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Pronin v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

March 16, 2017



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Dmitry Pronin, an inmate of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), brings this action under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) against the United States of America. Pronin alleges that, on June 22, 2013, while he was confined at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana (“USP Terre Haute”), BOP staff negligently failed to protect him from an assault by another prisoner. The United States moves for summary judgment, arguing that Pronin's claims are barred by the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. See 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). The United States further argues that even if Pronin's claims were not barred by this exception, his negligence claim fails as a matter of law. Pronin has responded and the United States has replied. For the following reasons, the United States' motion for summary judgment [dkt 77] is denied.

         I. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001).

         II. Facts

         Based on the standard set forth above, the following statement of facts is presumed to be true for purposes of summary judgment.

         Pronin's Claims

         Pronin was confined at USP Terre Haute from May 22, 2013, to December 4, 2013. He alleges that on June 22, 2013, while he was confined in the F-2 Unit of the USP Terre Haute, he was assaulted by another inmate, Mark Cossette, while BOP officers were in their office drinking tea. He further asserts that Cossette had threatened him two days before the assault. Pronin alleges that he had informed BOP personnel Officer Gary Rogers and Case Manager Bradley Mitchell about the threat and requested to be transferred to another unit or another range on the F-2 Unit, but that he was not moved as he requested.

         BOP Procedure Regarding Reported Threats

         There is no mandatory policy, procedure, regulation, or other duty that must be followed in responding to reported threats by inmates. Rather, correctional staff may use their discretion and judgment in responding to reports of potential threats by inmates, considering such factors as safety and security concerns, the nature of the reported threat, and the specificity of the reported threat. If a case manager, correctional officer, or other correctional staff receives a report of a potential threat to an inmate, typically, the Operations Lieutenant is notified, the inmate is placed in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) and an investigation is initiated to determine the validity of the threat.

         At the same time, if an inmate believes that his safety is at risk, he may request protective custody or request to be placed in the SHU. Determinations regarding whether to place or keep inmates in the SHU for administrative detention or disciplinary purposes are within the discretion of the Warden. In evaluating potential safety or disciplinary measures, several factors are considered including, but not limited to, safety and security concerns, economic feasibility, staff allocation, security levels, classification of inmates, disruption of an inmate's participation in rehabilitation or other programs, and the inmate's ability to circulate and socialize within the prison.

         The Threat Against Pronin

         On June 20, 2013, inmate Cossette approached Pronin and told him that he knew that Pronin had previously been assaulted at another prison, but that it was okay because Pronin was a “no-good sex offender.” Pronin reported this statement to Rogers and to Mitchell.

         On that date, Rogers was a Correctional Officer assigned to the F-2 Unit at USP Terre Haute. If any inmate told Rogers that there was a potential threat against his safety or that he had been threatened by another inmate, Rogers would have called the Lieutenant's Office and informed one of the Lieutenants on duty of the potential threat. Rogers does not recall Pronin ever reporting to him that Pronin was threatened by another inmate or contacting the Lieutenant's Office to report such a threat.

         In June of 2013, Bradley Mitchell was a Case Manager in the F-2 Unit at USP Terre Haute. Although Mitchell remembers Pronin, he does not recall Pronin ever stating to him that there was a potential threat to his safety. As a Case Manager, if any inmate told Mitchell that there was a potential threat against his safety, Mitchell would have notified the Lieutenant's Office, informed the Lieutenant and, if needed, escorted the inmate to the Lieutenant's Office for interview and a possible protective custody investigation.

         The Assault on Pronin

         On Saturday, June 22, 2013, Pronin was housed in the F-2 Unit at USP Terre Haute. Senior Officer Chris Wilson was the assigned to the F-2 Unit. The F-2 Unit consists of two tiers of cells and a common area in the middle, where the inmates engage in recreational activities outside of their cells. On June 22, 2013, the F-2 Unit housed approximately 124 inmates. At that time, inmates in the F-2 Unit were released from their cells approximately 15 cells at once to participate in recreational activities within the unit.

         The F-2 Unit Officer's Station has a large glass window that looks out onto the common area. The glass window provides a full view of the common area, with minor obstructions from the stairs and pillars, and allows the F-2 officers to remain visible and provide direct supervision to the inmates, even if they are inside of the office. While the inmates are engaged in unit activities outside of their cells, either one of the officers ...

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