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Deal v. Polk County

May 8, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: R. Allan Edgar United States District Judge


Plaintiff Jonathan T. Deal brings this civil rights action against Defendants Polk County, Tennessee, Sheriff Bill Davis, Deputy Sheriff James T. Burris, Deputy Carl Browne, and Bob Copeland, jail administrator, (collectively "Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), 42 U.S.C. § 1985 ("Section 1985"), and 18 U.S.C. § 245. Plaintiff also raises various state law claims, including claims for assault, battery, and negligence. In addition to bringing claims against Defendants, Plaintiff states claims against former Polk County jail inmates, Jerry Quarles, Chris Lane, and Freddie Stratton.

Defendants Polk County, Sheriff Davis, Deputy Sheriff Burris, Deputy Browne, and Mr. Copeland move for summary judgment. [Court Doc. No. 31]. Plaintiff opposes the motion. [Court Doc. No. 40]. The Court has reviewed the record and the arguments made by the parties.

For the reasons expressed infra, the Court will GRANT Defendants' motion for summary judgment in its entirety with respect to Defendants Polk County, Sheriff Davis, and Mr. Copeland. The Court will GRANT Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's claims against Deputy Sheriff Burris and Deputy Carl Browne pursuant to Section 1985 and 18 U.S.C. § 245 and Plaintiff's state law claims. The Court will DENY Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's claims against Deputy Sheriff Burris and Deputy Carl Browne pursuant to Section 1983. The Court will DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's state law claims against all Defendants.

I. Background

The facts are difficult to discern in this action because the evidence in the record, such as medical records, providing support for the timing, nature, and extent of Plaintiff's alleged injuries is lacking. In addition, although the parties appear to agree that Plaintiff was injured to some extent by inmates while held at the Polk County jail, the parties vigorously dispute the events leading up to and following Plaintiff's injuries. Taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the facts are as follows.

A Polk County criminal complaint indicates that on May 31, 2003 Polk County police filled out a criminal complaint against Plaintiff for striking his aunt and beating her head on the floor until she lost consciousness. [Court Doc. No. 31-5]. The criminal complaint alleges that Plaintiff threatened to kill his aunt for "telling bad things on him to his girlfriend." Id. Deputy Sheriff Burris signed the affidavit of complaint. Id.

The parties dispute what happened after police obtained a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest for aggravated assault on June 4, 2003. In response to an interrogatory, Plaintiff describes the events following his arrest. [Court Doc. No. 40-2]. In his interrogatory response, signed under oath, Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of June 4th Sheriff Davis, Deputy Sheriff Burris, and another officer entered Plaintiff's home and arrested him. Deputy Sheriff Burris escorted Plaintiff to Sheriff Davis' patrol car in handcuffs, and Plaintiff alleges that on the way to the car, Burris said, "You just wait boy you're going to get your ass beat." Id.

Plaintiff further alleges that police placed him in the "drunk tank cell" for an unknown period of time that Plaintiff estimates was perhaps two to three hours. Id. Following this time period, police removed Plaintiff from this holding area and obtained fingerprints and a picture.

Defendant Browne then placed Plaintiff into a larger cell with approximately ten to twelve other inmates or pre-trial detainees. Following Plaintiff's attempt to use a phone that was in the cell, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Stratton told him, "Don't you know why you were sent back here? James Burris sent you back here to have your ass beat. Are you ready for round one?" Id. Plaintiff asserts that Stratton proceeded to beat him about his face and body and that Defendants Lane and Quarles joined in to the fray.

Plaintiff alleges that following the beating, Deputy Browne "stepped in grinning, asking [him] if everything was alright." Id. Plaintiff describes the events that followed in his interrogatory response:

My mouth was hanging open and I was bleeding pretty bad. I could hardly breathe or talk. I didn't say anything and Mr. Browne left. The other inmates asked if they called him back would I say I fell in the shower and I said, "yes." So they yelled for Mr. Browne and he came back there and took me out of the 10 man cell and put me back in the drunk tank. I begged him to help me. I had blood all over my orange uniform. I sat in the drunk tank for hours. I begged and begged for someone to help me. . . . Finally, after it seemed like hours Carl Browne came and got me and took me to the hospital. At the hospital, they ran me through the tunnel taking X-rays and all of that. They gave me a shot for pain and a prescription for pain medication. I was taken back to the jail that night without getting my prescription filled. My family came to the jail that night about midnight and got my prescription filled.

On Thursday morning June 5, I was taken to Dr. Hoop's office. I believe then [sic] back to the hospital where Dr. Hoops put me to sleep and wired my mouth shut. I was taken back to the jail where I stayed for the next few days without bond. My mother supplied all my medication and nutrition drinks because I had to eat through a straw for the next 3 months. Polk County supplied nothing that the doctor had said I needed. My mother supplied it all. [Court Doc. No. 40-2].

In addition to his interrogatory response, Plaintiff relies on an affidavit from Steve Murray, a former jailor at the Polk County Jail. [Court Doc. No. 40-3, Murray Affidavit]. Mr. Murray's affidavit appears to support many of Plaintiff's allegations. He alleges that as he was preparing to leave, "Carl Browne, deputy, came up bragging that James Burris had told him in front of all them to talk to those boys in the back and make sure that Jonathan Deal got a good (blank) kicking." Id. at ¶ 3. Deputy Browne allegedly informed Mr. Murray that he was just following Deputy Sheriff Burris' orders. Mr. Murray alleges:

When I came back in I saw them bringing Jonathan Deal up the hallway. He was busted up bad. Blood pouring down his face [sic]. They were going to put him in the drunk tank. I told Bob Copeland, the jail administrator this man's going to have to go [sic] the doctor or hospital. Bob Copeland asked what are you talking about and went and looked at Jonathan Deal. I followed Bob Copeland and he said, "He ain't going to the doctor or hospital. I was told by the Sheriff and Burris that no matter what happened to Deal back there he was absolutely positively not to go to the hospital." I said that's pretty (blank) up. Send a man back intentionally to get him beaten up and when he gets his jaw broke not even let him go to the doctor. Bob Copeland confirmed again that Jonathan Deal was not to go to the doctor. . . . The next day when I told the Sheriff during our conversation about what happened and when I told him that was said that his name was used by the jail administrator and that he was told by the Sheriff and James Burris he was not to be taken to the hospital no matter what happened, the Sheriff's response was, "Yes, I did tell him that, but I must have been misunderstood. What I meant was that if he tried to commit suicide or fake something to get out, in other words, if he tried to convince them he was crazy, or that he was going to kill his self just to get out of jail that he was not to go to the doctor for that. I didn't mean and hope no one would take it or interpret it that I wanted this man beat up and then refused medical care."

Id. at ¶¶ 8-12, 28.

In addition to his claims regarding his injuries, Plaintiff alleges an additional claim against Sheriff Davis for unlawfully excluding him from his home. Plaintiff alleges that after his mother helped him to post bond, Sheriff Davis prevented him from leaving the jail and that he had to wait two additional days before he obtained a hearing from Judge Baillils. [Court Doc. No. 40-2]. Plaintiff alleges that the judge informed him that "as a condition of [his] bond [he] was given 2 hours to board up [his] home, pack [his] clothes and leave the county." Id. He alleges he was banned from Polk County. Id.

The parties do not appear to dispute that several inmates and/or pre-trial detainees injured Plaintiff severely, requiring him to go to the hospital and incur medical expenses. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that the incident involving the three inmates resulted in both sides of his jaw being broken, along with other injuries. [Court Doc. No. 1, ¶ 22]. However, the parties dispute whether Defendants Burris and Browne ordered the inmates deliberately to injure Plaintiff. Sheriff Davis provides an affidavit indicating that he never authorized any inmate to injure Plaintiff and that Plaintiff was not denied medical care. [Court Doc. No. 31-2]. Defendants Burris and Browne also provide affidavits indicating that they never authorized any individuals to use force against Plaintiff. [Court Doc. Nos. 31-3, Burris Affidavit; 31-4, Browne Affidavit].

The Defendants also dispute whether Plaintiff received medical treatment promptly. Deputy Sheriff Burris asserts that Plaintiff received medical treatment within twenty minutes of his request for care. Burris Affidavit, ¶ 8. Deputy Browne indicates that although he heard a "commotion" involving Plaintiff at 12:15 p.m., he did not observe that Plaintiff had received "injuries that would warrant emergency medical care." Browne Affidavit, ¶¶ 7-8. He asserts that Plaintiff did not "request" medical care or treatment until 2:45 p.m. and that police transported him to the hospital emergency room at 3:05 p.m. Id. at ¶ 10. Deputy Browne further asserts that no employees at the Polk County jail denied Plaintiff any medical care, medicines, or food. Id. at ¶ 13.

Plaintiff brings claims pursuant to Section 1983, Section 1985, and 18 U.S.C. § 245 for the violation of various alleged rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, including the right to be free of illegal confinement and imprisonment, the right to be free from physical abuse, coercion and intimidation, and the right to receive timely necessary medical aid. Plaintiff also contends that Defendant Sheriff Davis unlawfully excluded him from his home in Polk County. Plaintiff brings state law claims for assault and battery and breach of duty against Defendants. Plaintiff seeks compensation for past and future physical and mental injuries, past and future medical costs, and past and future lost wages and employment opportunities. Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The burden is on the moving party to show conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists, and the Court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Morris v. Crete Carrier Corp., 105 F.3d 279, 280-81 (6th Cir. 1997); White v. Turfway Park Racing Ass'n, Inc., 909 F.2d 941, 943 (6th Cir. 1990); 60 Ivy Street Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987).

Once the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations. The nonmoving party is required to come forward with some significant probative evidence which makes it necessary to resolve the factual dispute at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); White, 909 F.2d at 943-44; 60 Ivy Street, 822 F.2d at 1435. The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of the nonmoving party's case with respect to which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 220 (6th Cir. 1996).

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 the witnesses, and determine the truth of the matter. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); 60 Ivy Street, 822 F.2d at 1435-36. "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see also Bailey v. Floyd County Bd. of Educ., 106 F.3d 135, 140 (6th Cir. 1997). If the Court concludes that a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party based on the evidence presented, it may enter a summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; University of Cincinnati v. Arkwright Mut. Ins. Co., 51 F.3d 1277, 1280 (6th Cir. 1995); LaPointe v. UAW, Local 600, 8 F.3d 376, 378 (6th Cir. 1993).

III. Analysis

A. Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 states in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress

42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. To establish a claim pursuant to Section 1983, plaintiffs must demonstrate two elements: "(1) the defendants deprived [plaintiffs] of a right, privilege, or immunity secured to [them] by the United States Constitution or other federal law; and (2) the defendants caused the deprivation while acting under color of state law." Cunningham v. Sisk, 2003 WL 23471541, *5 (E.D. Tenn. 2003) (citing Gregory v. Shelby County, Tenn., 220 F.3d 433, 441 (6th Cir. 2000)). Only the first prong of the test is relevant in this ...

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