United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RONNIE GREER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on defendants' Sharon Taylor,
Jesse Gregg, Harold Angel, Kevin Hampton, Randy Lee, Misty
Hardin Gregg, and Jeffrey Chance (“defendants”)
motion for summary judgment. [Doc. 79]. The plaintiff filed a
response, [Doc. 86], opposing the motion. The matter is ripe
plaintiff was sentenced to serve four years in the custody of
the Tennessee Department of Corrections (“TDOC”)
for convictions of felony evading arrest and reckless
endangerment. [Doc. 87 ¶ 1]. The plaintiff began serving
his sentence at the South Central Correctional Facility and
was later transferred to the Northeast Correctional Complex
(“NECX”) where the incident giving rise to this
suit occurred. [Id. ¶ 2]. At all relevant
times, the plaintiff was classified by TDOC as a minimum
security inmate. [Id. ¶ 3]. The plaintiff was
housed in the NECX Annex (“Annex”) prior to
September 20, 2013. [Amended Complaint ¶ 16].
On September 20, 2013, the plaintiff was involved in an
interaction or altercation with another inmate while standing
in line in the Annex dining facility. [Id. ¶
to the defendants, defendant Misty Hardin Gregg
(“Hardin Gregg”) offered the plaintiff and the
other inmate the opportunity to complete a work sanction in
lieu of a disciplinary report. [Hardin Gregg Depo.
at 18-19]. Defendant Hardin Gregg testified that the
plaintiff refused the work sanction and, upon his refusal,
she called her supervisor, Captain Henson, who made the
decision to send the plaintiff to the compound from the Annex
pursuant to TDOC policy. [Id. at 19]. Defendant
Hardin Gregg completed the disciplinary report.
[Id.]. The plaintiff testified in his deposition
that he did not refuse the work sanction but readily accepted
it. [Raudenbush Depo at 110]. The plaintiff further
testified that his acceptance of the work sanction angered
defendant Hardin Gregg and she told him he would be going to
the compound. [Id. at 111].
the plaintiff argues in his response to the motion that
defendant Hardin Gregg “ordered” and made the
decision for him to be sent to the compound, the plaintiff
testified in his deposition that prior to defendant Hardin
Gregg completing the disciplinary report that she made two or
three phone calls in his presence which he believed were to
her supervisors. [Id. at 112]. The plaintiff further
testified that “nobody leaves the annex without [the
unit manager's] permission” according to his
understanding of TDOC policy. [Id. at 114, 115].
According to the plaintiff, defendant Kevin Hampton was the
unit manager and the plaintiff went to him and asked him to
not send the plaintiff to the compound but defendant Hampton
failed to intervene. [Id.]. The plaintiff admitted
that he did not know if defendant Hampton was responsible for
sending him to the compound. [Id. at 116].
housed in the compound, the plaintiff's cellmate was
inmate Christian. [Doc. 87 ¶ 9]. On September 24, 2013,
the defendant sent a letter to the warden, defendant Sharon
Taylor, stating that he faced a potential threat from his
cellmate, inmate Christian. [Id. ¶ 11]. The
plaintiff testified he sent this letter in a sealed envelope
addressed to Warden Taylor through the in-house mail system.
[Raudenbush Depo. at 121]. The plaintiff testified
he sent one prior letter to Warden Taylor in the same manner
but had no other evidence of such a letter. [Id.].
No other inmate was listed as a threat to the plaintiff in
the September 24, 2013 letter to the warden. [Doc. 87 at
¶11]. The letter states that inmate Christian had
“robbed” him by stealing some of his belongings
in the cell and had shown him a knife “to scare”
him but that he “was not scared because my faith is in
Christ.” [Id.]. The plaintiff wanted to be
moved to a different unit or pod because he believed the unit
he was placed in was a gang unit for violent inmates.
[Id.]. The same day the letter was written,
defendant Taylor wrote at the top of the letter, “Mr.
McCracken, Have a member of your team talk to this man-move
him if necessary. S. Taylor.” [Id.].
early morning hours of the following day, September 25, 2013,
the plaintiff was attacked in his cell by inmate House. [Doc.
87 at ¶ 13]. The plaintiff testified that he believed
the attack occurred at 6:00 in the morning or earlier.
[Raudenbush Depo. at 20]. The plaintiff testified
the attack occurred as follows, “Inmate Christian
opened the door . . . and let Inmate House in and that's
when Inmate House started to assault me while I was still in
bed.” [Id. at 22].
plaintiff testified that during the time he was housed in the
compound prior to the September 25, 2013 attack he informed
defendants Chance and Lewis, correctional officers, that he
was in fear for his life. [Id. at 123]. The
plaintiff gave no specific day that he talked with these
officers but said that he told the officers he feared for his
safety because inmate Christian, his cellmate, had a knife.
[Id. at 123-24]. The plaintiff testified that
defendants Chance and Lewis responded to this notice by
performing a cell search “shortly after, ” or
“a day maybe” after he talked to them but no
knife was located. [Id. at 124-25].
plaintiff brought suit against defendants Sharon Taylor,
Kevin Hampton, Misty Hardin Gregg, Harold Angel, Randy Lee,
Jesse Gregg, Officer Chance, and Officer Lewis. The plaintiff
alleges violations of his civil rights under Title 42, United
States Code § 1983 (“§ 1983”) and state
law claims for the beating that occurred on September 25,
2013. [Doc. 9]. The Court previously dismissed other
defendants relating to a § 1983 claim for allegedly
failing to provide medical care. [Docs. 38, 58]. The
plaintiff's state law claim for negligence or gross
negligence has also been dismissed. [Doc. 58]. The only
remaining claims are against the above listed defendants for
alleged § 1983 violations, intentional infliction of
emotional distress, and assault and battery.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is proper where the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the Court must view the facts contained in the
record and all inferences that can be drawn from those facts
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports,
Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th
Cir. 2001). The Court cannot weigh the evidence, judge the
credibility of witnesses, or determine the truth of any
matter in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that
no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). To refute such a
showing, the non-moving party must present some significant,
probative evidence indicating the necessity of a trial for
resolving a material factual dispute. Id. at 322. A
mere scintilla of evidence is not enough. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 252; McClain v. Ontario, Ltd., 244 F.3d
797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). This Court's role is
limited to determining whether the case contains sufficient
evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the
non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49;
Nat'l Satellite Sports, 253 F.3d at 907. If the
non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of its case with respect to which it has
the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to summary
judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. If this Court
concludes that a fair-minded jury could not return a verdict
in favor of the non-moving party based on the evidence
presented, it may enter a summary judgment.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; Lansing Dairy,
Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir.
party opposing a Rule 56 motion may not simply rest on the
mere allegations or denials contained in the party's
pleadings. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Instead, an
opposing party must affirmatively present competent evidence
sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact
necessitating the trial of that issue. Id. Merely
alleging that a factual dispute exists cannot defeat a
properly supported motion for summary judgment. Id.
A genuine issue for trial is not established by evidence that
is merely colorable, or by factual disputes that are
irrelevant or unnecessary. Id. at 248-52.
§ 1983 Claim
plaintiff brought suit pursuant to Title 42, United States
Code § 1983 for alleged failure to protect him from a
threat of serious harm. In order to state a claim under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived
of a federal constitutional right by a person acting under
color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens
Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998);
O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990,
995 (6th Cir. 1994); Russo v. City of Cincinnati,
953 F.2d 1036, 1042 (6th Cir. 1992); see also Braley v.
City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990)
(stating that “Section 1983 does not itself create any
constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the
vindication of constitutional guarantees found
defendants first argue that they are entitled to summary
judgment on the § 1983 claim because they cannot be held
liable for § 1983 claims based solely on respondeat
superior liability. Section 1983 liability “will
not be imposed solely on the basis of respondeat
superior” or the right to control employees.
Bellamy v. Bradley, 729 F.2d 416, 421 (6th Cir.
1984). There must be a showing that the “supervisor
encouraged the specific incident of misconduct or in some
other way directly participated in it.” Id. At
a minimum, the plaintiff is required to show that the
supervisory official “at least implicitly authorized,
approved or knowingly acquiesced in the unconstitutional
conduct of the offending subordinate.” Id.
(citing Hays v. Jefferson County, 668 F.2d 869,
872-74 (6th Cir. 1982)). Furthermore, § 1983 liability
must be based on “active unconstitutional behavior and
cannot be based upon a ‘mere failure to
act.'” Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295,
300 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Salehpour v. University of
Tennessee, 159 F.3d 199, 206-07 (6th Cir. 1998), cert.
denied, 526 U.S. 1115 (1999)).
to the defendants, the plaintiff has failed to allege any
personal, active involvement of defendants Taylor, Hampton,
Hardin Gregg, Angel or Lee that would be sufficient to
provide a basis for § 1983 liability. The defendants
move the Court to dismiss the § 1983 claim against them.
The plaintiff argues that he is not relying on respondeat
superior liability to hold any defendant liable under
§ 1983 but instead has alleged personal involvement in
the alleged unconstitutional conduct. Each defendant will be
plaintiff testified that defendant Hampton's allegedly
unconstitutional actions consisted of “as unit manager,
Mr. Hampton was obligated and responsible over me as an
inmate and when I brought an issue to his attention, he
ignored it.” [Raudenbush Depo. at 117]. The
plaintiff testified that he told defendant Hampton that he
may be sent to the compound and defendant Hampton's
response was that ‘he'll deal with it when he gets
back and he never did.” [Id. at 114]. The
plaintiff argues this failure to act provides the basis for
§ 1983 liability. [Doc. 86 at 3]. Defendant Hampton
cannot be held liable under § 1983 based solely on his
supervisory role over defendant Hardin Gregg or “as
unit manager” over the inmate.
defendant Sharon Taylor, the plaintiff argues that she was
directly involved in the deprivation of his constitutional
rights because she ignored actual knowledge of threats to
harm the plaintiff. [Doc. 86 at 4]. The plaintiff argues that
defendant Taylor was aware of a potential risk to the
plaintiff but acted deliberately indifferent despite the
multiple letters and warnings communicated to her.
[Id.]. The plaintiff further states that defendant
Taylor made a handwritten, signed note on the letter he sent
her regarding the potential threat prior to the attack by
inmate Christian. [Id. at 9]. The Court finds the
evidence presented is ...