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Shaw v. Burlington County Corrections

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

ERNEST R. SHAW, Plaintiff,
v.
BURLINGTON COUNTY CORRECTIONS A/K/A BURLINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS, WARDEN RONALD COX, LT. CARLOS BARNWELL, SGT. WILLIAM NUNN, OFFICER DAVIS, JORDAN EL, AND DOES 1-10, Defendants.

Olugbenga O. Abiona, Philadelphia, PA, Attorney for Plaintiff.

Stephen E. Siegrist, O'Connor Kimball LLP, Cherry Hill, NJ, Attorney for Defendant Burlington County Corrections.

J. Brooks Didonato, Parker McCay P.A., Mount Laurel, NJ, Attorney for Defendants Burlington County Corrections, Warden Ronald Cox, Lt. Carlos Barnwell, Sgt. William Nunn, and Officer Davis.

OPINION

RENÉE MARIE BUMB, District Judge.

Defendants Warden Ronald Cox ("Warden Cox"), Lt. Carlos Barnwell ("Barnwell"), Sgt. William Nunn ("Nunn"), and Officer Davis ("Davis") (collectively, the "Individual Defendants") and Burlington County Corrections ("BCC") (and, collectively, the "Defendants") have moved for summary judgment. [Docket Nos. 18, 27]. For the reasons that follow, their motions are GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part.

I. Background

A. Factual

Plaintiff was a prisoner in the minimum security wing at BCC from October of 2009 through January of 2010. The minimum security wing has no cameras, and guards are not always present to watch inmates. [Docket No. 29-2, Exhibit B, Deposition of Dawn Harris ("Harris Dep.") at 11:1-24]. While playing cards on December 9, 2009, Plaintiff was assaulted by Defendant El, a fellow prisoner at BCC's minimum security wing. [Docket No. 21-4, Declaration of Ernest Shaw at ¶¶ 3-4] ("Shaw Dec."). Plaintiff was beaten so badly that his nose and teeth were broken, and because no guards are present at the minimum security facility, no corrections officers were there to stop the assault. (Shaw Dec. ¶¶ 3, 6).

1. El's History of Violence at BCC

Plaintiff's assailant, El, was a long-time inmate at BCC with a well-documented history of violence. [Docket No. 29-4, BCC Records ("BCC Records") at 2-56]. His wrap-sheet stretched back to 2002, when he twice assaulted fellow inmates. (BCC Records at 2, 20). In April of 2008, he again assaulted a fellow inmate while the inmate was lying on the top of a bunk bed, dragging the inmate off so that he hit his head on the ground. (BCC Records at 31). El then proceeded to beat his victim about the face. (BCC Records at 31). El's next assault came on August 25, 2008, when he attacked an inmate in the BCC kitchen, striking him in the face and eye. (BCC Records at 26, 36).

In September of 2008, El again attacked a BCC inmate, stabbing the victim in the face with a pen before the evening lockdown of the facility. The victim was not found by BCC staff until the following morning. (BCC Records at 50).

Based on BCC's official policies and procedures, signed by Warden Cox, El should have been housed in a medium or maximum security facility, not the minimum security wing with Plaintiff at BCC. (BCC Records at 68, 70). El was also actually classified as a maximum or medium security inmate by corrections staff, based on his history of violence. (BCC Records at 66, 67). On two occasions, corrections staff predicted that El would attack other inmates in the future. (BCC Records at 37, 56). Moreover, Warden Cox had personal knowledge of, at a minimum, El's assaults in April and August of 2008. [Docket No. 29-2, Exhibit H, Deposition of Warden Cox ("Cox Dep.") at 25:15-24, 26:1-26, and 27:11-14];(BCC Records at 40). Barnwell also had personal knowledge of El's record. (Docket No. 29-2, Exhibit E, Deposition of Lt. Carlos Barnwell ("Barnwell Dep.") at 10:6-10]. After the attack occurred, Plaintiff says Barnwell told him that El was known for violence. (Shaw Dec. ¶ 8). Plaintiff also says he heard Barnwell make jokes about El's propensity for violence. [Docket No. 30-3, Exhibit E, Deposition of Ernest Shaw ("Shaw Dep.") at 25:17-21; Shaw Dec. ¶ 8].

Despite corrections reports classifying El as a maximum security prisoner, and despite corrections staff predictions that El would attack other inmates, El was living in the minimum security wing when he attacked Plaintiff on December 9, 2009. El's attack was so forceful that his clothes were covered in blood, and when he was found by BCC staff, he promptly admitted to assaulting Plaintiff. [Docket No. 29-2, Exhibit A, Deposition of Officer Davis ("Davis Dep.") at 23:3-11].

2. BCC Staff's Response to Plaintiff's Injuries

Because no guards were present, Plaintiff needed to locate a guard following the beating. (Shaw Dep. at 37:4-14). BCC staff then took the badly bleeding Plaintiff to see the facility's nurse, who cleaned and bandaged his wounds. (Shaw Dep. at 39:13-22). Plaintiff at this point specifically asked to go to a hospital, and although the nurse believed his nose was broken, the nurse said it was up to Defendant Barnwell to decide if Plaintiff could be sent to the hospital. (Shaw Dep. at 40:17-20). Ultimately, Plaintiff's request to go to a hospital was denied. (Shaw Dep. at 40:21-22).[1]

Instead, Defendants placed El in administrative segregation. (Shaw Dep. at 39:3-9). Defendants did so based on El's allegation that Plaintiff had also been fighting. (BCC Records at 143). Plaintiff was placed in a cell "hurt and freezing, " because the window of the cell was broken, allowing the winter air into the room. (Shaw Dep. at 46:5-10). Badly injured, Plaintiff claims that he asked all of the Individual Defendants to send him to a doctor, but that those requests were denied.[2] (Shaw Dec. ¶ 5 (referring to Davis as "Corrections Officer Davis"); (Shaw Dec. ¶ 17) ("On December 29, 2009, I... requested that the corrections officer take me to a dentist for evaluation of the broken teeth and for proper pain medication and treatment of this injury, but the Corrections Officers, Lt. Barnwell, and the Warden ignored my request without telling me why I could not be taken to a hospital or dentist to be seen."); (Id. ¶ 19) ("I continuously asked the corrections officers, Lt. Barnwell, and sent written requests and complaints to Warden Cox about been [sic] in serious pain and the need to be taken to a hospital emergency room for proper examination and treatment of these injuries, but Defendants ignored my requests and complaints."); (Shaw Dep. at 41:8-17) (Q: Did you ever ask the nurse of any of the officers to go to the hospital? A: I asked every one of them. As a matter of fact, I was talking to Sergeant Nunn and he was saying that [Barnwell] wouldn't allow me to go to the hospital[.]").

According to Nurse Maurice Diogo, prison procedure is that corrections officers transmit medical requests on behalf of inmates, and that without the corrections officers passing along medical requests, the nurses would not know if prisoners need medical attention. [Docket No. 29-2, Exhibit C, Deposition of Nurse Maurice Diogo ("Diogo Dep") at 52:1-4]. Plaintiff was released from administrative segregation on December 13, 2009. (Shaw Dep. at 41:22). Plaintiff saw a nurse again on at least one occasion after December 9, 2009, but never saw a doctor for his injuries while incarcerated.

Following Plaintiff's release, in January 2010, Plaintiff was still in pain and sought treatment at the emergency room at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia. (Shaw Dep. at 62:7); [Docket No. 29-5, Medical Records of Ernest Shaw ("Medical Records") at 12]. X-rays of Plaintiff's head "revealed fractures of the nasal bone" and "[d]ental fractures[.]" (Medical Records at 12). As a result of his injuries, Plaintiff continues to suffer from headaches, visual disturbances, nasal pain, and dental ...


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