Liles was struck several times during one of these fights. Id.
123:2-3. Similarly, Josephs testified that he fought with another inmate
who splashed Josephs with urine. See Josephs Tr. 31:16 to 33:13. During
this fight, Josephs was thrown into the toilet and suffered injuries to
his chest. Id. 32:15 to 33:8. These incidents establish a pattern of
violence that resulted from prisoners getting splashed with urine as they
slept on mattresses placed on the floors of cells next to toilets. It is
a question of fact whether these events constituted a threat to the
health and safety of Liles and Josephs that violated the Eighth
In Blizzard v. Watson, 892 F. Supp. 587 (D.Del. 1995), the plaintiff
was "awakened by urine splashing on his leg from a prisoner using the
toilet near his bed." Id. at 591. On a motion for summary judgment, the
district court dismissed all of the plaintiff-prisoners's claims, which
alleged constitutional deprivations based on the conditions of his
confinement. Unlike the Blizzard plaintiff, however, Liles and Josephs
have alleged a serious risk of physical harm based on multiple incidents
of fighting that resulted from urine splashing on sleeping inmates.
Apparently, fighting caused by inmate urination is not uncommon. The
Third Circuit has offered some insight into this phenomenon, albeit in
the context of pre-trial detainees*fn5, when it described "forcing
detainees to sleep on mattresses placed . . . on the floor adjacent to
the toilet and at the feet of their cellmates" as "unsanitary and
humiliating." Union County Jail Inmates v. Di Buono, 713 F.2d 984, 996
(3d Cir. 1983).
On this summary judgment record, there exists a genuine issue of
material fact as to whether the fighting that broke out as a result of
prisoners urinating on each other as they slept on the floors next to the
toilets violated the Eighth Amendment. Thus, I must deny summary judgment
on this claim.
Whether Prison Officials Exhibited "Deliberate Indifference"
Under the second part of the Farmer test, if an Eighth Amendment claim
arises in the context of a challenge to conditions of confinement, I must
also determine if prison officials acted with "deliberate indifference"
to the inmate's health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. There is
enough evidence in the summary judgment record to create genuine issues
of material fact as to whether Owens or McDonnell had actual knowledge of
the fighting that broke out among inmates because they urinated on each
other as they slept on mattresses on the floor.
Standards for Liability of Prison Officials
The test for "deliberate indifference" by prison officials in prison
conditions cases is not an objective test of what a reasonable official
in the same positions should have known, but a subjective test based on
"what the prison official actually knew." See Beers-Capitol, 256 F.3d at
131. Under this test, a prison official "must both be aware of facts from
the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious
harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Farmer, 511 U.S. at
837. However, "an Eighth Amendment claimant need not show that a prison
official acted or failed to act believing that harm actually would befall
an inmate; it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite
his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm." Id. at 842.
A defendant's knowledge of a risk can be proved indirectly by
circumstantial evidence, and a factfinder may conclude that a prison
official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was
obvious. See Beers-Capitol, 256 F.3d at 131 (citations omitted).
[I]f an Eighth Amendment plaintiff presents evidence
showing that a substantial risk of inmate attacks was
longstanding, pervasive, well-documented, or expressly
noted by prison officials in the past, and the
circumstances suggest that the defendant-official
being sued had been exposed to information concerning
the risk and thus must have known about it, then such
evidence could be sufficient to permit a trier of fact
to find that the defendant-official had actual
knowledge of the risk.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842-43 (emphasis added). Finally, "a prison official
cannot escape liability by showing that he did not know that this
particular inmate was in danger of attack." Beers-Capitol, 256 F.3d at
To survive summary judgment in a prison conditions case, a plaintiff
"must come forward with evidence from which it can be inferred that the
defendant-officials were at the time the suit was filed, and are at the
time of summary judgment, knowingly and unreasonably disregarding an
objectively intolerable risk of harm." Beers-Capitol 256 F.3d at 132
(citing Farmer at 846).
Supervisor-centered claims against prison officials are analyzed under
the four-prong test set forth in Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099 (3d
Cir. 1989).*fn6 Under the Sample test, to hold a supervisor liable
because his policies or practices led to an Eighth Amendment violation,
the plaintiff must identify a specific policy or practice that the
supervisor failed to employ and show that: (1) the existing policy or
practice created an unreasonable risk of the Eighth Amendment injury; (2)
the supervisor was aware that the unreasonable risk was created; (3) the
supervisor was indifferent to that risk; and (4) the injury resulted from
the policy or practice. Beers-Capitol, 256 F.3d at 134 (citing Sample,
885 F.2d at 1118).
Owens' and McDonnell's Awareness of Fighting
Warden Owens testified that he not only tours the cell blocks himself,
but also receives letters from inmates detailing their grievances and
hears reports from his subordinates. See Tr. of Owens Dep. 1/24/02
("Owens Tr.") 40:23 to 41:25. Liles testified that he wrote eight or nine
complaints to the warden. See Liles Tr. 150:12-24. These these facts
alone do not demonstrate either Owens' or McDonnell's "actual knowledge"
of the fighting, as required under Beers-Capitol. Two Special Master's
Reports filed by Justice Schreiber in previous CCCF litigation, however,
also make reference to the same conditions alleged by Liles and Josephs:
The lack of privacy manifested itself when an inmate
awakes during the night to use the lavatory. The
person sleeping on the mattress nearest to it
frequently would wind up getting sprayed.
See Pls.' Ex. G, Special Master's Report on Overcrowding Conditions at
Camden County Jail 11/12/90, at 20. In the words of one CCCF
You have a situation at night, they're locked in their
cells, one individual in the cell may have to get up
and relieve himself, urinate, the other guy may be
sleeping with his head near that toilet, he's got to
be wakened [sic] up and moved which may cause a
problem or the other guy has to try and relieve
himself without in anyway [sic] dripping on this guy
or whatever. Because I mean let's face it, who wants
to lay there and have somebody urinate on or splash
you. It's very degrading, I guess, for lack of a
Id. at 24-25.