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Hall v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 4, 2019

JAMES E. HALL, Plaintiff,
WARDEN DAVID PIERCE, et al., Defendants.

          James Hall, Washington County Detention Center, Hagerstown, Maryland. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Ryan Patrick Connell, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.


          NOREIKA; U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff James Hall ("Hall"), a former pretrial detainee at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, now confined at the Washington County Detention Center in Hagerstown, Maryland, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] (See D.I. 3, 4, 5). Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 12). Before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment and Plaintiffs request for counsel, motion to amend, and motion for injunctive relief[2] (D.I. 68, 80). Plaintiff opposes the motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 80).

         I. BACKGROUND

         According to the allegations in the First Amended Complaint (D.I. 36), Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee during the relevant time-frame, was transferred from B-Building to maximum housing in Building 22 on June 9, 2014, absent a disciplinary or institutional infraction.[3] (Id. at 1, 4). Plaintiff states that he remained in Building 22 until he pleaded guilty to pending criminal charges. (See D.I. 80 at 3). Building 22 is part of the MHU (i.e., Medium-High Housing Unit).[4] (D.I. 69 at 1). Plaintiff alleges his housing in Building 22 was unconstitutional because Defendants demonstrated "deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of Plaintiffs health and safety." (D.I. 36 at 1, 4). Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to lengthy stays in "cell isolation with prisoners who had disciplinary problems or who were in protective custody" and subjected to other hardships such as lights on 20 hours a day, no drinking water in the yard, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, inadequate food rations, and poor medical care. (Id. at 2).

         Plaintiff alleges he was punished unnecessarily when he was housed in Building 22 for 217 days, and he suffered severe physical and emotional harm. (Id.). Plaintiff also asserts that he was housed in MHU for eight months. (D.I. 80 at 7). The record reflects that Plaintiff was transferred from the VCC to Morris Community Corrections Center in Dover, Delaware, on November 15, 2014. (D.I. 27 at 9). Using the MHU May 19, 2014 entry date from the initial pleading, Plaintiff was housed in the MHU for 180 days or five months and 27 days. Using the MHU June 9, 2014 entry date from the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was housed there for 159 days or five months and six days.

         Count I is against Defendant David Pierce ("Pierce") the former VCC warden; Count II is against Defendant Sgt. Austin ("Austin"); Count III is against Sgt. D. Doane ("Doane");[5] and Count V is against Delaware Department of Correction ("DOC") Commissioner Perry Phelps ("Phelps").[6] The First Amended Complaint does not contain a prayer for relief although the original pleadings sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief. (See D.I. 5 at 12).

         The record reflects that Plaintiff submitted a grievance in June 2014 complaining that he was served cold food, his daily food rations were less than 2, 000 calories, and he was sleep deprived. (D.I. 80 at 38-4). Plaintiff complained that he did not receive proper food portions because the servers would shake food from the serving spoons. (Id. at 61). During the grievance procedure, Plaintiff was advised by Lise Merson that she would direct a tray assessment to ensure proper serving sizes. (Id. at 63).

         In Plaintiffs November 6, 2018 affidavit, he states that he spoke to Pierce in June or July 2014 in the hallway of Building 22 when Pierce was conducting a tour. (Id. at 74). Plaintiff states that he told Pierce he was locked in his cell and not allowed out "but for two hours a day," and that food service was "shaking the spoons." (Id.). Pierce instructed Plaintiff to speak to the Building Sergeants who at the time were Doane and Austin. (Id.). Plaintiff states that he raised other concerns with Doane and Austin about cell temperatures, excessive lighting, and inadequate food portions. (Id.). Plaintiff states that his main concern was his placement in punitive segregation absent a notice or hearing to contest his placement in MHU 22 indefinitely. (Id.).

         According to Pierce and Phelps, during the relevant time-frame, they were not personally familiar with Plaintiff and were not personally responsible for Plaintiffs housing or classification. (D.I. 69-1 at ¶¶ 1, 3; D.I. 69-2 at ¶¶ 1, 3). Pierce and Phelps state the majority of VCC pretrial inmates are housed in Building 22 and have been for almost a decade. (Id. at ¶ 4). Some are housed in the facility's infirmary for medical reasons and some are housed in SHU for reasons such as escape risks or for their own protection. (Id.). Neither Pierce nor Phelps were made aware of any significant threats to health and safety in Building 22. (Id.).

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff has uncovered no evidence to support his deliberate indifference claims; and (2) Defendants are shielded by qualified immunity. In his opposition, Plaintiff argues that more discovery is needed. The Court, however, extended the original discovery deadline multiple times (see D.I. 47, 56, 58, 67), discovery closed in November 2017, and the dispositive motion deadline expired in January 2018.


         "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). When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). A dispute is "genuine" only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is material when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1986).

         The nonmoving party bears the burden to establish the existence of each element of his case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In doing so, the non-moving party must present specific evidence from which a reasonable fact finder could conclude in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Jones v. United Parcel Serv.,214 F.3d 402, 407 (3d Cir. 2000). Summary judgment should be granted if no ...

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