899 F.Supp. 782 (D.Mass. 1995), Civ. A. 94-10133, Masonoff v. DuBois

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 94-10133
Citation:899 F.Supp. 782
Party Name:Masonoff v. DuBois
Case Date:September 11, 1995
Court:United States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Massachusetts

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899 F.Supp. 782 (D.Mass. 1995)

Christopher MASONOFF, Sr., Robert Foster, and Anthony Smith, Plaintiffs,


Larry DuBOIS, Lynn Bissonnette, and Richard G.J. Grelotti, Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 94-10133-RCL.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.

Sept. 11, 1995

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Christopher Masonoff, Sr., Norfolk, MA, pro se.

Herbert E. Zimmerman, Wayland, MA, for plaintiff.

Robert Foster, Bridgewater, MA, pro se.

Anthony Smith, Shirley, MA, pro se.

Michael C. Donahue, Gelerman & Cashman, Dedham, MA, for Larry DuBois, Lynne Bissonette and Richard G.J. Grelotti.


LINDSAY, District Judge.

This class action challenges certain conditions of confinement at the Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC"), located in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Specifically, the plaintiffs, present and past inmates at SECC, claim that unsanitary toilet facilities, a fire hazard, contaminated drinking water and exposed asbestos exist at SECC, and that the existence of these conditions violates their right under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The plaintiffs seek permanent injunctive relief and damages. The defendants are Larry DuBois, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Corrections, Lynn Bissonnette, Superintendent of SECC, and Richard Grelotti, the former administrator of the Bridgewater Complex of which SECC is a part.

In an earlier order, this court certified a plaintiff class, consisting of all inmates confined at SECC at any time during the period from January 1, 1977 to the present. The court also bifurcated the action, so that only the claims for injunctive relief are addressed in this first phase.

Now before the court is the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The court grants the motion, in part, as to certain Eighth Amendment claims and denies the motion as to other claims, as explained below.

I. Standard

"Summary judgment is appropriate when 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.' " Medina-Munoz v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 896 F.2d 5, 7-8 (1st Cir. 1990), quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "Not every factual controversy bars a litigant's access to the Rule 56 anodyne: '[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.' " Medina-Munoz, 896 F.2d at 8, quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509-10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in the original). "A 'genuine' issue is one that must be decided at trial because the evidence, viewed in the light most flattering to

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the nonmovant, ... would permit a rational factfinder to resolve the issue in favor of either party." Medina-Munoz, 896 F.2d at 8 (citations omitted). The First Circuit has "interpreted Rule 56 to mean that '[t]he evidence illustrating the factual controversy cannot be conjectural or problematic; it must have substance in the sense that it limns differing versions of the truth which a factfinder must resolve.' " Medina-Munoz, 896 F.2d at 8, quoting Mack v. Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., 871 F.2d 179, 181 (1st Cir. 1989). "Even in cases where elusive concepts such as motive or intent are at issue, summary judgment may be appropriate if the non-moving party rests merely upon conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation." Medina-Munoz, 896 F.2d at 8. Furthermore, "[i]t is well established that 'a mere challenge to the credibility of a movant's witnesses without any supporting evidence' does not raise a trial worthy issue of fact." Favorito v. Pannell, 27 F.3d 716, 721 (1st Cir. 1994), quoting Moreau v. Local Union No. 247, 851 F.2d 516, 519 (1st Cir. 1988).

II. Facts and Law

The court will begin by addressing the defendants' principal argument in opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, namely, that a prior state court judgment bars this action. The court will then present the facts which are explicitly undisputed. The court will next set forth the standard governing an Eighth Amendment claim generally. Next, as to each allegedly unconstitutional condition, the court will present the law, each side's submission on that issue, and this court's conclusions.

A. Effect of State Court Judgment

The defendants argue that the judgment of the Massachusetts Superior Court (Plymouth County, Hely, J.) in Langton v. Fair should have preclusive effect in this case, under the doctrines of both claim and issue preclusion. This court rejects the defendants' argument.

The state actions in Langton v. Fair were five consolidated cases filed by inmates who were not parties to this federal suit and were not parties to the several federal suits which preceded this action. 1 The consolidated cases were tried in the Superior Court in March of 1991. The issues raised by the plaintiffs in this federal action regarding sanitation facilities, water quality, fire safety, pest infestation, and asbestos exposure were fully litigated in the consolidated action, and judgment entered for the defendant Commissioner of Correction and other state officials.

Because the judgment which the defendants believe to be a bar to the present suit was rendered by a Massachusetts state court, this court must look to Massachusetts law to determine the preclusive effect of that judgment. Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Ed., 465 U.S. 75, 81, 104 S.Ct. 892, 896, 79 L.Ed.2d 56 (1984); Hermes Automation Technology, Inc. v. Hyundai Elec. Indus., 915 F.2d 739, 750 (1st Cir. 1990).

Under Massachusetts law, claim preclusion "generally applies only to actions between parties to the prior litigation, or between a party to the prior litigation and a person whose interests were represented by a party to the prior litigation." Hermes, 915 F.2d at 750, citing Mongeau v. Boutelle, 10 MassachusettsApp.Ct. 246, 249-50, 407 N.E.2d 352 (1980). It is undisputed that the named plaintiffs here were not the plaintiffs in the state court actions, and that the state court plaintiffs did not purport to represent anyone other than themselves. Therefore, claim preclusion does not apply. 2

Nor does issue preclusion apply. The situation here fits neither the paradigm of nonmutual defensive issue preclusion,

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where "a defendant seeks to prevent a plaintiff from asserting a claim the plaintiff has previously litigated and lost against another defendant," Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322, 326 n. 4, 99 S.Ct. 645, 649 n. 4, 58 L.Ed.2d 552 (1979), nor the paradigm of nonmutual offensive issue preclusion, where "the plaintiff seeks to foreclose the defendant from litigating an issue the defendant has previously litigated unsuccessfully in an action with another party." Id. 3 Rather, in this case, defendants in a second case, who were also the defendants in the first case, are attempting to preclude individuals who were complete strangers to the first action from relitigating issues which the defendant won in the first action. "[S]o far Massachusetts has not permitted a defendant to bind a plaintiff by the defendant's previous victory in another case presenting the same issue." Lynch v. Merrell-National Labs., 830 F.2d 1190, 1192 (1st Cir. 1987). Furthermore, "[i]t is a violation of due process for a judgment to be binding on a litigant who was not a party or a privy and therefore has never had an opportunity to be heard." Parklane, 439 U.S. at 327 n. 7, 99 S.Ct. at 649 n. 7.

Accordingly, neither claim nor issue preclusion applies. The defendants' attempt to bar the plaintiffs from proceeding with this case on the basis of the state court judgment therefore fails.

B. Undisputed Facts.

The explicitly undisputed facts which follow are derived from the plaintiffs' amended complaint and the defendants' answer.

1. SECC in General

SECC is a medium-security prison located in Bridgewater, Massachusetts. The major buildings were erected at various times between the mid-1880's and the mid-1910's. SECC is part of a complex which includes the State Hospital, the Treatment Center for the Sexually Dangerous and the Old Colony Correctional Center.

2. The Toilets

Many of the inmates, including the inmates in the Central Housing and the East Housing units, are housed in cells without running water or flush toilets. Each cell in these units is equipped with a Sears "Pak-a-Potti" chemical toilet, a pitcher of water, and a hand washing basin. During approximately ten hours per day, the inmates' only toilets are the chemical toilets. At other times, the inmates have access to toilets in SECC's "shanty." 4

Each day, the inmates empty the contents of their chemical toilets into a "slop sink." There are six slop sinks in the Central Housing Unit and seven slop sinks in the East Housing Unit.

3. Locks on Cells; Sprinkler System

The locks on the cell doors in the Central and East Housing units are manually operated. There is no sprinkler system in these units.

C. General Eighth Amendment Standard.

This court discussed the Eighth Amendment standards governing prison conditions in its opinion dealing with access to SECC's shanty. Masonoff v. DuBois, 853 F.Supp. 26, 28-29 (D.Massachusetts1994):

'[T]he treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the...

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