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Gosnell v. Monroe County

January 23, 2007

DENNIS GOSNELL AND DIANA GOSNELL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
MONROE COUNTY, DOUG WATSON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, AND JOE MCDOWELL, IN BOTH HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge

VARLAN/GUYTON

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil rights action is before the Court on the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 17]. The plaintiffs have not responded to the defendants' motion and the time for doing so has passed. See L.R. 7.1(a), 7.2.

The Court has carefully considered the pending motion along with the defendants' supporting brief, affidavits, and the relevant pleadings. For the reasons set forth herein, the defendants' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 17] will be GRANTED.

I. Relevant Facts

As the Court is required to do in reviewing a motion for summary judgment, all facts will be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

The plaintiffs' complaint [Doc. 1] alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as negligence under Tennessee law, for events which occurred while the plaintiff was housed in the Monroe County Jail ("MCJ") in 2004. The plaintiff's wife, Diana Gosnell ("Mrs. Gosnell") further alleges loss of consortium. [Id. at ¶ 32]. On April 27, 2004, plaintiff Dennis Gosnell ("Mr. Gosnell") was sentenced to ten days imprisonment for a DUI offense. [Id. at ¶2]. Mr. Gosnell began serving his sentence in the MCJ on May 7, 2004. [Doc. 17, Ex. 1 at p. 5]. Mr. Gosnell spent the night of May 7 sleeping on the floor of a hallway in the MCJ, but was subsequently moved to a bunk in cell block six. [Id. at pp. 7-8]. On the night of May 14, 2004, Mr. Gosnell was occupying the top bed of a double bunk-bed, with another inmate, Charles "Dino" Mason ["Mason"], occupying the bottom bunk. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 5; Doc. 17, Ex. 1 at p. 9]. Mason soon began kicking Mr. Gosnell's bunk from underneath and also attempted to set Mr. Gosnell's sheets on fire. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 6-7; Doc. 17, Ex. 1 at p. 9]. Mr. Gosnell, still laying in the top bunk, then swung his laundry bag at Mason in an attempt to stop Mason's kicking. [Doc. 17, Ex. 1 at p. 9]. Mason then pulled Mr. Gosnell from the top bunk onto the floor and began beating and kicking Mr. Gosnell in the head and stomach. [Id. at p. 9]. At some point Officers Beckman, Sparks, and Green intervened and Mr. Gosnell was placed in a different cell. [Doc. 17, Ex. 2 at p. 3]. As a result of the altercation, Mr. Gosnell sustained a small cut to his lower lip and scratches and bruising to his arms. [Id. at p. 5]. Mr. Gosnell was released from the MCJ on May 16, 2004, at which point Mr. Gosnell went to the Blount Memorial Hospital Emergency Room, where he was diagnosed with bruises, a concussion, and misplaced teeth.*fn1 [Doc. 18 at p. 4].

II. Standard of Review

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden of establishing there is no genuine issue of material fact lies upon the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986). The court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the non-moving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The judge's function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question, and not to weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of the matter. Id. at 249. Thus, "[t]he inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for trial -- whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Id. at 250.

It should be noted that the plaintiffs have failed to respond to the defendants' motion for summary judgment and the time for doing so has passed. See L.R. 7.1(a), 7.2. Therefore, the record before the Court consists of the plaintiff's complaint [Doc. 1], the affidavit of Joe McDowell [Doc. 22, Attach. 2], and excerpts from the depositions of Mr. Gosnell [Doc. 17, Ex. 1] and Monroe County Sheriff's Department Sergeant Olwin Norman [Doc. 17, Ex. 2]. The plaintiffs' complaint, even if accepted as true for purposes of summary judgment, consists of allegations which are not acceptable proof under Rule 56. Mere notice pleading is not sufficient to defeat a well-pled summary judgment motion. See Garth v. University of Kentucky Medical Center, No. 92-5177, 1992 U.S. App. LEXIS 14677, at *3-4 (6th Cir. June 16, 1992) ("To survive a motion for summary judgment, [the plaintiff] was required to do more than rest on her pleadings; she was required to demonstrate that a genuine issue for trial existed."); Teamsters Local Union No. 486 v. Andersen Sand and Gravel Co., No. 82-1124, 1983 U.S. App. LEXIS 13044, at *6 (6th Cir. May 11, 1983) ("Where the district court has afforded a party opposing summary judgment under Rule 56 an opportunity to set forth specific facts showing there is a genuinely disputed factual issue for trial and that opportunity has been ignored, summary judgment is appropriate if the movant has carried his burden of proof."). However, while the plaintiffs have not responded to the motion for summary judgment, the Court will still analyze the record to determine if any genuine issues of material fact exist in this matter.

III. Analysis

The plaintiffs contend that the defendants, through their deliberate indifference, violated Mr. Gosnell's constitutional rights by failing to protect Mr. Gosnell from Mason and by failing to provide Mr. Gosnell with prompt medical attention. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants' actions were in violation of Mr. Gosnell's due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Because Mr. Gosnell was incarcerated at the time of the events in question, Mr. Gosnell's Eight and Fourteenth Amendment rights are actually at issue,*fn2 and the Court will proceed as if the plaintiffs had invoked the proper constitutional basis for their § 1983 claim. The plaintiffs further contend that the defendants are liable for negligence under state law for their negligent training and supervision of the officers involved in the care and custody of Mr. Gosnell while at the MCJ. Mrs. Gosnell also alleges that the defendants are liable for her loss of consortium.

The defendants seek judgment in their favor on multiple grounds, including that: (1) the plaintiffs cannot prove that the defendants had actual knowledge that Mason posed a threat to Mr. Gosnell, nor that they exhibited deliberate indifference to that danger; (2) the plaintiffs cannot produce facts sufficient to show that defendant Joe McDowell ("McDowell") is subject to supervisory liability under ยง 1983; (3) Mrs. Gosnell cannot state a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect to her loss of consortium claim; (4) even if the defendants did violate Mr. Gosnell's civil rights, the plaintiffs cannot prove that the defendants were on notice that their actions were in violation of Mr. Gosnell's clearly established civil rights; (5) defendants Monroe County and Doug Watson ("Watson") are entitled to summary judgment because no policy or ...


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