United States District Court, D. Delaware
FRED T. CALDWELL, Plaintiff,
ROBERT D. WALLIS, Defendant.
T. Caldwell, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center Pro Se
B. Drowos, Counsel for Defendant.
Fred T. Caldwell, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center, in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro
se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Defendant Robert D. Wallis moves for summary
judgment. (D.I. 56). Plaintiff opposes and has filed a motion
for an order to redact and/or deny Defendant's motion for
summary judgment. (D.I. 65). Briefing on the matters is
case involves a fire in Plaintiffs cell on February 4, 2015,
and the acts leading up to it. On January 15, 2015, Plaintiff
was transferred to Building 17, A Tier, Cell L-8.
(See D.I. 2 at p.6). His personal property,
including electric/electronic appliances, arrived a few days
later. (Id.). He alleges that when he used the
electrical outlet to check his appliances, he noticed sparks
spewing from the electrical outlet next to the television.
(Id.). The electric sparks stopped, but started
again days later. (Id.).
January 26, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a grievance describing
problems he had discovered on January 25, 2015. (D.I. 57 at
Ex. A). The grievance states that Plaintiff was "shocked
by electric coming from the wall out of my TV cable
outlet." (Id.). He asked that it be fixed
"URGENTLY" because when he later touched it by
mistake, he was again shocked. (Id.). The grievance
states that Plaintiff told the "8-4 shift" about
this "emergency." (Id.).
grievance was received by grievance office on January 27,
2015 and reviewed by Cpl. Matthew Dutton who determined that
it was a routine maintenance issue and not an emergency.
(Id. at Exs. A, B). The grievance was handled,
processed and resolved in accordance with the VCC's
inmate grievance process/procedure. (Id. at Ex. B).
On February 3, 2015, the grievance was referred for
investigation to Defendant Lieutenant Wallis, a maintenance
foreman and Delaware Department of Correction employee
assigned to the VCC's maintenance section. (D.I. 57, at
Ex. A, D.I. 71 at Ex. I). It is Defendant's understanding
that the matter was determined to be a routine maintenance
claim and not an emergency. (D.I. 71 at Ex. I).
Defendant's name is printed on the top of Plaintiff's
grievance, but he does not know why. (Id.). He did
not put it there and assumes it was placed there to indicate
that the grievance would be assigned to him. (Id.).
same day, Defendant went to Plaintiffs cell and inspected and
examined both the coax cable and outlet/receptacle.
(Id.). Defendant explains that he did not have tools
with him because he was led to believe the complaint centered
on the coax cable and, thus, no tools were necessary.
(Id.). Plaintiff states that Defendant had a duty to
at least test the outlet condition and that tools, like a
voltage tester, exist to perform such testing. (D.I. 62 at
p.77). Defendant did not detect or observe any of the
activity complained of by Plaintiff and did not receive a
spontaneous shock as described in Plaintiff's grievance.
(D.I. 71 at Ex. I). According to Defendant, there were no
signs of burn marks, defects, or a "poor"
condition." (Id.) Nor did he see anything
jammed in the outlet and Plaintiff never mentioned this while
Defendant was conducting the inspection. (Id.).
explained to Plaintiff that no repairs or replacements were
needed since he found nothing wrong with either the coax
cable or outlet. (Id.). Defendant states that he
never promised or indicated that he would replace or repair
the outlet. (Id.). When Defendant asked Plaintiff to
sign off on the grievance, Plaintiff refused. (Id.).
According to Plaintiff, Defendant informed Plaintiff that he
would have the outlet replaced based upon his "'mere
view' of the poor condition," and he never requested
that Plaintiff sign off on the grievance. (D.I. 62 at p.49).
Defendant left, completed his report the same day,
Plaintiff appealed the grievance. (D.I. 57 at Ex. A; D.I. 71
at Ex. I.).
states that if the outlet was defective, it would have
tripped the ground fault circuit interrupter (i.e.,
GFI) and rendered the outlet and the cell without electrical
service. (D.I. 71 at Ex. I). Defendant states that several
cells adjoining Plaintiffs were on the same circuit, and the
nature of Plaintiff's complaints would have affected the
electrical service for those cells. (Id.).
to Ernest Kulhanek, correctional officer/physical plant
maintenance superintendent II, he is satisfied that Defendant
properly investigated, and concluded, that the outlet and
coax cable in question were not defective and fully
functional as noted in Defendant's report and resolution
of Plaintiff's grievance. (D.I. 57 at Ex. D). Kulhanek
states that all the cells on each tier are tied in small
groupings to the same electrical circuit breaker and, if
there is a defective electrical outlet in one cell, that
outlet will normally result in the tripping of the related
circuit breaker, stopping the flow of electricity to all
other cells on the same circuit breaker. (Id.).
There were no work orders or grievances concerning this type
of problem during the relevant timeframe. (Id.)
to Kulhanek, Plaintiff's claim has no scientific basis
because there cannot be spontaneous sparks without the
insertion of a metal object or appliance plug into an outlet.
(D.I. 57 at Ex. D). If an outlet is defective it will
normally cause a short circuit when a metal object or
appliance plug is inserted and the amperage of the outlet is
exceeded. (Id.). When this happens, the circuit
breaker will trip and the electricity will shut off as a
safety feature. (Id.). Kulhanek states that if the
outlet was defective, until grounded,  the circuit would
be incomplete and no electricity would flow and, thus, no
sparks or shocking would occur. (Id.).
states that he is a "certified home/building inspector[,
] trained to inspect home/and multi-unit building general,
structural, 'electrical,' plumbing, 'HVAC,'
kitchen, general interior, general exterior, conditions and
report condition observations." (D.I. 62 at pp. 74-75).
Plaintiff refutes Kulhanek's statements on the basis of
his personal knowledge, expert opinion, and observations.
(Id. at p. 75). Plaintiff states that no power
outage/short circuit happened and therefore, the circuit was
closed, allowing the flow of electricity to create sparking,
but the circuit breaker safety did not trip and the ground
fault circuit interrupter was not functioning and did not
operate. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he believes a
previous occupant jammed something within the outlet causing
the defect, and the "unnoticed (defect cause) was caused
by something that was (jammed/stuck) within the outlet which
broke the interior barrier from one side to the other closing
the circuit causing the sparks." (Id. at 76).
Plaintiff states that the sparks were not caused by him or by
a stinger. (Id.).
states that Defendant never moved him for his safety as
Plaintiff requested. (D.I. 62 at p.96). Defendant does not
recall Plaintiff asking to be moved to another cell. (D.I. 71
at Ex. I). Defendant states that there was no need, given the
circumstances. (Id.). Defendant further states that
had there been a need, he would have immediately notified the
area supervisor to make that decision because he is not
authorized to have an inmate moved to another cell. (D.I. 57
at Ex. B; D.I. 71 at Ex. I).
next day, February 4, 2015, Plaintiff discovered a fire in
his cell that spread to his sheet and blanket, and he
unsuccessfully tried to put it out. (D.I. 2 at p.7).
Plaintiff alleges the fire was the result of a faulty outlet
in his cell. (Id. at p.6). Sergeant George Gill and
his partner arrived at Plaintiffs cell. (D.I. 71 at Ex. IV).
Plaintiff was on the floor with his head pointing towards the
cell door, and he was unresponsive. (Id.). The cell
was full of smoke, and any flames were apparently
extinguished by the unit's sprinkler system.
(Id.). Plaintiff was pulled from the cell, he began
moving and coughing, and he was secured with handcuffs. (D.I.
57 at Ex. H; D.I. 71 at Ex. IV). Gill inspected the cell to
ensure all flames were extinguished and saw a blanket and
sheet on the floor, partially burnt and covered with black
residue from the smoke. (D.I. 71 at Ex. IV). Just outside the
cell, Gill found a stinger with three square pieces of metal
and three wires wrapped in Styrofoam plastic. (Id.).
Gill states that the materials were not present when he and
his partner had previously been on the tier. (Id.).
Plaintiff states that "no stinger was ever present or
found inside or outside of [his] cell door/floor." (D.I.
62 at p. 64).
was escorted to the nurse's station where he was examined
for any injuries. (D.I. 57 at Exs. E, H; D.I. 71 at Ex. IV).
His lungs were clear and all results were within normal
limits. (D.I. 57 at Ex. E). He was also seen by
mental health and, when cleared by mental health and medical,
Plaintiff was transferred to Secure Housing Unit, a
pre-detention hearing disciplinary unit. (D.I. 57 at Exs. F,
H). Based upon his years of experience, Gill concluded that
Plaintiff had been using the stinger and apparently ignited
the bedding materials. (D.I. 71 at Ex. IV). Plaintiff was
charged with arson, creating a health, safety or fire hazard
and possession of dangerous contraband (i.e., the
stinger, wires and square metal pieces). Plaintiff waived the
24-hour notice of hearing, and a disciplinary hearing was
held on February 5, 2015. (D.I. 57 at Ex. F, H; D.I. 71 at