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Hall v. Hawkins County Tennessee

February 20, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leon Jordan United States District Judge


According to the complaint in this case, Albert J. Hall, III ("plaintiff" or "Jimmy Hall") is a moderately mentally retarded man who was sexually assaulted by a cellmate while a pretrial detainee at the Hawkins County Jail in Rogersville, Tennessee. Plaintiff seeks damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that "it was at all times material the official policy, custom and practice of Defendant Hawkins County not to adequately instruct, train and supervise its officers in proper procedures, techniques and protocol for the detention of moderately mental [sic] retarded individuals and to protect them from sexual assault from [sic] fellow prisoners." [Doc. 1, ¶ 16]. According to plaintiff, the jailers were not properly trained in the art of prisoner classification and the county possessed no real or meaningful classification plan. . . . . . .

The position of Jimmy Hall in this litigation may be simply stated as follows: Hawkins County's failure to implement a classification process for special needs prisoners such as Jimmy Hall constituted deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights. The failure by Hawkins County to implement a classification system of prisoners was the direct causal link for the unconstitutional depravation which has given rise to Hall's cause of action. [Doc. 42, p. 14]. Plaintiff also seeks damages under a state law negligence theory.

Now before the court is the motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Hawkins County, Tennessee and Warren D. Rimer.*fn1 Plaintiff has responded to the motion, and defendants have submitted a reply. For the reasons provided herein, the motion will be granted and this case will be dismissed.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The movant may discharge its burden by demonstrating that the non-moving party has failed to establish an essential element of that party's case for which it bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

After the moving party has carried its initial burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to present specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). In order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must present significantly probative evidence in support of its complaint. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). The non-movant's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255. The court determines whether the evidence requires submission to a jury or whether one party must prevail as a matter of law because the issue is so one-sided. See id. at 251-52. "Where the defendant demonstrates that after a reasonable period of discovery the plaintiff is unable to produce sufficient evidence beyond the bare allegations of the complaint to support an essential element of his or her case, summary judgment should be granted." Mitchell v. Toledo Hosp., 964 F.2d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 1992).

II. Background

Plaintiff was arrested September 16, 2004, on multiple assault charges. He was taken to the Hawkins County Jail and initially housed in a "visitor's booth." Approximately two days later he was moved to a cell in "B Block." Both B Block and visitor's booths are used by the defendants to house persons who cannot be placed in the general jail population. [Doc. 40, ¶¶ 3, 5].

Plaintiff was moved to B Block because the visitor's booths did not contain toilets, and plaintiff would urinate on himself rather than ask to be taken to the restroom. Plaintiff was placed in a cell with two other pretrial detainees, James Dickerson and Larry Shelton. Plaintiff was not placed in the general population due to mental retardation and feminine characteristics. [Hutson dep., p. 45]. Dickerson was not in the general population for mental health reasons. [Id. at 46-47, David Aff., ¶ 5]. Shelton was not in the general population due to "the seriousness of his charges" (first degree murder), because he was "a jailhouse snitch," and because he "appeared to have mental health problems." [Id.]. Plaintiff, Dickerson, and Shelton were housed in the cell closest to the jailers' office. Plaintiff and Dickerson have testified that, after being moved to B Block, plaintiff was sexually assaulted by Shelton multiple times.

According to the affidavits of Hawkins County Jail administrator Deborah David and corrections officer Timothy Hutson, Shelton had been in the Hawkins County Jail for the previous six months and they were not aware of any previous sexual misconduct by him. [David Aff., ¶ 10; Hutson Aff., ¶ 7]. Plaintiff, following a prior arrest for disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer, had been housed with Shelton in April 2004 with no reported problems. [David Aff., ¶ 11; Hutson Aff., ¶ 11; Davis Aff., ¶ 6]. Plaintiff stands 6' 2" tall and weighs 240 pounds. Shelton is 5' 5" tall and weighs 160 pounds. [David Aff., ¶ 12].

Plaintiff has submitted the report of penologist Eugene Miller. Mr. Miller concludes in material part:

Mentally retarded persons, regardless of physical stature, are extremely vulnerable to predation of all sorts in a jail or prison setting. . . . In Jimmy Hall's case his potential for victimization was significantly enhanced by his obvious feminine physical traits, e.g., female breasts. In an all-male living environment, in which some men faced the prospect of spending many years without sexual access to women, Jimmy Hall was an early holiday present. . . . . . .

One major way of affording an acceptable level of protection from harm, especially for people like Jimmy Hall, is through a process known as classification. At its most basic, classification is nothing more than the separation of inmates into similar groups based on a variety of criteria. Over the years, classification has evolved into a rather sophisticated system, that places major emphasis on past and potential behavior. The Hawkins County Jail's classification procedure can ...

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