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Marcum v. Sevier County Tennessee

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

April 27, 2015

Terry Marcum, Plaintiff,
Sevier County, Tennessee, et al., Defendants.


PAMELA L. REEVES, District Judge.

In November 2012, Terry Marcum was assaulted in the bathroom while he was incarcerated in the Sevier County Jail. He brought this lawsuit against Sevier County, Sheriff Ronald Seals, and two unnamed jailers asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as claims for state law negligent supervision and training, extreme and outrageous conduct, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendants have moved for summary judgment [R. 20], the plaintiff has responded, and the matter is ripe. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.


The facts alleged by the plaintiff are quite brief: Terry Marcum entered the Sevier County Jail in April of 2012 to serve a sentence for driving under the influence and domestic violence. He was housed in the minimum security facility, commonly referred to as the "Annex, " which was supposed to house only non-violent inmates. Despite this, the plaintiff claims that there were multiple fights in his pod every week.

On November 17, 2012 the plaintiff "was threatened by one or more inmates" and "told that he would be jumped in the shower.'" The plaintiff alleges "upon information and belief" that this threat was made in the presence of one of the guards. The following day, Mr. Marcum was attacked in the bathroom by three inmates, and he suffered from a broken eye socket, cracked teeth, and injuries to his head and knee. Normally the guards monitored the inmates from a glass room, but the plaintiff claims "upon information and belief" that the jail was understaffed and nobody was monitoring the inmates at the time of the attack. After the attack, Mr. Marcum was taken to the hospital.

One of the attackers, called "Spanky, " had actually been charged with assaulting another inmate shortly before he attacked Mr. Marcum. Sevier County had a policy of removing inmates from the Annex if they committed acts of violence. Spanky, however, was not removed from the Annex after attacking his previous victim. If Spanky had been removed, the plaintiff contends, he would not have been able to attack Mr. Marcum.


Summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is proper "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issues of material fact exist. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986); Moore v. Philip Morris Co., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339 (6th Cir. 1993). All facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Keifer, 301 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). Courts may not resolve genuine disputes of fact in favor of the movant. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1863 (2014) (vacating lower court's grant of summary judgment for "fail[ing to] adhere to the axiom that in ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor") (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Once the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a motion under Rule 56, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial merely on the basis of allegations. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 317. To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the nonmoving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable finder of fact could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The Court'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 question for the fact finder. Id. at 250. The Court does not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter. Id. at 249. Nor does the Court search the record "to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of fact." Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6th Cir. 1989). Thus, "the inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for a trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.


The plaintiff has asserted a number of constitutional claims against all the defendants pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including claims for violations of his Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The facts pled, however, are insufficient to support any of those claims.

a. Sheriff Seals

It has long been established that supervisory liability cannot attach where allegations of liability are based upon a mere failure to act. Bass v. Robinson, 167 F.3d 1041, 1048 (6th Cir. 1999). Instead, active unconstitutional behavior is required. Id. A supervisor cannot be found liable based solely on the right to control employees or even on an awareness of misconduct. McQueen v. Beecher Cmty. Sch., 433 F.3d 460, 470 (6th Cir. 2006). "A supervisory official's failure to supervise, control or train the offending individual is not actionable unless the ...

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