. ( Id. ) West is seeking monetary compensation from both defendants. ( Id. )

West appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 8.) Presently before the court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment, West's opposition, and the defendants' reply.[2] (D.I. 20, 22, 26.) For the following reasons, the court will grant-in-part and deny-in-part the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

During West's initial period of incarceration at HRYCI, he demonstrated a propensity for swallowing inedible items, such as pens, pencils, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, and bedding materials. (D.I. 21, Ex. B.) He continued this behavior following his transfer to JTVCC in August 2012. ( Id. ) As a result, West was often relocated to either the institutional infirmaries or an outside medical facility. ( See D.I. 26-1.) Furthermore, he was classified as a high security and suicidal risk inmate, often requiring Psychiatric Close Observation ("PCO") and placement in a Secure Housing Unit (the "SHU"). (D.1. 21, ¶ 6.) West has frequently been designated as PCO Level One. (D.I. 21, Ex. A., ¶ 5.)

The defendants submitted an affidavit of Della Boone, a Correctional Officer at JTVCC. ( See Id. ) According to Boone, the Department of Corrections ("DOC") has a well-established protocol aimed at preventing an offender's suicide or self-injurious behavior. ( Id., ¶ 5.) Pursuant to this Suicide Prevention Policy, PCO Level One status requires severe restrictions, including a suicide-prevention garment or smock, a suicide-prevention mattress, and no bed linens. ( Id. ) Boone reiterates that the policy "does not prevent the inmate on PCO Level One from having a mattress. In fact, the mattress is specially designed, much like the suicide-prevention garment worn by Plaintiff, so that its components cannot be separated and used in possible suicide attempts." ( Id., ¶ 6.)

Contrary to the Suicide Prevention Policy, West alleges that from September 2011 to February 2012, he was repeatedly denied a mattress at HRYCI. (D.I. 1) Second, he alleges that from April 2013 to June 2013, he was repeatedly denied a mattress at JTVCC. ( Id. )

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

West proceeds pro se, therefore, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

"The court shall grant summary judgment 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 fact is material if it "could affect the outcome" of the case, and there is a genuine dispute "if the evidence is sufficfont to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party." Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).

The moving party has the initial burden of proving there is no genuinely disputed material fact, which "may be discharged by showing... that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The non-movant must then demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute for trial. See Matushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The non-movant "may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of [the] pleading"; rather, the non-movant, "by affidavits or as otherwise provided in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 586 n.11. The court, however, must "view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and [must] draw all inferences in that party's favor." Gray v. York Newspapers, 957 F.2d 1070, 1080 (3d Cir. 1992).

IV. DISCUSSION

West's claims are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 founded upon alleged constitutionally impermissible prison conditions when he was denied a mattress for extended periods of time.[3] West claims he was subject to pain, suffering and cruel and unusual punishment. (D.I. 1 at 3.) In order for a plaintiff to prevail under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he must establish two elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d ...


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