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Media Alerts - Norman Shelton v. Bryan A. Bledsoe, et al. - Third Circuit
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January 27, 2015
  Norman Shelton v. Bryan A. Bledsoe, et al. - Third Circuit
Headline: Third Circuit Holds Ascertainability is Not a Prerequisite for Rule 23(b)(2) Class Actions.

Area of Law: Class Action, Summary Judgment

Issues Presented: Whether ascertainability is a requirement for certification of a Rule 23(b)(2) class that seeks only injunctive and declaratory relief?
Brief Summary: Prisoner brought a class action for those housed in a special unit of the prison. The Third Circuit held that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) does not require ascertainability of the class. Further, an informal request for discovery in response to a motion for summary judgment is sufficient to amount to a response to that motion. Finally, the prisoner did not exhaust his Federal Tort Claims Act claim and thus the district court properly dismissed this count.

Extended Summary: Prisoner Shelton filed this class action for himself and other inmates that have been house in a Special Management Unit, "SMU." The SMU is for prisoners who are especially violent or who have a history of gang involvement while in prison. Prisoners in the SMU are housed with another inmate and are in their cells for 23 hours a day. An interview is conducted before going into the SMU to ensure inmates are not housed with those that could be hostile toward each other.

Shelton claimed that the defendants had a pattern, practice, or policy of housing inmates that are hostile toward each other in the same cell and that they do not intervene when the inevitable violence between inmates interrupts. Shelton advanced Eighth Amendment and Federal Tort Claims Act claims regarding an incident where he was housed in the SMU with an inmate, Carr, that he asserts told officers that he would attack Shelton if they were housed together. They were placed together in the SMU. The day after they were put together Carr attacked Shelton and the guards did not intervene.

Shelton sought compensatory relief only for himself and sought injunctive and declaratory relief for the rest of the class. The Third Circuit determined whether such a class must be ascertainable as a prerequisite to Rule 23(b)(2). The Court found that the nature of 23(b)(2) actions are more focused on the remedy sought than the identities of the individual class members. The Third Circuit thus held as a matter of first impression that ascertainability was not necessary for 23(b)(2) actions.
Second, the Court discussed the proposed class definition. The Third Circuit found that the district court erred by narrowing the definition of the proposed class and remanded it for a determination of whether the putative class meets the remaining Rule 23 requirements for class certification.

Third, the Court addressed whether more discovery was needed to decide a motion for summary judgment. The Third Circuit held that a formal motion was not required to request discovery under Rule 56. The Court found that the district court abused its discretion when it granted summary judgment without considering the declaration that Shelton filed seeking further discovery.

Finally, the Court held that regardless of the discovery, Shelton could not establish a claim for negligence because he did not exhaust his administrative remedies under the FTCA. Thus, the Court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the FTCA claims.
To read the full opinion, please visit

Panel (if known): McKee, Chief Judge, Smith and Sloviter, Circuit Judges

Argument Date: September 11, 2013

Date of Issued Opinion: January 7, 2015

Docket Number: No. 12-4226

Decided: Reversed in part, Affirmed in part.

Case Alert Author: Antoinette Snodgrass

Counsel: Stephen D. Brown, Esq., Christine C. Levin, Esq., Jennifer L. Burdick, Esq., Francis J. Demody, Esq., and Sean P. McConnell, Esq., for Appellant. Michael J. Butler, Esq., for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Chief Judge McKee

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 01/27/2015 11:30 AM     3rd Circuit  

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