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Hooks v. Schultz

March 19, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Jerome B. Simandle


This case arises from an assault upon Plaintiff, Glen A. Hooks ("Plaintiff"), on January 10, 2007, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, New Jersey ("FCI Fairton"), at the hands of a fellow inmate*fn1 who had been diagnosed as delusional and assaultive, hearing voices commanding him to hurt others. The present motions raise issues concerning the duty to protect an inmate from a substantial risk of assault by a fellow inmate.

This matter comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, summary judgment submitted by Defendants in this matter, seven officials at FCI Fairton [Docket Item No. 28]. Plaintiff, appearing pro se, has brought suit against Defendants Paul Schultz, the Warden of FCI Fairton; Karl Belfonti, an Associate Warden; Michael Ward, Captain; Douglas McPhail, Administrator of Food Service; Michael Howard, Assistant Administrator of Food Service; Julie Smith, Psy.D., Chief Psychologist; and R. B. Morales, M.D., Clinical Director of the Health Services Unit (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiff was an inmate at FCI Fairton, during the relevant time in this suit and was released from Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") custody on May 4, 2008. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, with the exception of Dr. Morales, failed in various ways to protect him from an assault by another inmate that took place on January 10, 2007, in the Food Service area of the institution where Plaintiff and another inmate were then assigned to work details. Plaintiff's claims are premised on theories of deprivation of constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and vicarious liability.

Specifically, Plaintiff avers that (1) Warden Schultz should have separated the assailant inmate based on his medical records and institutional history; (2) Associate Warden Belfonti failed to properly exercise supervisory oversight of staff at the institution; (3) Captain Ward failed to place additional surveillance cameras in the Food Service area; (4) Administrator of Food Service McPhail did not properly screen the medical/mental status of inmates for Food Service work positions; (5) Assistant Administrator of Food Service Howard failed to report unusual work performance of inmates and staff; (6) Chief Psychologist Smith failed to respond to "any" memoranda submitted to the "Mental Health Service" before or after Plaintiff was attacked; and (7) Clinical Director of the Health Services Unit Morales improperly denied Plaintiff a CT scan after the assault.

The Court, for the reasons set forth below, grants Defendants' summary judgment regarding Defendants Ward, Howard, Smith and Morales without prejudice and Defendant Belfonti with prejudice. Defendants' motion for summary judgment with regards to Defendants Schultz and McPhail is denied.


A. Facts*fn2

During the relevant period, Plaintiff was incarcerated at FCI Fairton where he was assigned work duties at the institution's Food Service Department. On January 10, 2007, Plaintiff was observed by Defendant Ward, Defendant McPhail, Food Service Administrative Assistant Shelly Bombardi, and Cook Supervisor Fields bleeding from his head area. (Defs. Stmt. of Material Facts, at 3-4). Plaintiff initially stated that he had fallen down and did not remember what had happened. Id. Subsequently, FCI Fairton personnel conducted a search of the Food Service inmate bathroom and found an inmate's shirt with blood stains on it. Id. Inside the shirt was an identification card of another inmate, and the other inmate was later interviewed. Id. at 4-5. Defendant Morales, the Clinical Director, examined Plaintiff and conducted an Inmate Injury Assessment. Id.

The Inmate Injury Assessment and Follow-up report shows that Plaintiff suffered a large deep laceration on the left side of his forehead and a swollen left upper cheek. (Complaint, Exh. B). Plaintiff received minor first aid, stitches and had an x-ray performed, which did not show any fractures. Id.

Special Investigations Agent Byrnes then interviewed Plaintiff and he was able to identify his inmate assailant through a photograph. (Defs. Stmt. of Material Facts, at 5-6). Plaintiff recounted that there had been a minor verbal altercation with the other inmate, but did not know the name of the other inmate. Id. Subsequent to the verbal exchange between the inmates, Plaintiff did not recall what happened afterwards. Id. On January 20, 2007, Plaintiff provided to Operations Lieutenant Nathaniel Bullock a detailed letter regarding the incident of January 10, 2007. Id. at 6-7. In this letter, Plaintiff details that he exchanged some words with the other inmate about cups in the Food Service department and states that he ignored the other inmate and returned to the kitchen area.

Id. However, after this point Plaintiff only generally recalls being hit in the head.

A review of the other inmate's BOP record shows the following, he (1) was designated to FCI Fairton on February 6, 2006; (2) resided in the general population for over eleven consecutive months, February 7, 2006, until the incident on January 10, 2007; (3) worked at the Food Service Department for almost ten consecutive months; and (4) prior to the incident, had incurred five disciplinary violations, the most recent being December 2, 2004 - all violations occurred at a different institution. (Declr. J. Smith, Psy.D., at 3-10; Declr. V. Herbin-Smith, document 1h, at 2-3). Violations occurring prior to January 10, 2007 include one incident of assault on a social worker without serious injury, one incident of threatening bodily harm, one incident of fighting with another person, and two incidents of indecent exposure. (Declr. V. Herbin-Smith, document 1g, at 2-3).

Turning to the other inmate's psychological record, the record shows that he suffered from a mental health history of depression, hearing voices, and schizophrenia. The inmate maintained an ongoing prescription for Abilify, a psychotropic medication, at all relevant times, which controlled the inmate's schizophrenia. The inmate was first transferred to FCI Fairton for the purpose of participating in the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program (RDAP) on February 6, 2006. Upon his admission, the FCI Fairton Drug Abuse Program Coordinator noted that his admission documentation reflected a Psych Alert Code indicating that he had a history of mental health issues. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of B. Flaxington, dated February 6, 2006). On February 7, 2006, a Staff Psychologist interviewed the inmate and reported that the inmate had previously been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, which was successfully managed by the Abilify prescription. The inmate further denied any suicidal ideations or intent, verbally acknowledged that he would not attempt to hurt himself, and was cleared for release into the general population. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated February 7, 2006). On February 8, 2006, a Staff Psychologist conducted a Mental Status Assessment. The assessment found no evidence of any positive or negative symptoms consistent with past diagnoses of Schizophrenia. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated February 8, 2006). A records review by a Staff Psychologist revealed that the inmate was formally diagnosed with schizophrenia and that he

[h]as a known history of rapid deterioration when off of his psych meds, and . . . [h]as been observed to experience increased paranoia and fighting[, especially in the Special Housing Unit,] as well as episodes of significant disorientation and complete absences in memory.

(Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated February 8, 2006). Without proper treatment, the inmate suffers from "command auditory hallucinations" that have told him to "harm others." (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated May 23, 2006). On February 10, 2006, a psychological intake screening was performed where Chief Psychologist J. Smith determined that due to his history of psychological difficulties he should be monitored monthly via the Medical Duty Status (MDS) and that his medication regimen would be monitored through routine referrals to the psychiatry clinic. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of J. Smith, dated February 10, 2006). The inmate experienced relative mental stability and compliance with his medication regimen, and so the Staff Psychologist removed the MDS assignment on November 7, 2006. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated November 7, 2006).

The record indicates that the inmate began to deviate from his state of relative stability beginning November 27, 2006. On November 27, 2006, the Staff Psychologist indicated that he was contacted by the Food Service Supervisor regarding the inmate because the inmate expressed a refusal to work. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated February 27, 2006) At this time, the inmate (1) maintained compliance with his medications, (2) reported no evidence of distorted cognition/psychosis, (3) denied having encountered any difficulties working with others, and (4) denied feeling suicidal. On December 18, 2006, the inmate met again with the Staff Psychologist for a follow-up evaluation. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated December 18, 2006). The Staff Psychologist noted that the inmate had only sporadically been following his medication regimen, but did not formally refuse medication and agreed to resume full medication compliance. Further, the inmate expressed a desire to be assigned to a different work detail in Food Service. Id.

On January 3, 2007, Julie Smith, Psy.D., Chief Psychologist at FCI Fairton, received an email from the Assistant Food Services Administrator, who had concerns regarding the inmate's behavior. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of J. Smith, dated January 3, 2007) The Assistant Food Services Administrator described the inmate as "lacking social skills," and "sitting for long periods and staring." In response to this information, the Chief Psychologist notified the Staff Psychologist working most closely with the inmate and made plans to further assess the inmate's mental status. Id.

On January 4, 2007, the Staff Psychologist contacted the Pharmacy for an update on the inmate's medication compliance patterns. (Decl. of J. Smith, Psy.D., document 1, Memorandum of C. Dennery, dated January 4, 2007). The Staff Psychologist determined that since the December 18, 2006 follow-up evaluation, the inmate (1) had reported to the Pharmacy only 8 of 17 times to receive his medication of Abilify, (2) missed callouts over three consecutive weeks to have his blood sugar checked, and (3) was at high risk of having his medication discontinued because of the staff's inability to monitor his blood for common side effects on a routine basis. Id.

Later on January 4, 2007, the Staff Psychologist conducted a functional assessment with the inmate. Id. The inmate stated that (1) he did not feel that he needed to take medications, (2) denied any mood, thought or psychotic symptoms, and (3) claimed to be doing well. The psychologist advised the inmate that he would be placed on more frequent callouts to monitor his progress. Id. The inmate was not placed on MDS, but the psychologist indicated he would monitor the inmate on a monthly basis in order to determine his functioning off of the medication. Further, the Staff Psychologist reported:

While he continued to do well for quite some time, he was still seen occasionally, but twice over the past month his work detail supervisors contacted Pysch Svcs to report concerns. Ms. Lombardi in FS advised me that the first of these incidents was quickly resolved, but I and other staff have noted recent changes in effect and attention. Whereas he was experiencing a bright affect and clear cognition, he has presented recently and today with a more dull, restricted affect, with occasional requests to have a simple line of inquiry repeated.

Id. This was the last contact that the inmate had with Psychology staff prior to the assault on the Plaintiff.

B. Procedural History

On November 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this matter, along with several exhibits detailing the January 10, 2007 assault against him and requests he had made to FCI Fairton officials. In that complaint Plaintiff alleged that Defendants' conduct violated Plaintiff's Eight Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. On June 3, 2008, Defendants filed the instant motion for dismissal and, in the alternative, summary judgment. Defendants' motion included declarations from (1) the Legal Liaison for FCI Fairton, and records maintained in the ordinary course of business regarding the assault against Plaintiff; (2) the Special Investigative Agent at FCI Fairton, and handwritten interview notes of Plaintiff and assailant; (3) a Supervisory Paralegal responsible for overseeing the Administrative Remedy Process, and records of Plaintiff's administrative remedies; and (4) the Chief Psychologist at FCI Fairton regarding events pertaining to the psychiatric treatment of the assailant inmate at FCI Fairton and BOP policy regarding psychological services and the inmate work program. On August ...

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