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Parkell v. Couoe

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 10, 2018

ROBERT COUPE, et al., Defendants.

          Donald D. Parkell, SCI Retreat, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Joseph Clemente Handlon, Deputy Attorney General, and Ophelia Michelle Waters, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.


          STARK, U.S. District Judge


         Plaintiff Donald D. Parkell ("Plaintiff), an inmate currently in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at SCI Retreat, in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, proceeds pro se, and has been granted in forma pauperis status. Plaintiff was housed at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, when he commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming violations of his constitutional rights. (D.I. 3) The Amended Complaint is the operative pleading. (D.I. 19) Presently before the Court is the motion for summary judgment of Defendants Robert Coupe ("Coupe") and Phillip Morgan ("Morgan") (together "Defendants") and Plaintiffs opposition thereto. (D.I. 70, 72, 74, 75, 76)


         The Amended Complaint.

         The Court's March 19, 2018 Memorandum Opinion contains the history of this case. (See D.I. 68) The only claim that remains is the use of four-point restraints during Plaintiffs October 2013 hospitalization. (See id. at 12) Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to a practice or policy that denied him adequate medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment when Defendants enacted or maintained a policy or practice that caused him to be held in handcuffs and shackles in four-point restraints during his hospitalization. (D.I. 19 at ¶ VII. B. 95) The Amended Complaint alleges that following an October 2013 assault when Plaintiff was housed at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution ("HRYCI") in Wilmington, Delaware, he was taken to Christiana Hospital for treatment. (Id. at ¶¶ 64-65, 68) During the week he was hospitalized, Plaintiff was held in four-point restraints. (Id. at ¶ 72) The verified Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was chained at both ankles and wrists, forbidden to move at all, and required to urinate in this manner with one wrist uncuffed only long enough to evacuate his bladder. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that "this policy/practice resulted in pain, humiliation, and torture as a chest-tube was draining fluid from [his] lungs, a cruel and unusual punishment." (Id.)

         Evidence of Record.

         After his assault, Plaintiff was treated at the HRYCI infirmary for a laceration to his scalp, rib pain, and for his eyes to be flushed with eyewash. (D.I. 64 at Ex. B) He was transferred to Christiana Hospital for treatment of his injuries.[1] (D.I. 34 at 350, 364; D.I. 64 at Ex. B) Plaintiff was held in four-point restraints during his hospitalization. (D.I. 55 at 2) Plaintiff submitted a grievance complaining that while hospitalized for four days, with severe trauma to his ribs and lungs, multiple broken ribs, and a chest tube, he was held in four-point restraints, which were "painful." (D.I. 56-1 at 223-31) An investigation determined that Plaintiffs hospitalization and treatment were "on par with Department Policies and Procedures" and that Plaintiff was not mistreated by hospital or security staff. (Id. at 224, 229) Defendants admit that Plaintiff was held in four-point restraints for the entire time he was housed at the Christiana Hospital, with only one cuff released to allow him to evacuate his body waste in full view of correctional officers, both male and female. (D.I. 55 at 2)

         HYRCI Standard Operating Procedure ("SOP") 100.08, with an effective date of January 1, 2001 and revised April 15, 2013, governs the supervision of offenders at hospitals and other health care facilities by correctional officers. (D.I. 70 at 18, 22-25) SOP 100.08 provides that offenders must be restrained in four points minimum unless a written doctor's order specifies three points. (Id.) Hospitals are unsecure facilities and present challenging security issues to supervising officers. (Id. at 20) SOP 100.08 is designed to provide safe, secure, and courteous correctional supervision of offenders while hospitalized. (Id. at 22) The policy provides guidelines for correctional officers in order to prevent an inmate's escape while hospitalized. (Id. at 23)

         Written orders for three-point restraints must be reviewed by the HRYCI shift commander, who can override a doctor's order for security concerns. (Id. at 18, 23) According to Lt. Brian Vanes ("Vanes"), a correctional officer at HRYCI, restraining an offender at a hospital in four-point restraints does not mean that the offender is restrained in an uncomfortable position or for the purpose of causing discomfort. (Id.) Typically hands are restrained by cuffs connected to the sides of the hospital bed, which permit some movement of the offender's arms. (Id. at 18-19) Hands are not bound above the inmate's head. (Id. at 19) Officers typically use two sets of handcuffs for each arm to provide even greater movement or flexibility. (Id.) This is done with two regular handcuffs or one regular set with a set of flexcuffs. (Id.) Legs are restrained with leg shackles at the bottom of the bed, not at the corners. Offenders are not restrained in a "spread eagle" position. (Id.)

         SOP 100.08 requires correctional officers to log information relative to an offender's hospital stay, including all movement in and out of the room, use of cuffs and restraints, and any "special" information and/or instructions received. (Id. at 22) The logbook for Plaintiffs hospitalization indicates that he was admitted to Christiana Hospital on October 13, 2013 and moved to a different room later that night. It appears that initially Plaintiff was placed in three-point restraints. (Id. at 28) The next day, there was a discussion regarding the use of three-point versus four-point restraints. (Id. at 29) HRYCI Deputy Warden Emig ("Emig") ordered Plaintiffs placement in four-point restraints at all times. (Id. at 29) The logbook indicates that Plaintiff was moved from his bed to a chair on October 14, 15, and 16, 2013. (Id. at 30-32) It further indicates that on October 16, 2013, Plaintiff was "up to urinate." (Id. at 32) The logbook also states that correctional officers used flexcuffs with regular handcuffs which, according to Vanes, provided maximum comfort and movement while still maintaining necessary security. (Id. at 19)

         Plaintiff states in his declaration that during the five days he was hospitalized he had a chest tube. (D.I. 75 at 1) He was under constant four-point restraints; having his arms cuffed was painful due to the chest tube. (Id.) Of the three officers assigned to Plaintiff, one was armed with a handgun. (Id. at 2) Plaintiff states that he was not aggressive, disruptive, or agitated, and he was pleasant to all present. (Id. at 1) Plaintiff complained to correctional officers and nurses but was told the decision was "straight from the warden himself. (Id.) Plaintiff states that nurses "repeatedly told officers that at least [his] right arm should not be cuffed due to [his] injuries and the officers told them that it was the warden's policy [and] they must follow it." (Id. at 2)

         Whenever Plaintiff sat in a chair it was under "further" four-point restraints and it was "in no way a relief from a slightly different form of the same restraint." (Id. at 1) Every time Plaintiff needed to evacuate his bladder or bowels it was in full view of the three officers, and he was never permitted to access the bathroom. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he defecated in his bed and a nurse had to clean him, which was very embarrassing. (Id.)

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff fails to allege plausible personal involvement by either Defendant; and (2) Defendants are shielded from liability by reason of qualified immunity. (D.I. 70) Plaintiff contends that summary judgment is not appropriate because: (1) he has been "thwarted from all relevant discovery requests"; (2) there are issues of fact regarding: (a) the personal involvement of Warden Morgan; (b) the use of three-point restraints versus four-point restraints; (c) the manner in which he was required to urinate; (d) the manner in which he was restrained while sitting in a chair; and (e)the manner Plaintiff was restrained with the use of handcuffs and flexcuffs; and (3) Vanes' declaration is inadmissible.


         Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he 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." The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Matsushita Eke. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986). An assertion that a fact cannot be - or, alternatively, is - genuinely disputed must be supported either by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of die motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B). If the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmovant must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court will "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586; see also Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (stating party opposing summary judgment "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue") (internal quotation marks omitted). The "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment;" a factual dispute is genuine only where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (stating entry of summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial"). Thus, the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of the nonmoving party's position is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment; there must be "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find" for die nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         IV. ...

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