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Curtis Dressman v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and William Gise

November 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nixon

Magistrate Judge Griffin



Pending before the Court are two Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant William Gise (Doc. No. 65) and Defendant Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro") (Doc. No. 70), along with supporting Memoranda (Doc. Nos. 66, 71), Defendants' Joint Statement of Material Facts (Doc. No. 68) and attachments (Doc. Nos. 68-1 to 68-10, 69). Plaintiff Curtis Dressman has filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motions (Doc. No. 76), along with a Statement of Uncontested Material Facts (Doc. No. 77), a Response to Defendants' Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 78) and attachments (Doc. Nos. 80-1 to 80-29). Defendant Gise then filed a Reply (Doc. No. 88), Defendant Metro filed a Reply (Doc. No. 86) with attachments (Doc. Nos. 86-1 to 86-7), and Defendants filed a Joint Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Uncontested Facts (Doc. No. 87). For the reasons stated below, Defendant Gise's Motion (Doc. No. 65) is DENIED, and Defendant Metro's Motion (Doc. No. 70) is DENIED as to Plaintiff's federal claim and GRANTED as to his state law claim.


A.Factual History*fn1

Plaintiff Curtis Dressman is a resident of Southgate, Kentucky. Defendant Lieutenant William Gise is an employee of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office and was the booking intake sergeant on duty during the events at issue on April 24 and 25, 2010. Defendant, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, is a political subdivision of the State of Tennessee.

1. Plaintiff's Arrest and Intake

At approximately 11:00 p.m. on April 24, 2010, Metro Nashville police officers arrested Plaintiff for public intoxication in downtown Nashville. Plaintiff was arrested for showing his bare buttocks while walking down Broadway and for becoming belligerent when stopped by the police. Officer Derek Smith transported plaintiff to the Davidson County Criminal Justice Center ("CJC" or "the jail"). Plaintiff refused to get out of the police car when they arrived at the jail, and Officer Smith had to restrain him while waiting for DCSO officers to take him into custody.

At 11:21 p.m., Defendant Gise, the on-duty intake sergeant, took custody of Plaintiff in the jail's booking room, received the arrest report from the Smith, and was aware of Plaintiff's intoxication. In his deposition testimony, Defendant Gise described Plaintiff's behavior during the booking process as "not cooperative; but in the grand scale of booking, he was more than passive resistant, but he was trying to be active resistant." Defendant Gise testified that during the intake process, Plaintiff was cussing, resisting, threatening the officers, and trying to pull away from them.

At approximately 11:25 p.m., Defendant Gise placed Plaintiff into holding cell No. 2 in the jail's "turnkey area," having decided to detain Plaintiff before completing booking because he was intoxicated and had been "acting out." Plaintiff remained in handcuffs while Defendant Gise and Officer Alonzo Jones transported him to the holding cell. The handcuffs were removed when Plaintiff was placed in the holding cell. Plaintiff did not receive a medical screening or a probable cause hearing before he was placed in the holding cell.

2. Jaime Lopez's Arrest and Intake

At approximately 11:45 p.m., Metro Nashville police arrested Jaime Lopez for disorderly conduct, public intoxication, resisting arrest and attempted vandalism, after he crossed a police "do not cross tape" during a criminal investigation at his apartment complex.

Officer John David Young, who arrested Lopez, testified that Lopez had run from police and "kicked at one of us" during the arrest. According to Young, Lopez kicked the window of the patrol car several times en route to the CJC, was placed in foot restraints, and threatened to kill Young repeatedly.

At approximately 12:47 a.m., Metro Police transferred Lopez to Defendant Gise's custody in the CJC booking room. Defendant Gise received the arrest report from Young and was aware of Lopez's intoxication. He testified that the arresting officer told him that Lopez could be an assault risk toward staff or other officers.

Defendant Gise testified that Lopez appeared intoxicated, but passive. In searching Lopez, Defendant Gise removed Lopez's handcuffs because, according to Defendant Gise, Lopez "seemed passive" and responded to his questions with "yes, sir" or "no, sir."

At approximately 12:55 a.m., Defendant Gise placed Lopez - then unrestrained - in holding cell No. 2 with Plaintiff. Defendant Gise testified that he put Lopez in the holding cell because he was intoxicated and the arresting officer had problems with Lopez acting out. Plaintiff was the only other person in the holding cell.

Defendant Gise did not inform the officer in charge of the turnkey area of any special instructions or concerns regarding Lopez and Plaintiff. The turnkey officer, Dennis McGill, was stationed at a desk approximately ten feet from the holding cell. Defendant Gise then left the area.

3. Assault on Plaintiff

Surveillance video from a camera in the hallway outside the turnkey area shows Lopez in holding cell No. 2, swinging in a downward punching motion beginning at 12:58:46 a.m., less than four minutes after Lopez entered the cell.

At approximately 1:03 a.m., another pretrial detainee, Princess Butler, approached the turnkey desk and reported to McGill and roving Officer Herbert Durham that she saw a man in holding cell No. 2 covered in blood. When the officers entered the cell at 1:03:45 a.m., they saw Plaintiff on the floor, and Lopez standing with his hands against the wall. An ambulance arrived for Plaintiff at 1:19 a.m.

In testimony, Defendant Gise described the scene in Plaintiff's cell as "gruesome" (Doc. No. 68-3 at 53) and stated he was found with a swollen head, split lip and cut face, lying in "a lot of blood." (Doc. No. 68-3 at 37.) According to the Complaint, Plaintiff has suffered traumatic brain injury, dental and facial fractures, cuts, and permanent physical injuries and disfigurement, as a result of the attack. (Doc. No. 1 at 13.) He testified that he has no memory of the evening, beyond going out to bar with his friends. (Doc. No. 68-9 at 4.)

B.Procedural History

On April 6, 2011, Plaintiff filed this suit against three DCSO officers in their individual capacities - Defendant Gise and former co-Defendants Dennis McGill and Herbert Durham - and against Defendant Metro, the officers' employer. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff brought claims against all four Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983") for violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id.) In the alternative, Plaintiff brought a claim against Metro under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act ("TGTLA"). (Id.)

In October 2011, Defendant Durham was dismissed from the case after the Court granted his Motion to Dismiss the Section 1983 claim against him. (Doc. No. 35.) In June 2012, Defendant McGill was dismissed following a stipulation by the parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii). (Doc. No. 61.)

On July 24, 2012, the remaining defendants - Gise and Metro - filed separate Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. Nos. 65 [Gise], 70 [Metro]), accompanied by Memoranda in Support (Doc. Nos. 66, 71), a declaration by DCSO Chief Deputy John L. Ford, III (Doc. No. 69), and a Joint Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 68) with ten deposition excerpts as exhibits (Doc. Nos. 68-1 to 68-10). On August 21, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Response to both Motions (Doc. No. 76) with a Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 77), a Response to Defendants' Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 78), and a Notice of Filing with numerous exhibits of incident reports, DCSO policies, and transcript excerpts (Doc. Nos. 80, 80-1 to 80-29). On September 4, 2012, Defendants filed a joint Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 87) and each filed a Reply (Doc. Nos. 86 [Metro], 88 [Gise]).

With a trial date of December 4, 2012, approaching, Defendant Metro filed a Motion to Ascertain Status or Continue Trial on November 5, 2012, requesting a ruling on both its Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant Gise's qualified immunity defense. (Doc. No. 91) Defendant Metro states it will evaluate whether to file an interlocutory appeal based on the outcome of these rulings. (Id.)


Summary judgment is rendered when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and . . . the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party must demonstrate that the non-moving party has failed to establish a necessary element of that party's claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment will be granted if "the evidence is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Lexington-South Elkhorn Water Dist. v. City of Wilmore, 93 F.3d 230, 233 (6th Cir. 1996). The movant has the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis of the summary judgment motion and identifying portions of the record which lack a genuine issue of material fact to support the non-movant's case. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

The non-moving party may not rest solely on the allegations in the complaint, but must delineate specific evidence that shows there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. at 324. A "mere possibility" of a factual dispute is not sufficient to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Baird v. NHP Mill Creek Apartments, 94 F. App'x 328, 330-31 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Gregg v. Allen-Bradley Co., 801 F.2d 859, 863 (6th Cir. 1986)). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if a reasonable factfinder could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party asserting or denying that a fact is genuinely disputed may support its position by (1) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, (2) showing that the materials cited by the opposing party do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or (3) showing that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support a fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

All reasonable inferences are to be drawn in favor of the non-moving party and the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . on a motion for summary judgment." Id. If the court determines that a reasonable factfinder could not find for the non-moving party, summary judgment must be granted. See Lexington-South Elkhorn Water Dist., 93 F.3d at 233.


Plaintiff has filed federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both Defendants, and a state claim against Defendant Metro. The Court evaluates each in turn.

A.Federal Claim: Section 1983

In his first claim, Plaintiff alleges Defendants have violated his constitutional rights and brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Section 1983 provides, in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights . . . secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law . . . [or] suit in equity.

42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (2010) (West). "The basic requirements of a § 1983 claim include a showing that (1) a person, (2) acting under color of state law, (3) deprived the plaintiff of a federal right." Berger v. City of Mayfield Heights, 265 F.3d 399, 405 (6th Cir. 2001). Defendants do not dispute that Defendant Gise acted under color of law at the time of the assault on Plaintiff or that Defendant Metro is not a person under Section 1983; rather, the disputed issue is whether Defendants deprived Plaintiff of a constitutional right.

Plaintiff puts forth three theories of liability here based on a deprivation of his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment: (1) deliberate indifference by Defendant Gise, (2) state-created danger, and (3) municipal liability for Defendant Metro. (Doc. No. 76.) The Court addresses each in turn, along with Defendant Gise's affirmative defense of qualified immunity.

1. Deliberate Indifference

Plaintiff alleges Defendant Gise violated his substantive due process rights to be free from inmate-on-inmate violence while in custody because Defendant was deliberately indifferent to the risk of danger to Plaintiff of placing Lopez in a cell with Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 76 18--21.) Defendant Gise argues Plaintiff has failed to meet his burden to establish a substantial risk of harm existed and that Defendant had subjective knowledge of the risk. (Doc. No. 65 at 17--21.)

It is long settled that "the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25 at 31 (1993)). The Eighth Amendment "imposes duties on these officials . . . [to] 'take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832 (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-- 527 (1984)); see also Spencer v. Bouchard, 449 F.3d 721, 727 (6th Cir. 2006). This includes a duty to "'to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833 (quoting Cortes--Quinones v. Jimenez--Nettleship, 842 F.2d 556, 558 (1st Cir. 1988)).

It is also well-established that "pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crimes retain, at the very least, the same constitutional rights enjoyed by convicted prisoners," Barber v. City of Salem, 953 F.2d 232, 235 (6th Cir. 1992) (citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979)). "The Eighth Amendment's protections against cruel and unusual punishment extend to pretrial detainees through the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, and thus claims by pretrial detainees challenging conditions of confinement are analyzed under the Eighth Amendment." Brodak v. Nichols, 162 F.3d 1161 (6th Cir. 1998) (table opinion); see also Barber, 953 F.2d at 235.

To succeed, a pretrial detainee's conditions-of-confinement claim under the Due Process Clause must satisfy two elements: "First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, 'sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). "Second, the prison official's 'state of mind [must be] one of deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety." Spencer, 449 F.3d at 728 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834).

a. Objective, Substantial Risk of Harm

The Court finds the Plaintiff has offered sufficient evidence regarding a genuine dispute of fact that an objectively serious and substantial risk to his health and safety existed, based on the circumstances of his condition and Lopez's state.

"To establish a constitutional violation based on failure to protect, a prison inmate first must show that the failure to protect from risk of harm is objectively 'sufficiently serious' and that 'he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.'" Bishop v. Hackel, 636 F.3d 757, 766 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833).

Here, Plaintiff has offered evidence that Police arrested and attempted to book Plaintiff while he was in an intoxicated state, "[c]ussing, actively resisting, trying to pull away from [officers], [and] threatening officers." (Doc. No. 68-3 at 5.) In fact, Defendant Gise stated in his deposition that he segregated Plaintiff because Plaintiff posed a risk of starting a fight with other inmates. (Doc. No. 80-3 at 5--6.) That is, there was a known and serious enough risk that Plaintiff would engage in an altercation that warranted his segregation from others.

For his part, Lopez was also too intoxicated to be booked immediately and to be detained in the open turnkey area. He entered the facility after having been arrested for, among other things, resisting arrest (Doc. No. 68-5 at 10), and had acted erratically and violently throughout the car-ride to the holding facility (Doc. No. 68-5 at 6--9). During the ride, Lopez repeatedly threatened to kill the arresting officer, and attempted to shatter the car window several times with his feet, requiring extra restraints. (Id.)

In sum, both men were too drunk and belligerent to cooperate at intake; Plaintiff had demonstrated behavior that made jail staff believe he would agitate others, while Lopez had acted violently and had threatened to hurt others. And both men were placed in a holding cell together, hands unrestrained. The Court finds these factual allegations, taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, are sufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude there was a substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff in placing Lopez in the cell with him.

b. Defendant Gise's State of Mind

Plaintiff has also shown a genuine dispute of material fact regarding the second element to the conditions-of-confinement claim, as a reasonable jury could find that Defendant Gise was "deliberately indifferent" to the substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff in grouping him and Lopez in the holding cell together without adequate supervision. While Defendant argues that he was unaware of the risks and there are no facts that would lead to infer his subjective knowledge of the risks, Plaintiff points to key circumstantial facts that could lead a reasonable jury to find that Defendant did have the requisite knowledge.

To meet the second element of failure to protect claim, a pretrial detainee "must show that prison officials acted with 'deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety." Bishop, 636 F.3d at 766. Deliberate indifference requires a culpable mind that lies between negligence and purposeful, knowing conduct. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836. In considering this element, the Sixth Circuit "has emphasized that a plaintiff must produce evidence showing 'that the official being sued subjectively perceived facts from which to infer substantial risk to the prisoner, that he did in fact draw the inference, and that he then disregarded that risk.'" Perez v. Oakland Cnty., 466 F.3d 416, 424 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d 693, 703 (6th Cir.2001)). This subjective knowledge may be "demonstrat[ed] in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence . . . [or] the very fact that the risk was obvious." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842. For a claim based on a failure to protect from other inmates, this may include "subjective[] awareness of plaintiff's vulnerability to attacks or the abuse that he alleges he was suffering." Bishop, 636 F.3d at 768.

By contrast, "an official's failure to alleviate a significant risk that he should have perceived but did not, while no cause for commendation, cannot . . . be condemned as the infliction of punishment." Farmer,511 U.S. at 838. Thus to escape liability, prison officials "might show . . . that they did not know of the underlying facts indicating a sufficiently substantial danger and that they were therefore unaware of the danger, or that they knew the underlying facts but believed (albeit unsoundly) that the risk to which the facts gave rise was insubstantial or nonexistent." Id. at 844.

While the overall "legal standard for deliberate indifference is a question of law," the issue of a deputy's subjective "knowledge and conduct are questions of fact." Bishop, 636 F.3d at 764; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842 ("Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact.").

Defendant Gise made two decisions relevant to the deliberate indifference analysis: first to place Plaintiff in isolation in holding cell No. 2, and then to add Lopez to holding cell No. 2. Plaintiff does not challenge the reasonableness of the first decision (Doc. No. 76 at 17), instead, he bases his claims on Defendant Gise's decision to place an unrestrained, intoxicated, and previously violent Lopez in holding cell No. 2 with another intoxicated and uncooperative detainee, and then, as Plaintiff alleges, to "simply walk[] away." (Doc. No. 76 at 18--21.)

Defendant claims Plaintiff has failed to meet this second element of Farmer because there is no evidence of his subjective knowledge: Defendant testified in his deposition that he did not perceive a risk, that he thought both inmates were at the same level intoxication and cooperation, and that he thought Plaintiff would sleep off his intoxication. (Doc. No. 88 at 5.) Defendant also claims there is no evidence that would have lead him to believe a substantial risk of harm existed, ...

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