WILLIAMS v. MONTGOMERY COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE EDUARDO C. ROBRENO ON 07/10/2017. 07/10/2017 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF AND E-MAILED.(nds)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
M E M O R A N D U M
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
July 10, 2017
Plaintiff Eugene Williams (“Plaintiff”) brings this
action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages for the
conditions of his confinement at the Montgomery County
Correctional Facility (“MCCF”), where he was temporarily housed
from December 3, 2015, through January 13, 2016, to facilitate
an appearance in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
Specifically, Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he is
handicapped and was forced to shower without a chair at MCCF.
Defendant Julio M. Algarin (“Defendant”), who is and
was the prison warden at MCCF at all times relevant to this
case, filed a motion for summary judgment that Plaintiff
For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the
motion, dismiss all claims, and enter judgment in favor of
Defendant in this case.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff arrived on crutches at MCCF on December 3,
2015, after a brief hospitalization for back injuries he claimed
to have suffered while being transported in a paddy wagon from
SCI-Graterford to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas
the previous day.1 See Williams Dep. at 12:16-22, 14:10-13,
19:20-24, Feb. 14, 2017, ECF No. 19-4. Following his arrival,
Plaintiff was housed in section F-3, where he was restricted to
a bottom bunk for sleeping and a bottom-tier cell assignment.
Id. at 20:14-21:3.
The only shower that Plaintiff ever used at MCCF was
the shower on the bottom tier of the F-3 housing section.2 Id. at
24:21-25. This shower is equipped with a grab bar and non-skid
rubber mat. Id. at 22:10-19; 24:12-16 (describing “stainless
steel” grab bar and “a black rubber mat . . . there to keep you
actually from slipping on the wet surface”); Julio M. Algarin
Aff. at ¶ 4, Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, ECF No. 19-3. When
Plaintiff first arrived at MCCF on December 3, 2015, no shower
Plaintiff describes himself as having been diagnosed
with “spinal stenosis,” “cervical bulging discs,” and
“neuropathy along with degenerate disc deterioration.” Williams
Dep. at 13:3-13. The circumstances surrounding Plaintiff’s
transportation in the paddy wagon are the subject of a related
lawsuit before this Court, No. 17-883.
Plaintiff testified that he showered approximately
five times per week while incarcerated at MCCF, which was as
often as his physical condition allowed. Id. at 58:1-8.
chair was available for the bottom tier F-3 shower. Williams
Dep. at 26:5-11. As a result, Plaintiff suffered minor injuries
from three separate falls in the shower. Id. at 48:13-50:20.
Plaintiff spoke with his caseworker counselor, Channel
Moore, about the lack of a shower chair, and he was furnished
with an inmate handbook detailing the grievance process at MCCF.
Id. at 27:2-24; Moore Aff. at ¶¶ 3-5, Def.’s Supplemental Mem.
Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3, ECF No. 30-3. Approximately five to
seven days after his arrival at MCCF, Plaintiff claims, he
submitted a formal written request for a shower chair. Williams
Dep. at 30:18-22. At the top of the request form, he wrote the
word “grievance.” Id. at 28:2-4.3
Within four or five days of submitting the formal
request form, Plaintiff allegedly had conversations with two
different prison officials, Captain Scott Moyer and Major
Although counsel for Defendant “directed a search for
any request slip submitted by Plaintiff for a shower chair,”
none was found. Def.’s Supplemental Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. at
1. Relying on sworn affidavits from prison officials, Defendant
disputes that Plaintiff ever submitted any request form or
grievance. See Channel Moore Aff. at ¶ 11 (“Mr. Williams did not
submit a request slip or grievance concerning a shower chair in
the F-3 housing section. In fact, Mr. Williams did not submit
any grievance during his incarceration at MCCF from December 3,
2015 through January 13, 2016.”); Captain Scott Moyer Aff. at ¶¶
5, 9, Def.’s Supplemental Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, ECF
No. 30-1 (“To my knowledge, no grievance was ever filed
regarding the conditions of his cell”; “To my knowledge, Mr.
Williams did not submit a grievance concerning the lack of a
shower chair for use in the F-3 bottom tier shower.”).
Reginald Brown,4 about his need for a shower chair. Id. at 30:2331:22. Captain Moyer informed Plaintiff that the neighboring F-2
housing section had a shower chair that Plaintiff could share,
and he personally brought the chair from F-2 to Plaintiff. Id.
at 28:21-29:1; Captain Scott Moyer Aff. at ¶¶ 6-8, Def.’s
Supplemental Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, ECF No. 30-1.
Approximately three weeks after Plaintiff’s arrival at
MCCF, a chair was made available to be shared between the F-2
and F-3 housing sections. Williams Dep. at 43:23-44:20. From
that point forward, the shower chair was kept in a maintenance
closet on the F Cell Block. Id. at 44:21-45:12. Plaintiff
testified that he “always used the chair when it was available.”
Id. at 48:11-12.
Plaintiff applied to the Court to proceed in forma
pauperis on August 22, 2016. ECF No. 1. On September 1, 2016,
the Court granted Plaintiff’s request, ECF No. 2, and his
complaint was filed the same day, ECF No. 3. Defendant filed a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on October 31,
2016. ECF No. 7.
Neither of these individuals is a party to this
lawsuit. Additionally, Major Brown “[does] not recall any
interactions with [Plaintiff] during his incarceration at MCCF
from December 3, 2015, to January 13, 2016 regarding access to a
shower chair in the F-3 bottom tier shower.” Major Reginald
Brown Aff. at ¶ 3, Def.’s Supplemental Materials Supporting Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. 2, ECF No. 30-2.
Following a hearing held on the record with both
parties on December 16, 2016, the Court issued an order granting
in part and denying in part Defendant’s motion to dismiss. ECF
No. 11. In the same order, the Court directed Defendant to take
Plaintiff’s deposition and attach it to a motion for summary
judgment.5 See id.
Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on March
20, 2017, ECF No. 19, and Plaintiff responded in opposition on
April 3, 2017, ECF No. 23. The Court held a status conference on
the record with Plaintiff and counsel for Defendant on April 24,
2017. See ECF No. 28. Following this conference, the Court
ordered Defendant to supplement his motion for summary judgment
and afforded Plaintiff an opportunity to supplement his
response, if he so desired. ECF No. 29. In accordance with this
order, Defendant filed a supplemental memorandum supporting his
motion for summary judgment on May 10, 2017. ECF No. 30.
Plaintiff did not file any supplemental materials.
After the December 16, 2016, hearing, but before
Defendant filed his motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff filed
two separate motions requesting the appointment of counsel. See
ECF Nos. 12, 14. The Court dismissed these motions without
prejudice on May 17, 2017, reserving for the summary judgment
stage full consideration of whether counsel should be appointed
for Plaintiff in this case. See ECF No. 31. Because the Court
finds that Plaintiff’s claims have no “arguable merit in fact
and law,” Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 1993), the
Court also concludes that the appointment of counsel is not
warranted in this case.
Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A motion
for summary judgment will not be defeated by ‘the mere existence’
of some disputed facts, but will be denied when there is a
genuine issue of material fact.” Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle &
Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). A fact is
“material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence might
affect the outcome of the litigation; a dispute is “genuine” if
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In considering a motion for summary judgment, the
Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. “After making all reasonable inferences in the
nonmoving party’s favor, there is a genuine issue of material
fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party.”
Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 593 F.3d 265, 268 (3d
Cir. 2010). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, but meeting
this obligation shifts the burden to the nonmoving party, who
then must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (quoting
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
At this stage, all that remains of Plaintiff’s
complaint is an Eighth Amendment claim brought against Defendant
pursuant to § 1983 for allegedly unconstitutional conditions of
confinement caused by Plaintiff’s lack of handicapped-accessible
shower facilities.6 Defendant has moved for summary judgment on
grounds that (1) “[he] had no personal involvement in the
circumstances surrounding Plaintiff’s lack of a shower chair
during his first three weeks of incarceration at MCCF,” Def.’s
Mot. Summ. J. at 8, ECF No. 19; (2) “[a]s a matter of law,
Plaintiff’s three week period of incarceration without a shower
chair was not an ‘extreme deprivation’ of a ‘sufficiently
serious’ nature to support an Eighth Amendment claim,” id. at
10; and (3) “Plaintiff cannot recover compensatory damages for
emotional distress or mental anguish because he suffered merely
de minimis physical injuries,” id. at 11. The Court disposes of
Plaintiff initially named three defendants in his
complaint, but the Court dismissed as legally baseless all
claims against former Defendants Montgomery County Correctional
Facility and the Honorable Thomas P. Rogers of the Montgomery
County Court of Common Pleas. See ECF No. 2. Further, following
the December 16, 2016, hearing, the Court granted Defendant’s
motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims concerning alleged
deficiencies in the toilet facilities at MCCF. See ECF No. 11.
the motion on the first of these grounds and need not reach the
Section 1983 imposes civil liability “upon any person
who, acting under the color of state law, deprives another
individual of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Gruenke v. Seip,
225 F.3d 290, 298 (3d Cir. 2000); see also 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
“This section does not create any new substantive rights but
instead provides a remedy for the violation of a federal
constitutional or statutory right.” Id. (citing Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)).
Section 1983 supports two theories of supervisory
liability: “one under which supervisors can be liable if they
‘established and maintained a policy, practice or custom which
directly caused [the] constitutional harm,’ and another under
which they can be liable if they ‘participated in violating
plaintiff’s rights, directed others to violate them, or, as the
person[s] in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in [their]
subordinates’ violations.’” Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629
F.3d 121, 129 n.5 (3d Cir. 2010) (alterations in original)
(quoting A.M. ex rel. J.M.K. v. Luzerne Cty. Juvenile Det. Ctr.,
372 F.3d 572, 586 (3d Cir. 2004)); see also McKenna v. City of
Phila., 582 F.3d 447, 460 (3d Cir. 2009) (“To be liable . . ., a
supervisor must have been involved personally, meaning through
personal direction or actual knowledge and acquiescence, in the
wrongs alleged.”). Additionally, § 1983 supports municipal
liability under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436
U.S. 658 (1978), if a plaintiff shows that “an official who has
the power to make policy is responsible for either the
affirmative proclamation of a policy or acquiescence in a wellsettled custom.” Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d
Cir. 1990) (citing Andrews v. City of Phila., 895 F.2d 1469,
1480 (3d Cir. 1990)).
The Court agrees with Defendant that he is not subject
to supervisory liability in this case because Plaintiff has
neither alleged nor shown that Defendant established any policy,
practice, or custom that directly caused Plaintiff’s injuries or
that could have subjected him to Monell liability, nor has
Plaintiff alleged or shown that Defendant personally
participated in the events at issue in any way. Plaintiff does
not claim that he ever spoke directly with Defendant, that he
had any reason to believe that Defendant was aware of his
problem, or that MCCF had any sort of policy, custom, or
practice of denying shower chairs to handicapped inmates.7 Not
Although Plaintiff initially claimed in his complaint
that he submitted two grievances to Defendant, see Compl. at 4,
only does Plaintiff fail to allege that Defendant established
any “policy, practice or custom which directly caused [the]
constitutional harm,” Santiago, 629 F.3d at 129 n.5 (quoting
A.M., 372 F.3d at 586), but it is difficult to imagine what type
of policy Defendant might have promulgated that would have
directly caused Plaintiff’s injuries--particularly given that
Plaintiff was, in fact, provided with a shower chair after he
asked for one.8
For his part, Defendant affirmatively denies any
awareness of any of the events associated with Plaintiff’s
complaint. By sworn affidavit attached to the motion for summary
judgment, Defendant states that, throughout the duration of
he has since abandoned that claim; Plaintiff did not so much as
mention Defendant during his 97-minute deposition, and no
evidence on the record supports an inference that Plaintiff
submitted any grievance at all (let alone that he submitted two
grievances to Defendant personally). To the contrary, the
evidence overwhelmingly suggests that Plaintiff spoke only with
Captain Moyer and never filed any grievance. See supra 3 n.3.
In his response opposing the motion for summary
judgment, Plaintiff attempts to clarify his argument that he is
“blaming the Warden because it is his duty to have known what
the law required [regarding] handicapped-accessibility of the
shower in his Official and Individual capacity.” Pl.’s Resp.
Opposing Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. at 2, ECF No. 23. Construing this
as an argument for Monell liability on the basis that Defendant
is “an official who has the power to make policy” and was
“responsible for either the affirmative proclamation of a policy
or acquiescence in a well-settled custom,” Bielevicz, 915 F.2d
at 850, the provision and personal delivery of a chair following
Plaintiff’s request for one undermines any claim that Defendant
or MCCF had any policy, practice, or custom of denying shower
chairs to handicapped inmates.
Plaintiff’s incarceration at MCCF, Defendant was “not aware that
[Plaintiff] was in need of a shower chair,” “not aware that a
shower chair was not available for use in the F-3 bottom tier
shower,” “not aware that [Plaintiff] had complained about the
lack of a shower chair for use in the F-3 bottom tier shower,”
and “not aware of any conversations [Plaintiff] had with
security staff or with medical staff about having a shower chair
available for his use.” Algarin Aff. at ¶¶ 6-9.
Because the parties do not dispute that Defendant was
not “involved personally . . . through [either] personal
direction or actual knowledge and acquiescence” in the delayed
provision of a shower chair to Plaintiff, the Court concludes
that Defendant cannot be held liable as a supervisor under
§ 1983. See McKenna, 582 F.3d at 460. Defendant is therefore
entitled to summary judgment in his favor on all claims in this
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, dismiss all claims in
this case, and enter judgment in favor of Defendant. An
appropriate order and judgment follow.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?