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Woloszyn v. County of Lawrence

January 28, 2005


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Civil No. 01-cv-01361) District Judge: Hon. Arthur J. Schwab

Before: Nygaard, Mckee and Chertoff, Circuit Judges

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKEE, Circuit Judge


Argued: May 12, 2004


We are asked to review the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of individual and municipal defendants in a suit brought pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Pennsylvania's Wrongful Death and Survival statutes, 42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. §§ 8301, 8302. The suit arises from the jailhouse suicide of a pre-trial detainee. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm.


On July 21, 1999, Richard Lee Woloszyn, Jr., was arrested by local police after attempting to burglarize a private residence in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. The officers took Woloszyn to the Ellwood City Police Station where he voluntarily waived his right to counsel and signed a statement admitting the illegal entry. Following arraignment on those charges, police took Woloszyn to the Lawrence County Correctional Facility ("LCCF") where he was to be held. In an Incident Investigation Report, Officer List wrote that on the way to the LCCF, he and Lieutenant Gilchrist spoke with Woloszyn who "appeared to be in good spirits and was joking...". Officer List also wrote:

He told us how he got caught cheating on his wife with the neighbor lady. I told him he better watch that his wife might kick his butt. He advised us that he was lucky that they didn't have a gun in his house because she would have shot him years ago. Then he said maybe that might have been the best thing for everybody. I told him not to talk like that.

According to List, "[Woloszyn] appeared to be in good spirits[]" when they arrived at the LCCF. In his deposition, List testified that Woloszyn did not show any signs of depression on the way to the LCCF. On the contrary, List testified that Woloszyn was "in fairly good spirits" and was "talking and joking with us."

After arriving at the LCCF, Woloszyn was interviewed by Correction Officer Linda Hartman-Swanson. In her affidavit, she stated that while he was being booked, Woloszyn

was very remorseful and distant. He was not answering my questions, but wanted to talk about how he had failed as a father and a person. He talked about how when he was young the children would come to him, but now they would go to his wife instead, he said "that really hurts me." He said that he was glad that he got caught because he wanted it to stop, he was on a 24 hour rampage, he had done every drug possible from alcohol to heroin, to crack cocaine and acid.

Hartman-Swanson asked Captain Adamo to keep Woloszyn in the booking area rather than assign him to a cell. She claimed that Adamo initially agreed, but changed his mind after Annette Houck, the LCCF nurse on duty, cleared Woloszyn for Housing Unit B ("HB Unit"). Prisoners are placed there for observation before being placed in the general jail population. According to Hartman-Swanson, Capt. Adamo told her that he would put Woloszyn on five minute checks. However, Capt. Adamo also said that he would follow the nurse's advice.

Hartman-Swanson testified in her deposition that Woloszyn told her that he was not suicidal. One of the questions on the LCCF Booking Questionnaire asked if "the inmate's conversation or actions suggest the risk of suicide" and had a place to check either "yes" or "no." Hartman-Swanson completed that form by checking, "no."

Nurse Houck performed a medical assessment of Woloszyn at the LCCF. Woloszyn was polite, cooperative, alert and not agitated. His respiration and blood pressure were normal and he was oriented to person, place and time. Although the nurse was aware that Woloszyn had claimed to be under the influence of street drugs, he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during her assessment. Woloszyn told Houck that he was not being treated by a psychiatrist and had no psychiatric history. According to Houck, Woloszyn did not request a counselor or physician at any point during his medical assessment. Based upon her medical assessment, Houck did not believe that Woloszyn should be placed on suicide watch. In her opinion, there was no indication that he intended to harm himself. She therefore informed Adamo that Woloszyn was medically stable and could be placed in the HB Unit. She did, however, recommend that Woloszyn be checked hourly for signs of alcohol withdrawal. Consistent with Houck's recommendation, Adamo placed Woloszyn on one hour checks based upon concerns related to alcohol withdrawal.

Correction Officer Sainato escorted Woloszyn from the booking area to HB Unit. He did not observe anything unusual about Woloszyn's mood or behavior. Correction Officer Graziani, the officer on duty in the HB Unit when Woloszyn arrived there at 7:20 p.m., also noticed nothing unusual or remarkable about Woloszyn's behavior. When Woloszyn arrived in HB Unit Woloszyn was able to state and spell his name when Graziani asked him to, and Graziani then placed Woloszyn in his cell. When Graziani later asked Woloszyn what kind of drink he wanted in the morning, Woloszyn yelled back that he wanted juice.

The record also contains an unsworn statement from Wayne Shaftic, an inmate in the cell next to Woloszyn. Shaftic claims that Woloszyn requested a counselor, and that Woloszyn was yelling, screaming, and kicking for more than 45 minutes, but that no one responded. Specifically, Shaftic's statement said, in relevant part:

You could tell the kid was strung out. He was confused.... He wanted to see a counselor and was told to go to his cell, "lay it down" and they would contact a counselor in the morning. He said he shouldn't be here, that he needed a counselor. He said he needed help, he didn't belong here.... I hear the kid in the cell going nuts, yelling and screaming and punching the metal top bunk. The kid was loud, real loud.... And the kid was screaming loudly. He screamed disjointedly about himself.... Like self blame. I could tell he was kicking his locker also. It was a constant commotion for at least 45 minutes until I talked to him. No one had come up to his cell. The guard at the desk all of this time was Matthew Graziani and he was looking thru vacation brochures. He never made a walk around until I started to talk to the kid.... [Woloszyn] said he had been partying for the last 3 days and he could not be in this cell – he needed to get out of the cell.... I believe Graziani made his walk around about 6 p.m. and I watched him. That day Graziani never even looked in our cells. He didn't say anything and didn't look our way. He walked past us, went to the end, turned around and walked past us a second time.

Prisoners in the HB unit were checked every 30 minutes.*fn1 At 8:14 p.m., Graziani began to check the HB Unit. He finished by 8:20 p.m. At approximately 8:52 p.m., Graziani found Woloszyn hanging by the neck in his cell. Woloszyn had apparently taken a sheet from his cell bunk, tied it to an unscreened ceiling vent in his cell, and hanged himself. Graziani called a "code blue" and attempted to prop Woloszyn up to alleviate the pressure on his neck. Correction Officers Sainato and Stiles then entered the cell and assisted Graziani in untying the sheet that was knotted around Woloszyn's neck. They checked Woloszyn's pulse and respiration, and found none.

Stiles and Graziani then began performing CPR while another corrections officer was sent for a protective breathing mask.*fn2 Although a protective mask should have been kept in the HB Unit, none could be found. However, Officers Graziani and Stiles began taking turns performing chest compression and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation without waiting for a protective breathing mask. When the mask finally did arrive, Graziani initially inserted it backwards. The error was immediately corrected,*fn3 however, and thereafter the mask was used properly as Officers Graziani, Stiles, Piatt and Hartman-Swanson took turns performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. They continued until paramedics arrived and took Woloszyn to the hospital where he died.


Woloszyn's widow, Patricia, filed the instant § 1983 action and state wrongful death and survival actions against Lawrence County, William F. Hall, the warden of LCCF, and Correction Officers Graziani and Sainato. Mrs. Woloszyn filed the action in her capacity as administratrix of Woloszyn's estate. To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff "must allege both a deprivation of a federally protected right and that this deprivation was committed by one acting under color of state law." Lake v. Arnold, 112 F.3d 682, 689 (3d Cir. 1997). Mrs. Woloszyn alleged violations of Woloszyn's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.*fn4 The defendants filed an answer denying liability. After discovery, the district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, and this appeal followed.


We exercise plenary review of the district court's grant of summary judgment. Curley v. Klein, 298 F.3d 271, 276 (3d Cir. 2002). "[W]e review the record to determine whether the defendants, the moving parties, have demonstrated that there is no genuine issue of material fact." Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 946 F.2d 1017, 1020 (3d Cir. 1991). In order to defeat the defendants' motion, the plaintiff "must introduce more than a scintilla of evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial; she must introduce evidence from which a rational finder of fact could find in her favor." Id. (citation and internal quotations omitted).

Mrs. Woloszyn presents two arguments in her appeal. First, she argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Correction Officer Graziani because he failed to make five minute checks on Woloszyn and failed to have a breathing mask available in a proper location in HB Unit. Second, she argues that it was error to grant summary judgment to Lawrence County ...

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