Case: Busbee v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

1:20-cv-02401 | U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Filed Date: Dec. 22, 2020

Case Ongoing

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This wrongful death suit arose when correctional officers pepper sprayed an incarcerated person who suffered from chronic asthma. After the officers pepper sprayed him, the decedent suffered from an asthma attack and eventually passed away from asphyxiation. On December 22, 2020, the decedent’s mother filed this lawsuit on behalf of his estate in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections—as well as, in their in…

This wrongful death suit arose when correctional officers pepper sprayed an incarcerated person who suffered from chronic asthma. After the officers pepper sprayed him, the decedent suffered from an asthma attack and eventually passed away from asphyxiation. On December 22, 2020, the decedent’s mother filed this lawsuit on behalf of his estate in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections—as well as, in their individual capacities, the prison superintendent, the prison deputy superintendent, and correctional officers and medical personnel—under §1983, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Pennsylvania state law concerning medical neglect, wrongful death, and survival action. Represented by the Abolitionist Law Center, the plaintiff sought monetary damages. She claimed that the defendants violated her son’s Eighth Amendment rights by subjecting him to prolonged and excessive pepper spray exposure, failing to provide appropriate and timely medical care, and leaving him in solitary confinement despite his obvious medical distress.

The plaintiff filed the complaint on December 22, 2020. The case was initially assigned to Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab, but the case was reassigned to Judge Christopher C. Conner and referred to Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on March 24, 2021.

On February 12, 2021, Judge Schwab granted the parties’ joint motion to stay proceedings while they engaged in settlement negotiations.

Settlement negotiations lasted until September 7, 2021, when the plaintiff filed a motion for settlement. Under the terms of the agreement, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections agreed to pay $8.5 million in the form of one check made payable to the plaintiff’s counsel. The plaintiff’s counsel requested $2.83 million for attorneys’ fees and $2,243.39 for travel, record collection, and court fees. The plaintiff requested the remaining $5.66 million be divided equally between the wrongful death beneficiaries’ claims and the estate’s survival claims.

In addition to the monetary damages, the defendants agreed to implement system-wide training and protocol modifications addressing the numerous breakdowns in care that led to the death. First, the defendants agreed to provide mandatory new-hire and annual training for all corrections and medical staff regarding the increased risk pepper spray may pose to incarcerated persons with asthma or other respiratory disease. Second, the defendants agreed to clarify mandatory procedures for providing post-pepper spray care to incarcerated persons with asthma or other respiratory disease, including examining their medical chart, obtaining a pulse ox reading, contacting the on-call medical provider, and receiving the medical provider’s professional opinion about whether the patient can be cleared. The defendant’s counsel agreed to provide a status report to the plaintiff’s counsel four and eight months from the date of the agreement and to provide written verification once the modifications were completely implemented.

On October 18, 2021, Judge Conner granted the plaintiff’s motion for settlement and dismissed the case.

Summary Authors

Laura Irei (11/22/2021)

People

For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/34055785/parties/busbee-v-pennsylvania-department-of-corrections/


Judge(s)

Conner, Christopher C. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Cozzens, Quinn (Pennsylvania)

DeFelice, Chase M. (Pennsylvania)

Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania)

Grote, Bret D. (Pennsylvania)

Hoke, Kelly J (Pennsylvania)

Morgan, Jamelia N. (Pennsylvania)

Wikhian, Tara J (Pennsylvania)

Judge(s)

Conner, Christopher C. (Pennsylvania)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Cozzens, Quinn (Pennsylvania)

DeFelice, Chase M. (Pennsylvania)

Feinberg, Jonathan H. (Pennsylvania)

Grote, Bret D. (Pennsylvania)

Hoke, Kelly J (Pennsylvania)

Morgan, Jamelia N. (Pennsylvania)

Wikhian, Tara J (Pennsylvania)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Docket [PACER]

Oct. 18, 2021 Docket
1

Complaint

Busbee v. Pennyslvania Department of Corrections

Dec. 22, 2020 Complaint
21

Plaintiff's Petition to Settle Wrongful Death and Survival Action

Sept. 7, 2021 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Docket

See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/34055785/busbee-v-pennsylvania-department-of-corrections/

Last updated May 12, 2022, 8 p.m.

ECF Number Description Date Link
1

COMPLAINT against All Defendants ( Filing fee $402, Receipt Number 5398468), filed by Shaleda Busbee. (Attachment: # 1 Civil Cover Sheet)(lg) (Entered: 12/22/2020)

1 Civil Cover Sheet

View on PACER

Dec. 22, 2020 RECAP
2

Summons Issued as to All Defendants and provided TO ATTORNEY ELECTRONICALLY VIA ECF for service on Defendant(s)in the manner prescribed by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (NOTICE TO ATTORNEYS RECEIVING THE SUMMONS ELECTRONICALLY: You must print the summons and the attachment when you receive it in your e-mail and serve them with the complaint on all defendants in the manner prescribed by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure). (Attachments: # 1 Summons Packet) (lg) (Entered: 12/22/2020)

Dec. 22, 2020 PACER
3

NOTICE of Appearance by Chase M. DeFelice on behalf of Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler. (DeFelice, Chase) (Entered: 12/26/2020)

Dec. 26, 2020 PACER
4

DEMAND for Trial by Jury by Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler. (DeFelice, Chase) (Entered: 12/26/2020)

Dec. 26, 2020 PACER
5

WAIVER OF SERVICE Returned by Charles Stetler, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Theresa Delbalso. Charles Stetler waiver sent on 12/22/2020, answer due 2/22/2021; Pennsylvania Department of Corrections waiver sent on 12/22/2020, answer due 2/22/2021; Theresa Delbalso waiver sent on 12/22/2020, answer due 2/22/2021. (DeFelice, Chase) (Entered: 12/26/2020)

Dec. 26, 2020 PACER
6

NOTICE of Appearance by Kelly J Hoke on behalf of Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler (Hoke, Kelly) (Entered: 12/31/2020)

Dec. 31, 2020 PACER
7

NOTICE of Appearance by Tara J Wikhian on behalf of Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler (Wikhian, Tara) (Entered: 12/31/2020)

Dec. 31, 2020 PACER
8

MOTION to Stay by Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Hoke, Kelly) (Entered: 02/12/2021)

Feb. 12, 2021 PACER
9

ORDER granting joint motion 8 to stay proceedings & directing parties to update the court via joint status report by 3/22/21 w/ parties to contact the court if they wish the court's assistance in appt'ng a mediator or settlement officer. (See order for complete details.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 2/12/21. (ki) (Entered: 02/12/2021)

Feb. 12, 2021 PACER
10

STATUS REPORT by Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler. (Hoke, Kelly) (Entered: 03/18/2021)

March 18, 2021 PACER
11

ORDER re: status report 10, granting request to continue the stay & directing cnsl to file another joint status report by 4/19/2021. (See order for complete details.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 3/18/21. (ki) (Entered: 03/18/2021)

March 18, 2021 PACER
12

CONSENT FORM SENT (For Direct Assignment Cases to Magistrate Judges) to Shaleda Busbee, Theresa Delbalso, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Charles Stetler YOU MUST SAVE THIS FORM TO YOUR DESKTOP. THEN OPEN THE SAVED FORM AND COMPLETE THE REQUIRED SECTIONS. DO NOT FILE THIS FORM IN THE CLERKS OFFICE. THE FORM MUST BE E-MAILED TO consents@pamd.uscourts.gov OR IF YOU ARE NOT AN ECF REGISTERED USER, THEN MAIL THE FORM TO Clerks Administrative Assistant, Clerks Office, P.O. Box 1148, Scranton, PA 18501-1148. Consent Form due by 4/19/2021 (ki) (Entered: 03/19/2021)

March 19, 2021 PACER

VERBAL ORDER REASSIGNING CASE - Case reassigned to Honorable Christopher C. Conner and referred to Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab as one or more parties have not consented to the jurisdiction of a U.S. Magistrate Judge. (jkc)

March 24, 2021 PACER
13

STATUS REPORT Joint by Shaleda Busbee. (Grote, Bret) (Entered: 04/16/2021)

April 16, 2021 PACER
14

ORDER re: joint status report 13 granting parties' request to continue stay & directing parties to file joint status report by 6/1/2021. (See order for complete details.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 4/20/21. (ki) (Entered: 04/20/2021)

April 20, 2021 PACER
15

STATUS REPORT by Shaleda Busbee. (Grote, Bret) (Entered: 05/28/2021)

May 28, 2021 PACER
16

ORDER directing parties to continue their settlement negotiations & file a joint status report on 7/1/2021. (See order for complete details.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 6/1/21. (ki) (Entered: 06/01/2021)

June 1, 2021 PACER
17

STATUS REPORT by Shaleda Busbee. (Grote, Bret) (Entered: 07/01/2021)

July 1, 2021 PACER
18

ORDER directing parties to cont settlement negotiations & file jt status rpt by 9/1/2021 & deeming all communications btwn parties from now until submission of jt status rpt settlement discussions. (See order for complete details.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 7/1/21. (ki) (Entered: 07/01/2021)

July 1, 2021 RECAP
19

STATUS REPORT by Shaleda Busbee. (Feinberg, Jonathan) (Entered: 09/01/2021)

Sept. 1, 2021 PACER
20

ORDER re: status report 19, granting request to continue stay & directing cnsl to file another joint status report by 9/15/2021. (See order for complete details.) Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 9/7/21. (ki) (Entered: 09/07/2021)

Sept. 7, 2021 PACER
21

MOTION for Settlement of Wrongful Death and Survival Action by Shaleda Busbee. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Order)(Feinberg, Jonathan) (Entered: 09/07/2021)

Sept. 7, 2021 PACER

State / Territory: Pennsylvania

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: Dec. 22, 2020

Case Ongoing: Yes

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

The plaintiff brought the suit as the mother of the decedent and administrator of his estate.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (Cumberland), State

Defendant Type(s):

Corrections

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.

State law

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Trial Court Docket

Complaint (any)

Monetary Relief

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Attorneys fees

Damages

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Amount Defendant Pays: 8.5 million

Content of Injunction:

Training

Issues

General:

Assault/abuse by staff

Excessive force

Failure to discipline

Failure to supervise

Failure to train

Pepper/OC spray

Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)

Discrimination-basis:

Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)

Medical/Mental Health:

Medical care, general

Type of Facility:

Government-run