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Gosnell v. Monroe County

March 7, 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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This civil rights action is before the Court on the plaintiffs' Motion for Reconsideration and Leave to File Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 27]. The plaintiffs request that the Court allow the plaintiffs to late file their attached response to the defendants' previously granted motion for summary judgment and for the Court to then reconsider the merits of defendants' motion. The defendants oppose plaintiffs' motion. [See Docs. 32, 33].

The Court has carefully considered the pending motion along with the plaintiffs' proposed response to the defendants' previously granted motion for summary judgment, as well as all other filings related to the previously granted motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, the plaintiffs' motion [Doc. 27] will be GRANTED in part, to the extent that the Court has considered the plaintiffs' response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment as if the response had been timely filed. However, the motion [Doc. 27] will be DENIED in part to the extent that, after reviewing the record in light of the plaintiffs' response [Docs. 28, 31] and the defendants' reply [Doc. 33], the Court finds that summary judgment in favor of the defendants is still appropriate.

I. Procedural Posture

Before discussing the points raised by the plaintiffs in their response, the Court will briefly summarize the procedural history relating to the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The defendants filed their motion for summary judgment [Doc. 17] on August 2, 2006. On August 15, 2006, the plaintiffs requested an extension of time to respond to the motion for summary judgment. [Doc. 20]. The Court granted the plaintiffs' request, giving them until September 14, 2006, to file a response. [Doc. 21]. On September 13, 2006, the plaintiffs filed a motion to continue the trial. [Doc. 23]. The plaintiffs' motion to continue was granted, and the trial was continued to April 17, 2007. [Doc. 24]. On January 23, 2007, the Court, still having received no response to the motion for summary judgment, nor a request for an extension of time from the plaintiffs, ruled on the pending motion for summary judgment, granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and dismissed the case. [Docs. 25, 26]. On January 24, 2007, the plaintiffs filed the instant motion to reconsider. [Doc. 27]. On January 31, 2007, the plaintiffs filed their response to the previously granted motion for summary judgment. [Docs. 28, 31]. On February 23, 2007, the defendants filed their opposition to the motion to reconsider and their reply to the plaintiffs' response to the motion for summary judgment. [Docs. 32, 33]. On February 28, 2007, plaintiffs filed their reply to the defendants' response to their motion to reconsider, objecting because the defendants response was untimely. [Doc. 34]. The matter is now ripe for adjudication.

II. Analysis

Initially, the Court will address the late filings on the part of both parties. The Court notes that the plaintiffs have late filed a response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment [Docs. 28, 31] and the defendants have late filed a response to the plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration. [Docs. 32, 33]. The Court has given due consideration to each of these late filed documents, and, in the interests of justice, the Court ORDERS that each of these documents be treated as if timely filed. Additionally, in the interests of justice, the Court will GRANT in part the plaintiffs' motion to reconsider to the extent that the Court has considered the plaintiffs' late filed response to the motion for summary judgment.

In addressing the plaintiffs' motion to reconsider, the Court will address the points raised by the plaintiffs in their response to the motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the Court also relies on the reasoning expressed in the Court's previous opinion granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants. [Docs. 25, 26].

The plaintiffs raise several arguments as to why summary judgment should not be granted. However, there is one threshold issue which the plaintiffs must establish before any of their other arguments need be considered. In order to succeed in their § 1983 claim, the plaintiffs must first show that Mr. Gosnell has suffered a violation of a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001); McKinley v. City of Mansfield, 404 F.3d 418, 429 (6th Cir. 2005). Even viewing the facts and drawing all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party as required, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), the plaintiffs have not shown a constitutional violation. The plaintiffs raise three separate issues which they allege rise to the level of a constitutional violation: (1) overcrowding of the Monroe County Jail ("MCJ"); (2) failure to protect Mr. Gosnell from other inmates of the MCJ; (3) failure to provide adequate medical care to Mr. Gosnell. The Court will address each of these issues in turn.

A. Overcrowding of the MCJ

Overcrowding in a prison setting is not itself a violation of the constitution. See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347-48 (1981); see also Owens v. Campbell, 198 F.3d 246 (6th Cir. 1999). While overcrowded conditions can be restrictive and even harsh, they do not violate the Eighth Amendment unless they deprive the inmate of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. See Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348; Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987). To allege a constitutional violation, the plaintiff must allege and present evidence that he was denied basic human needs such as food, warmth, or sanitation, or was otherwise subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by virtue of the alleged overcrowded conditions to justify relief. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298,(1991); Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348. Moreover, "[n]ot every unpleasant experience a prisoner might endure while incarcerated constitutes cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment." Ivey, 832 F.2d at 954.

The record shows that Mr. Gosnell spent at least one night in the MCJ on the floor because there were not enough beds. [Doc. 30, Attachment 9 at p. 4]. The record also shows that there were twenty-nine prisoners, including Mr. Gosnell, being housed in a cell block intended for twenty-four prisoners. [Doc. 30, Attachment 8 at p. 2]. Additionally, the MCJ was designed to house sixty-four inmates, but was actually housing eighty-five at the time in question. [Id.]. Additionally, after his injuries, Mr. Gosnell was placed in a small holding cell which had no bathroom facilities for approximately seven to eight hours, apparently because there was nowhere else he could be placed at the time. [Doc. 30, Attachment 7 at p. 12].

Based upon the evidence of record, the Court finds that the overcrowded conditions of the MCJ did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation. The plaintiffs have not set forth evidence showing that Mr. Gosnell was denied food or warmth. Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298; Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348. The evidence does show that the plaintiff was placed in a cell without restroom facilities for several hours, but, given the limited duration, the Court does not find that this denial of access to restroom facilities rose to the level of a constitutional violation.*fn1 See Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686-87 (1978) ("The length of confinement cannot be ignored in deciding whether the confinement meets constitutional standards. A filthy, overcrowded cell . . . might be tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for weeks or months.").

Additionally, the plaintiffs did not include a claim based upon the overcrowded conditions of the MCJ in their complaint, and accordingly, the defendants did not have fair notice that the issue of overcrowding would form one of the bases of the plaintiffs' ยง 1983 action. See Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 858 (6th Cir. 1976) (holding that a complaint in a civil rights action must give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests). Accordingly, the Court does not find that the overcrowded conditions ...


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