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Censke v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 15, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Federal Bureau of Prisons officials in USP Terre Haute, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant the United States of America. Plaintiff Thomas Andrew Censke (“Censke”), a prisoner at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana (“USP Terre Haute”), filed this Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) action after correctional officers attacked him and his cellmate on or about December 16, 2013 and failed to provide adequate medical treatment. He seeks compensatory damages. The United States asserts that Censke's claim is barred by the statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), and seeks resolution through the entry of summary judgment. Censke has opposed the Motion and the United States has replied and supplemented its reply on August 8, and August 14, 2017, as requested by the Court. Censke filed a surreply on September 11, 2017. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the United States' Motion for Summary Judgment, dkt. [22], is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Censke as the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 133');">530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         On or about December 16, 2013, Censke was incarcerated at USP Terre Haute when two correctional officers entered his cell and attacked him and his cellmate. After first fighting them, the officer then deployed mace. A few minutes later, additional correctional officers, including a lieutenant, unlocked the cell door, entered and began to kick and punch Censke and his cellmate. Following the incident, Censke was placed in handcuffs and shackles for three days. He was given inadequate medical treatment for the injuries that he suffered. On October 12, 2016, Censke filed a Complaint seeking monetary compensation for his damages, under the FTCA.

         Censke was incarcerated at USP Terre Haute from July 25, 2013 until September 15, 2014, when he was transferred to USP Lee via brief stops at FTC Oklahoma and USP Atlanta. Dkt. [29-1]. He was confined at USP Lee from September 30, 2014 until October 6, 2015. He then was confined at USP Atlanta from October 6, 2015 until October 16, 2015, and at FTC Oklahoma from October 16, 2015 until November 19, 2015. He arrived at USP McCreary on November 9, 2015, and stayed there until February 5, 2016. Id.

         Censke signed and dated a SF-95 “Claim for Damage, Injury, or Death” form on December 7, 2015, and placed it in the outgoing mail, in the door of his cell, for an officer to pick up, in the USP McCreary Secured Housing Unit. Dkt. [28], 1');">p. 1; dkt. [22-4].[1" name="FN1" id= "FN1">1] The SF-95 alleges that Censke was assaulted in F2 Unit, USP Terre Haute, by Bureau of Prison staff, and held in restraints for three days. Dkt. [22-4]. Under “Date and Day of Accident, ” Censke wrote “12-16-14, ” id., although he alleges in his Complaint that the incident actually occurred on December 16, 2013. Dkt. [1]. Censke addressed the tort claim to the Central Office in Washington, D.C. Dkt. [28], 1');">p. 1. Prior to mailing the tort claim, he asked staff at USP McCreary for the address of the North Central Region but nobody would provide it. Id. at p. 2.

         The Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), more specifically the North Central Regional Office, received the tort claim from Censke on February 16, 2016. Dkt. [22-2]; dkt. [22-4]. The BOP denied Censke's Notice of Tort Claim on April 22, 2016, based on the lack of any personal injury. Dkt. [1-1], 1');">p. 1; dkt. [22-3]. In the denial of the tort claim, the BOP notified Censke of the applicable six month deadline to file suit. Id. Censke filed this action on October 12, 2016.


         The purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769');">127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007).


         The United States argues that this action is barred by the applicable two year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. § 2401(b), based on the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

         A. Legal Standard

         The United States, pursuant to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, may not be sued except by its consent, “and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.” United States v. Testan,424 U.S. 392, 399 (1976) (internal quotation omitted). The FTCA is a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, allowing, in relevant instance, federal inmates to “bring suit for injuries they sustain in custody as a consequence of the negligence of prison officials.” Buechel v. United States, ...

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