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White v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division

December 5, 2014

ERICK D. WHITE
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, et al.

HONORABLE ALETA A. TRAUGER, DISTRICT JUDGE

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JULIET GRIFFIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

By Order entered January 17, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 4), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge to enter a scheduling order for the management of the case, to dispose or recommend disposition of any pretrial motions under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), and to conduct further proceedings, if necessary, under Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Court.

Presently pending before the Court is the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 32) of Defendants Corrections Corporation of America, Jeffrey Broyles, Blair Leibach, Steven Swerdsky, Staci Turner, and Anisha Woods. The Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition (Docket Entry No. 63) to the motion. Also before the Court is the Defendants’ reply (Docket Entry No. 66) and the Plaintiff’s response to the reply. See Docket Entry No. 68.[1] Set out below is the Court’s recommendation for disposition of the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 20, 2013, the Plaintiff filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based upon events that occurred during 2013 when he was confined at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility (“Detention Facility”) as an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”).[2] The Detention Facility is operated by Corrections Corporation of America, Inc. (“CCA”), a private entity that has contracted with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County to operate the Detention Facility.

The Plaintiff alleges that, while undergoing an intake screening after arriving at the Detention Facility on or about June 19, 2013, he informed Staci Turner that he was taking Risperdal, a mental health medication that had been prescribed to him by a psychiatrist. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1), at 7. The Plaintiff alleges that he was not provided with the medication and, over the course of the next several months, his attempts to obtain the medication and mental health treatment at the Detention Facility were essentially ignored. Id. at 7-10. He names CCA, Detention Facility Warden Blair Leibach, and Staci Turner as defendants to this claim. The Plaintiff makes a similar complaint about his need for an eye examination and for eye glasses and alleges that he suffered migraine headaches because of the lack of eye glasses. He names Leibach, Steven Swerdsky, and Anisha Woods as defendants to this claim. Id. at 11, and Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 21), at 3. The Plaintiff’s final claim is that, during October 2013, he did not receive “the indigent package, ” a package of hygiene products that is provided to indigent inmates. He alleges that, although he was entitled to receive an indigent package, he never received the package despite making repeated complaints about the matter. See Docket Entry No. 1, at 12. Although it is unclear from the allegations contained in the Complaint, it appears from the content of a grievance provided by the Plaintiff that he asserts that he went approximately 60 days without the hygiene items provided in the indigent package. Id. at 13. Karen Zakinski is the only Defendant specifically named as a defendant to this claim. Attached to the Complaint are copies of the Informal Resolution and Grievance forms filed by the Plaintiff, as well as other documents from the Detention Facility. Id. at 13-31. The Plaintiff requests damages ranging from one million to one hundred million dollars for each of his three claims. Id. at 9 and 11-12.

By the order of referral, the Plaintiff was found to have alleged arguable claims and process was issued to CCA, Jeffrey Broyles, Blair Leibach, Steven Swerdsky, and Staci Turner. The Plaintiff later amended his complaint to add Anisha Woods and Karen Zakinski as defendants to the action. See Docket Entry Nos. 21 and 22. All Defendants except for Defendant Zakinski have been served in the action and have filed an answer to the Complaint and Amended Complaint. See Docket Entry No. 27. A scheduling order (Docket Entry No. 15) was entered setting out deadlines for a period of pretrial activity in the action. All deadlines have expired.

The Defendants raise four arguments in support of their motion for summary judgment. First, they contend that dismissal of the action is required because the Plaintiff did not exhaust his available administrative remedies at the Detention Facility as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Second, they assert that any physical injury suffered by the Plaintiff is no more than a de minimis injury and is not sufficient to support a constitutional claim. Third, Defendant CCA contends that it has been sued merely on the basis of a theory of respondeat superior, which is not sufficient to state a claim under Section 1983. Finally, the individual Defendants argue that there is no proof that any of them acted with deliberate indifference to any serious need of the Plaintiff as is required for a constitutional claim against them. In support of their motion, the Defendants submit their Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 34), the affidavit of James Bridges (Docket Entry No. 35), the affidavit of Broyles (Docket Entry No. 36), the affidavit of Leibach (Docket Entry No. 37), the affidavit of Audrey Rimmer (Docket Entry No. 38), the affidavit of Swerdsky (Docket Entry No. 39), the affidavit of Turner (Docket Entry No. 40), and the affidavit of Woods (Docket Entry No. 41).

The Plaintiff filed a response (Docket Entry No. 63) in which he contends that he attempted to exhaust his grievances at the Detention Facility, that the psychological conditions he suffered because of the alleged wrongdoings are sufficient to support any injury requirement for a constitutional claim, and that there is evidence showing that the Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his complaints. The Plaintiff also submits a response to the Defendants’ Statement of Undisputed Facts. See Docket Entry No. 63-1. In his response, the Plaintiff contends that he cannot dispute or confirm some statements because of his lack of access to his “notes.” Id.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment is reviewed under the standard that summary judgment is appropriate if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A “genuine issue of material fact” is a fact which, if proven at trial, could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In considering whether summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must “look beyond the pleadings and assess the proof to determine whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Sowards v. Loudon Cnty., 203 F.3d 426, 431 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 875, 121 S.Ct. 179, 148 L.Ed.2d 123 (2000). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence and all inferences drawn from underlying facts “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., Ltd., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Gribcheck v. Runyon, 245 F.3d 547, 550 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 896, 122 S.Ct. 217, 151 L.Ed.2d 155 (2001).

The moving party has the burden of showing the absence of genuine factual disputes from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, at 249-50. However, “[t]he moving party need not support its motion with evidence disproving the non-moving party’s claim, but need only show that ‘there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case.’” Hayes v. Equitable Energy Res. Co., 266 F.3d 560, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325).

“Once the moving party has presented evidence sufficient to support a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party is not entitled to trial merely on the basis of allegations; significant probative evidence must be presented to support the complaint.” Goins v. Clorox Co., 926 F.2d 559, 561 (6th Cir. 1991). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment may not rely solely on the pleadings but must present evidence supporting the claims asserted by the party. Banks v. Wolfe Cnty. Bd. of Educ., 330 F.3d 888, 892 (6th Cir. 2003). Moreover, conclusory allegations, speculation, and unsubstantiated assertions are not evidence, and are not sufficient to defeat a well-supported motion for summary judgment. See Lujan v. National Wildlife Fed’n, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990). In other words, to defeat summary judgment, the party opposing the ...


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