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Williamson v. Inman

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

March 29, 2017


          TO Honorable Waverly. D. Crenshaw, Jr., District Judge

          REPORT AND recommendation

          BARBARA D. HOLMES, United States Magistrate Judge

         By Order entered June 7, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 44), 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 before the Court are the parties' competing motions for summary judgment: Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 40) and Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 43). For the reasons set out below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully recommends that Plaintiff's motion be denied, Defendant's motion be granted, and this action be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Richard Williamson (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) who is currently confined at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee. On June 2, 2016, he filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis 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. Plaintiff originally named Hank Inman (“Inman”), the Security Threat Group Coordinator at the SCCF, as the only specifically identified Defendant. After Defendant Inman answered the complaint, a scheduling order was entered setting out deadlines for pretrial activity. See Docket Entry No. 24. In an amended complaint, Plaintiff identified former SCCF correctional officers Jillian McGuire (“McGuire”) and Courtney Smith (“Smith”) as additional Defendants, both of whom had been previously identified as “Jane Does.” See Third Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 38), and Order entered November 2, 2016 (Docket Entry No. 37). However, process has been returned unexecuted for these two defendants. See Docket Entry Nos. 49 & 50.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was involved in a fight involving four other inmates at the SCCF on February 18, 2016 (“the February 18 fight”), but that he sustained no physical injuries. He contends that Defendant Inman investigated the incident, determined that a “majority” of the inmates involved were known or confirmed gang members, and charged all the inmates with participating in “security threat group activity” and/or fighting. See Third Amended Complaint at 4-5. Plaintiff alleges that each of the inmates pled guilty to the disciplinary charges and were placed in segregated confinement for a period of time. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was placed in housing unit “Apollo-A pod” upon his release from segregation on March 5, 2016, as were the other inmates who had been involved in the fight. Id. at 5-6. Plaintiff asserts that on March 7, 2016, another fight occurred (“the March 7 fight”) in the housing unit's dining room involving himself, some of the inmates involved in the prior fight, and other inmates. Id. at 6-7. Plaintiff was stabbed during the fight before it was stopped and was treated for his injuries. Id. at 7. On April 8, 2016, he was transferred from the SCCF to the WTSP. Id. at 8. As the basis for his Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff contends that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his constitutional right to personal safety in the aftermath of the February 18 fight and failed in their duty to protect him from violence at the hand of other inmates at the SCCF.


         In Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, he seeks judgment in his favor as to the liability of Defendant Inman. Plaintiff argues that Inman was aware from his investigation of the February 18 fight that other inmates posed a risk to Plaintiff's personal safety, yet Inman acted with deliberate indifference to this risk by failing to take reasonable measures to ensure that Plaintiff was protected from harm. See Brief in Support (Docket Entry No. 41). Although not clearly stated by Plaintiff, he appears to argue that he should not have been placed back into the same housing unit with the other inmates involved in the February 18 fight and that Inman should have taken measures available under TDOC policy to 1) place Plaintiff or the other inmates in administrative segregation or protective custody, or, 2) have the other inmates labeled as incompatible with Plaintiff. Plaintiff supports his motion with his own affidavit. See Docket Entry No. 42.[1]

         In Defendant Inman's motion for summary judgment, he first argues that it is undisputed that Plaintiff was found guilty, pursuant to his own guilty pleas, of the prison disciplinary infractions of fighting and participating in a security threat group, charges that arose from the March 7 fight. Inman argues that Plaintiff's failure to protect claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), which Inman contends requires Plaintiff to have the convictions reversed, expunged, declared invalid, or called into question before he can pursue his Section 1983 claim. Defendant Inman also argues that the evidence before the Court fails to support Plaintiff's claim that his constitutional right to personal safety was violated by Inman in either his individual or official capacity. Defendant Inman acknowledges that both inmate fights occurred as alleged, but asserts that 1) Plaintiff failed to make any statement in the aftermath of the February 18 fight, 2) at no time did Plaintiff complain or otherwise let Inman or any other prison official know that Plaintiff feared for his safety because of any other inmate, and, 3) Plaintiff did not request either to be placed in protective custody or to have any inmate labeled as an incompatible with Plaintiff. Defendant Inman further asserts that he had no role in Plaintiff's housing placement at the SCCF and that his only involvement in the matter was investigating the two fights and charging Plaintiff with the disciplinary infractions. Defendant Inman supports his motion with his own declaration (Docket Entry No. 46) and with a statement of undisputed material facts (Docket Entry No. 45).

         Both parties have filed responses in opposition to their opponent's motion for summary judgment. See Docket Entry Nos. 47, 51, 52, 53, and 54.


         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). The standard of review for cross-motions for summary judgment does not differ from the standard applied when a motion is filed by only one party to the litigation. Taft Broad. Co. v. U.S., 929 F.2d 240, 248 (6th Cir. 1991).

         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). 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). “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). See 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 ...

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