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Thorne v. South Central Correctional Facility

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division

March 13, 2015



JULIET GRIFFIN, Magistrate Judge.

TO: Honorable William J. Haynes, Senior District Judge

By Order entered February 9, 2015 (Docket Entry No. 44), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to hear and determine any pretrial issues and motions, to conduct any necessary conferences and hearings, and to submit a report and recommendation for disposition of any motion filed under Rules 12, 15, 56, and 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Presently pending is the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 37) filed by Defendants Michael Parrish and Daniel Pritchard, to which Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition. See Docket Entry Nos. 51 and 52. Also before the Court is the Defendants' reply. See Docket Entry No. 56. For the reasons set out below, the Court recommends that the motion for summary judgment be granted and this action be dismissed.


Plaintiff is an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") who is currently confined at the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution ("RMSI") in Nashville, Tennessee. On December 10, 2013, he filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis against four prison officials seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights alleged to have occurred during his previous confinement at the South Central Correctional Facility ("SCCF") in Clifton, Tennessee.[1] Plaintiff names SCCF Unit Manager Michael Parrish, SCCF Warden Daniel Pritchard, and SCCF correctional officers Brenda Pevahouse and Hank Inman as defendants to the action. By Order entered June 5, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 26), the claims against Defendants Pevahouse and Inman were dismissed with prejudice upon their motion to dismiss brought under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Plaintiff alleges that he was attacked in his housing unit at the SCCF by two inmates, inmate Sandifer and inmate Hardy, who had been listed as incompatible inmates during Plaintiff's confinement in the Davidson County Criminal Justice Center prior to his transfer to the TDOC.[2] He asserts that he suffered wounds to his neck and hand from knives used by the two inmates. He further alleges that his wounds were left unattended after the attack and he was placed in segregation instead of being given medical treatment. Plaintiff contends that the incompatible list from the county facility should have followed him to the TDOC and that his file should have been reviewed for incompatible inmates prior to placement in a housing unit at the SCCF. He asserts that his constitutional right to personal safety was violated when he was placed in the same unit with the two inmates who attacked him.

Defendants Pritchard and Parrish move for summary judgment on the grounds that there are no genuine issues of material fact and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The Defendants raise a technical argument that Plaintiff has not satisfied the exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) ("PLRA") because he failed to exhaust his available TDOC administrative remedies for each of his claims. In addition, the Defendants contend that there are no facts supporting Plaintiff's assertion that his constitutional rights were violated and, further, no facts showing their personal involvement in the events at issue. The Defendants acknowledge that a violent fight occurred between Plaintiff and inmate Sandifer on July 22, 2013, but assert that at no time since his arrival at the SCCF on July 7, 2013, had Plaintiff grieved, complained, or otherwise let prison officials know that inmate Sandifer was incompatible with him. The Defendants further contend that there is no indication of any altercation between Plaintiff and inmate Hardy, and that neither inmate was listed as an incompatible with Plaintiff in the TDOC's Tennessee Offender Management Information System ("TOMIS"). The Defendants maintain that they had no reason to know that inmate Sandifer was incompatible with the Plaintiff. The Defendants also assert that, contrary to Plaintiff's version of the events, the internal investigation of the incident by prison officials showed that Plaintiff was the aggressor in the incident.

The Defendants also argue that Plaintiff was promptly provided with appropriate medical treatment for his wounds, which consisted of an abrasion on his neck and a cut on his right hand. They assert that his wounds were cleaned, the wound on his hand was closed with sutures, he was given a tetanus shot, antibiotics, and a medicinal cream, and he had several follow up examinations regarding the wounds. In support of their motion, the Defendants rely upon their Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 39), the Declaration of Michael Parrish (Docket Entry No. 40), the Declaration of Daniel Pritchard (Docket Entry No. 41), the Declaration of Jessica McElroy (Docket Entry No. 42), and the Declaration of Safieh Rashti (Docket Entry No. 43).

Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition (Docket Entry No. 51) and his own affidavit (Docket Entry No. 52). Plaintiff contends that, at some point in 2007, a state prosecutor "filed incompatibles" on Plaintiff and inmate Sandifer and that, during Plaintiff's prior incarceration in the TDOC in 2008, inmate Sandifer was listed as one of his TDOC incompatibles. See Plaintiff's Affidavit at 2. Plaintiff further contends that he asked an unnamed counselor to check if "incompatibles were still there, " but that the counselor told him to ask another counselor about it the following week. Id. at 2. Plaintiff asserts that he filed a grievance about incompatibles at the SCCF prior to the incident but that the grievance was not taken seriously. See Plaintiff's Response, at 2. Finally, Plaintiff argues that he should not have been sent to SCCF in the first place because he was a minimum restricted inmate. In addition to his affidavit, Plaintiff supports his response with copies of the internal appeal from the prison disciplinary conviction he received as a result of the incident, see Docket Entry No. 52, at 3-6, and copies of his responses to discovery requests that the Defendants served on him. Id. at 7-14.


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 trier of fact could find in favor of 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 ...

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