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Galvan v. Monroe

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

December 6, 2016


         TO: Honorable William J. Haynes, Senior District Judge


          BARBARA D. HOLMES United States Magistrate Judge


         By Order entered July 17, 2015 (Docket Entry No. 5), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Local Rules of Court.

         Presently pending is the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 74) of Defendants Douglas Monroe, Shannon Helton, and Bruce Bridges. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion. For the reasons set out below, the Court recommends that the motion be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         During 2015, Jason D. Galvan (“Plaintiff”) was confined at the Maury County Jail (“Jail”) as a pretrial detainee. He filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis on June 8, 2015, seeking monetary relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights alleged to have occurred at the Jail. Although Plaintiff brought his lawsuit against several Jail officials, the Court, upon initial review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, found that Plaintiff asserted arguable claims against only three defendants: Douglass Monroe (“Monroe”), Shannon Helton (“Helton”), and Bruce Bridges (“Bridges”) (hereinafter referred to collectively as “Defendants”). See Docket Entry No. 5 at 2.

         Plaintiff alleges that, on May 19, 2015, Defendant Monroe physically assaulted him in his Jail cell after a dispute occurred over food trays that were in the cell. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1) at 8-9. Plaintiff alleges that Monroe grabbed him by the neck, slammed him against the wall, threw him to the ground, choked him, and twisted his foot, all while taunting him. Id. Plaintiff asserts that he suffered a broken ankle as a result of the assault. Id. He alleges that Helton did not assault him but failed to intervene to stop the assault and failed to report Monroe afterwards. Id.

         Plaintiff also alleges that he was physically assaulted by another inmate on May 27, 2015, while he was on recreation time for the medical special needs inmates. Id. at 6-7. He contends that another inmate, who had been verbally threatening him from a housing cell and who was a general population inmate, came into the recreation area and attacked him. Id. Plaintiff asserts that he was on crutches because of the ankle injury he suffered the prior week and that he was rendered unconscious as a result of the attack. Id. He asserts that he awoke in a local hospital after the attack with a concussion and significant bruising and swelling. Id. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Bridges is liable for this incident because Bridges released the general population inmate from his locked cell while Plaintiff, a medical special needs inmate at the time, was still in the recreation area. Id.

         Defendants were served with process and filed a joint answer. See Docket Entry No. 15. The Court issued a scheduling order providing the parties with a period for pretrial activity in the action. See Docket Entry No. 16. In the scheduling order, Plaintiff was advised of his obligation to keep the Court and the opposing parties informed of his current address. Id. at 16. Subsequent to filing the lawsuit, Plaintiff was released from the Jail, taken back into custody at the Jail, and then released again. See Docket Entry Nos. 19, 26, and 77. His intermittent confinement created difficulties in completing discovery and in ensuring that he was receiving mail and copies of orders and also required several extensions of pretrial deadlines. See Docket Entry Nos. 21, 27, 41, and 81. Although Plaintiff provided a non-institutional residential address in his latest change of address notice, see Docket Entry No. 77, the most recent Court mail sent to that address was returned as undeliverable. See Docket Entry Nos. 80, 84, and 85.


         On July 15, 2016, Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment. Defendants acknowledge that the two incidents complained about by Plaintiff occurred. However, they argue that there is no evidence supporting Plaintiff's claims that his constitutional rights were violated during these incidents. They further contend that there is no evidentiary support for a claim of municipal liability to the extent that they have been sued in their official capacities, and they raise the defense of qualified immunity for the damage claims brought against them individually. In support of their motion, Defendants rely upon the declaration of Helton (Docket Entry No. 75-1), the declaration of Jail Correctional Sergeant Craig D'Apolito (Docket Entry No. 75-2), the declaration of Monroe (Docket Entry No. 75-3), Plaintiff's deposition transcript (Docket Entry No. 75-4), and a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 76).

         With respect to the incident during which Plaintiff was attacked by another inmate, Defendant Bridges asserts that the undisputed evidence shows that, prior to the attack, the Maury County Sheriff's Department had no record of any actual or threatened violence by the attacking inmate against any other inmate at the Jail. In fact, Defendant Bridges asserts that Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that he did not feel threatened by or have reason to fear the attacking inmate prior to the attack. Defendant Bridges asserts that: 1) the attack on Plaintiff occurred without warning; 2) there is no evidence that the inmate who attacked Plaintiff posed a threat to Plaintiff prior to the actual attack; and 3) Plaintiff had not alerted any prison official that the inmate who attacked him posed a threat to him. Defendant Bridges argues that there is simply no evidence supporting a conclusion that he was aware that the attacking inmate posed a substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff yet ignored or disregarded that risk.

         With respect to the incident on May 19, 2015, Defendants Monroe and Helton assert that they entered Plaintiff's cell while in the process of moving another inmate into the cell. They contend that Plaintiff initially refused a verbal order from Defendant Monroe to remove a paper that was covering an air vent in the cell and then refused a verbal order to return several food trays that the officers had noticed were sitting in the cell. Defendants state that both the covered air vent and the extra food trays were violations of Jail policies and that Plaintiff's verbal responses to these orders were argumentative and combative. Defendants assert that Plaintiff shoved the food trays towards Monroe, causing the food to spill onto Monroe's pants and shoes and pulled away from Defendant Helton when Helton attempted to gain control of Plaintiff by grabbing his shoulders. Defendant Monroe ...

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