LORENZANO v. LINK et al
MEMORANDUM. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER SHALL ISSUE. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MARY A. MCLAUGHLIN ON 11/7/14. 11/7/14 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLFF., E-MAILED TO COUNSEL, 1 COPY TO LEGAL BIN.(pr, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
UNIT MANAGER LINK, et al.
November 7, 2014
Andre Lorenzano, the plaintiff in this civil rights
action, is a former inmate at State Correctional Institution
(“SCI”) Graterford who is serving a state prison sentence in the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”). 1
are SCI Graterford Unit Manager Cynthia Link and Lt. Lorie
Lorenzano filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming
that Link and Eason violated his Eighth Amendment right to be
free from cruel and unusual punishment by failing to protect him
from his cellmate, Mark Galloway. 3
Lorenzano is currently proceeding pro se. The Court
previously appointed counsel for Lorenzano, but counsel withdrew
because of a conflict. The Court then asked Lorenzano if he
wished to continue waiting for an attorney, or if he wanted to
proceed with the case pro se. Lorenzano chose to proceed with
his case pro se.
Link is now a DOC Major and Eason is now a DOC Captain.
avoid confusion, the Court will use the titles held by the
defendants at the time of the events in question.
Lorenzano also filed other claims against Eason and Link,
as well as claims against David DiGuglielmo, A. Scott
Williamson, and Grievance Coordinator Wendy Shaylor. Lorenzano
consented to the dismissal of all claims against Shaylor, as
The parties have filed cross-motions for summary
In his motion and his many supplemental filings with
the Court, Lorenzano argues that he informed Link and Eason of
the risk posed by Galloway and that they took no actions to
protect him from that harm. 4
Link and Eason argue that they did
not have knowledge of any substantial risk of harm to Lorenzano.
Alternatively, they argue that they are shielded from suit by
qualified immunity because the constitutional right at issue was
not clearly established.
The Court will deny both motions for
summary judgment because there are disputed issues of material
well as all other claims against Link and Eason. No affidavit
of service has been filed for DiGuglielmo or Williamson, who
Link and Eason state are retired DOC officials.
In his filings, Lorenzano concentrates mainly on showing
that the prison’s responses to the grievances and appeals he
filed following the incident between himself and Galloway were
inaccurate. The focus of the Eighth Amendment inquiry is on the
events preceding the incident between Lorenzano and Galloway,
not the grievance proceedings that followed. Many of
Lorenzano’s arguments are therefore not relevant to the analysis
of the pending motions.
Because the case will proceed to trial, the Court will
order it back on the Prisoner Civil Rights Panel website in an
attempt to procure counsel for Lorenzano.
Summary Judgment Record 6
Lorenzano began his period of DOC custody in May 2009,
when he arrived at SCI Pittsburgh.
After a series of transfers,
Lorenzano arrived at SCI Graterford on August 3, 2009.
Lorenzano Dep. 9:15-11:9.
At the time of the events in question, Link was the
“A” Unit Manager assigned to Housing Unit D at SCI Graterford
Link’s job duties included determining the cell
assignments of the inmates on D-Block.
In making cell
assignments, Link considered the inmates’ size, age, known
dispositions, custody levels, program codes, criminal charges,
misconduct history, and sexual predator status.
Link Decl. ¶¶
2, 4, 11, 16.
Eason was the 6:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. Lieutenant
for D-Block at SCI Graterford.
Eason was not authorized to
unilaterally change an inmate’s cell assignment within the
block, but could transfer an inmate from D-Block to the
Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) if she had reason to believe the
inmate was in danger and could not be protected by alternate
Eason Decl. ¶¶ 2, 7-8.
On a motion for summary judgment, the Court considers the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014). Thus, when
considering Lorenzano’s motion, the court considers the evidence
in the light most favorable to Link and Eason, and vice-versa.
Unless otherwise noted, the facts set forward herein are
When he arrived at SCI Graterford, Lorenzano was
initially assigned to the RHU.
On October 19, 2009, Lorenzano
was moved from the RHU to D-Block.
Lorenzano Dep. 12:25-13:3,
Link assigned Lorenzano to a double cell which already
housed inmate Anthony Jones.
Within a few weeks, Jones was
reassigned and another inmate, Bradley Maines, moved into
On December 4, 2009, Maines was moved to
Lorenzano never had issues with either Jones or
Maines, and thus never reported any issues with those cellmates
to prison authorities.
Link Decl. ¶ 23; Lorenzano Dep. 22:19-
On December 7, 2009, Link assigned inmate Mark
Galloway to Lorenzano’s cell.
Galloway was similar in size and
age to Lorenzano, had the same custody level as Lorenzano, and
had no known problems with cellmates.
Link Decl. ¶¶ 32-34;
Lorenzano Dep. 47:20-24.
Soon after Galloway moved into Lorenzano’s cell,
tensions arose between the cellmates.
Lorenzano took issue with
several aspects of Galloway’s behavior in their cell.
would get up in the middle of the night to brush his teeth,
rocking Lorenzano’s bunk in the process.
Galloway often stood
over top of Lorenzano when he would watch TV, putting his groin
in Lorenzano’s face.
Galloway would also “holler out the door,”
and would not wipe off the toilet after urinating on it.
Lorenzano Dep. 51:13-55:11.
Galloway also initiated unwanted physical contact with
For example, he would sometimes sit on a crate and
lean back onto Lorenzano’s bed, touching Lorenzano’s leg in the
He also sometimes rubbed his elbow on Lorenzano’s leg.
On at least one occasion, Galloway grabbed Lorenzano.
also screamed at Lorenzano, and the two cellmates often argued
about their living situation.
Lorenzano Dep. 54:24-56:18,
Lorenzano reported his concerns to Link and Eason
“every chance [he] got.”
He repeatedly asked to switch cells or
be assigned a new cellmate.
He told Link and Eason that he was
afraid “something might happen in that cell and I don’t want do
[sic] get in no trouble,” that “the dude might do something,”
and that he thought he and Galloway were “going to get into an
It is disputed whether Lorenzano explicitly told
Link and Eason that he feared Galloway was going to harm him.
At his deposition, Lorenzano was asked:
Q: Would you say that every time, I fear for
my safety, I’m afraid he’s going to hurt me?
Lorenzano Dep. 54:1-58:21.
In their declarations, Link and
Eason stated that although Lorenzano did complain to them about
Galloway, he never said he feared Galloway would harm him.
Decl. ¶¶ 35-36; Eason Decl. ¶¶ 16-18, 22-29.
On December 31, 2009, Lorenzano talked to Eason again
about his concerns with Galloway and his desire to be removed
from the cell with Galloway.
Eason told him that his Z-Code
status 7 would be resolved soon and that he would therefore be
removed to a single cell.
She also told him that she couldn’t
move him because Link was not present at that time.
had a similar conversation with Eason on January 3, 2010.
was off from work and was not present at the prison from
December 31, 2009-January 3, 2010.
Lorenzano Dep. 62:2-63:16,
94:5-95:2; Link Decl. ¶ 42.
Eason never offered to transfer Lorenzano to the RHU
for his protection, nor did Lorenzano request a transfer to the
Lorenzano stated that he did not ask for such a transfer
because there were empty cells on D-Block that he could be
Link stated in her declaration that D-Block was
Z-Code status is assigned to certain inmates after review
of the inmate by a team of staff from the prison. It can be
assigned to inmates for a variety of reasons, including mental
health. A prisoner with Z-Code status must be in a single cell
– that is, cannot have a cellmate. At the time Galloway moved
into Lorenzano’s cell, Lorenzano was under consideration for ZCode status. In mid- to late-January, 2010, Lorenzano was
approved for Z-Code status and was therefore provided a single
cell. Link Decl. ¶ 13; Lorenzano Dep. 24:21-25:14, 112:4114:23.
filled to capacity at the time of the events in question.
Lorenzano Dep. 58:25-59:6, 80:22-83:24; Link Decl. ¶ 4.
After speaking with Eason on January 3, 2010,
Lorenzano returned to his cell and laid down on his bunk.
Suddenly, Galloway grabbed Lorenzano and pulled him from the
Galloway hit Lorenzano’s head against the metal part of
the bunk, against the corner of a table, and finally against the
Lorenzano screamed for help, and a guard got Eason, who
let Lorenzano out of the cell.
Lorenzano was then sent to the
medical unit so his injuries could be treated.
medical, Lorenzano was placed in the RHU.
After going to
Lorenzano Dep. 99:3-
As a result of the assault by Galloway, Lorenzano
suffered nerve damage to his right eye that resulted in partial
vision loss, suffers from migraine headaches, suffers from nose
bleeds and dizziness, and has been diagnosed with postconcussion syndrome.
Lorenzano Dep. 126:9-130:7.
Summary Judgment Standard
Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, a party moving for summary
judgment must show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that judgment is appropriate as a matter of
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).
The moving party bears the initial
burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
Once a properly supported motion for summary judgment
is made, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute
between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly
supported motion for summary judgment.
Id. at 247-48.
Link and Eason have moved for summary judgment on both
the Eighth Amendment issue and on the basis of qualified
The motion will be denied as to both issues.
Lorenzano’s motion for summary judgment will also be denied.
Eighth Amendment Violation
To recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
show the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and
laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged
deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of
West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
There is no
dispute that Link and Eason were acting under color of state law
at the time of the claimed Eighth Amendment violation; indeed,
both were working as state prison officials.
The focus of the
analysis is therefore whether Lorenzano has put forward facts
sufficient to show a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.
The Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and
unusual punishments” imposes a duty on prison officials to
“protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
Not every injury suffered
by one prisoner at the hands of another creates constitutional
liability for prison officials responsible for the victim’s
Id. at 834.
To recover under an Eighth
Amendment failure-to-protect theory, a prisoner must show:
that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial
risk of serious harm; and (2) that the prison officials were
deliberately indifferent to this substantial risk.
Additionally, the officials’ deliberate indifference must have
caused harm to the prisoner.
Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352,
367 (3d Cir. 2012).
Substantial Risk of Serious Harm
A prisoner satisfies the first element of the test
when the alleged “punishment” is “objectively sufficiently
Hamilton v. Leavy, 117 F.3d 742, 746 (3d Cir. 1997)
(quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834).
The focus of this objective
inquiry should not be “the extent of the physical injuries
sustained in the attack, but rather the existence of a
substantial risk of serious harm.”
Pearson v. Vaughn, 102 F.
Supp. 2d 282, 290 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (quoting Thomas v. Vaughn,
1998 WL 647270, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 21, 1998)).
risk of serious harm “‘may be established by much less than
proof of a reign of violence and terror,’ but requires more than
a single incident or isolated incidents.”
Blanchard v. Gallick,
448 F.App’x 173, 177 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Riley v. Jeffes,
777 F.2d 143, 147 (3d Cir. 1985)).
The presence of Galloway as Lorenzano’s cellmate
created a substantial risk of serious harm to Lorenzano.
two had arguments about their living situation, and Galloway
initiated unwanted physical contact with Lorenzano.
one occasion, Galloway grabbed Lorenzano.
On at least
Lorenzano made multiple complaints to Link and Eason that he
wanted to be removed from the cell with Galloway because he
thought “something might happen,” that Galloway “might do
something,” and that he and Galloway were going to “get into an
There is also a dispute over whether Lorenzano
explicitly told Link and Eason that he was afraid Galloway would
The pattern of abnormal behavior exhibited by
Galloway, the tension between the two cellmates, and the
increasingly aggressive physical contact initiated by Galloway
show that a substantial risk of serious harm to Lorenzano
existed as long as he shared a cell with Galloway.
Link and Eason argue that the fact that Lorenzano
never requested to be placed in the RHU for his own safety
“discredits” his assertion that Galloway posed a substantial
risk of serious harm.
Although this evidence may weigh against
finding that Galloway posed a risk of harm to Lorenzano, a
reasonable finder-of-fact may credit Lorenzano’s explanation
that he didn’t request to be placed in the RHU because there
were open cells in D-Block to which he could have been
This argument at most creates a disputed issue of
material fact, which would preclude granting the motions for
The second element of the test, deliberate
indifference, is a subjective standard.
Whetzel, 256 F.3d 120, 125 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Farmer, 511
U.S. at 834).
To be liable, the prison official “‘must actually
have known or been aware of the excessive risk to inmate
It is not sufficient that the official should have
known of the risk.”
Bistrian, 696 F.3d at 367 (quoting Beers-
Capitol, 256 F.3d at 125).
If a prison official knew of a
substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner and failed to
respond reasonably, the official was deliberately indifferent.
Bistrian, 696 F.3d at 367-68.
A plaintiff can prove an official’s actual knowledge
of a substantial risk through circumstantial evidence; “a
factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a
substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.
For example, if “the defendant-
official being sued had been exposed to information concerning
the risk and thus ‘must have known’ about it, then such evidence
would be sufficient to permit a trier of fact to find that the
defendant-official had actual knowledge of the risk.”
In their declarations, Eason and Link state that they
were not aware of any risk facing Lorenzano.
They also state
that complaints like Lorenzano’s are commonplace and do not
typically escalate into violence.
Link Decl. ¶¶ 34-41; Eason
Decl. ¶¶ 19, 24-29.
On the other hand, Lorenzano frequently complained
about Galloway, and told Eason and Link that “something might
happen” between them, that Galloway “might do something,” and
that they were going to “get into an incident.”
told Eason and Link that Galloway initiated unwanted physical
contact with Lorenzano, including at least one instance in which
Galloway grabbed Lorenzano.
Finally, it is disputed whether
Lorenzano explicitly told Eason and Link that he was afraid of
being harmed by Galloway.
There is conflicting evidence on the issue of Link and
Eason’s knowledge of the risk facing Lorenzano.
If the finder-
of-fact finds that, in addition to his other complaints,
Lorenzano explicitly told Link and Eason of his fear of harm
from Galloway, it could infer that Link and Eason “must have
known” of the risk.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842-43.
In Jones v.
Beard, 145 F.App’x 743, 745 (3d Cir. 2005), the Third Circuit
held that prison guards did not have actual knowledge of a
threat of serious harm to an inmate in part because the inmate
had not “articulated specific threats of harm.”
Blackstone v. Thompson, 568 F.App’x 82, 84-85 (3d Cir. 2014);
Bizzell v. Tennis, 449 F.App’x 112, 115 (3d Cir. 2011).
case, the finder-of-fact could decide that Lorenzano
“articulated specific threats of harm” to Link and Eason, and
that Link and Eason had subjective knowledge of the risk facing
The finder-of-fact could, on the other hand, believe
Link and Eason’s statements that they had no knowledge of the
There are therefore disputes over material facts which
preclude any grant of summary judgment.
There are two prongs to the qualified immunity
(1) whether a plaintiff has shown facts that make out
a violation of a constitutional right; and (2) whether the right
at issue was clearly established at the time of a defendant’s
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232
It is left to a court’s discretion which of the two
prongs to address first in light of the circumstances in the
particular case at hand.
Id. at 236.
As discussed above, Lorenzano has produced sufficient
evidence for a finder-of-fact to determine that Link and Eason
violated Lorenzano’s Eighth Amendment right to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment under a failure-to-protect theory.
Lorenzano has therefore overcome the first prong of the
qualified immunity analysis.
For a right to be “clearly established” for purposes
of qualified immunity, the
contours of the right must be sufficiently
clear that a reasonable official would
understand that what he is doing violates
that right. This is not to say that an
official action is protected by qualified
immunity unless the very action in question
has previously been held unlawful, but it is
to say that in the light of pre-existing law
the unlawfulness must be apparent.
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987) (internal
In Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-47, which was decided in
1994, the Supreme Court set forth the prevailing deliberate
indifference standard for Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect
The events in this case took place in late-2009 and
early-2010, long after Farmer established the right at issue.
Furthermore, there is no novel legal question at issue in this
case, nor are there any circuit splits on relevant questions of
See Ray v. Township of Warren, 626 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir.
2010) (holding that a right was not clearly established due to a
lack of a precedential Third Circuit holding and the presence of
a circuit split on the issue).
Based on Farmer, a reasonable
prison official would understand that knowingly disregarding a
substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate would be a
violation of the Eighth Amendment.
The right at issue was
therefore clearly established at the time of the defendants’
Link and Eason argue that they took no immediate
action because they did not consider Galloway’s presence in
Lorenzano’s cell an immediate risk of harm to Lorenzano, and
that this determination was reasonable.
This seems to be an
argument that goes to the merits of the Eighth Amendment claim
rather than an argument about whether the right was clearly
As stated above, there are disputes over material
facts that prevent summary judgment on the merits of the
An appropriate order shall issue.
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