United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY United States Magistrate Judge.
Introduction and Background
matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. Docket No. 62. Along with their Motion,
Defendants have contemporaneously filed a supporting
Memorandum of Law (Docket No. 63) and a Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts (Docket No. 64), along with the
Affidavits of Ronald McBay (“McBay Aff.”)(Docket
No. 65), Brandon Copeland (“Copeland
Aff.”)(Docket No. 66), and Roger Tidwell
(“Tidwell Aff.”)(Docket No. 67).
has filed a “Motion in Opposition to the Defendants
[sic] Motion for Summary Judgment” and a
supporting “Memorandum” (Docket Nos. 70, 71),
both of which the Court will construe as Plaintiff's
Response to the instant Motion. Plaintiff has additionally filed
his Affidavit (“Plaintiff's Aff.”). Docket
No. 72. Plaintiff, however, has not responded to
Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, nor
has he filed his own Statement of Undisputed Material Facts.
have filed a Reply. Docket No. 73.
who, at all times relevant to the case at bar, was an inmate
in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction
(“TDOC”) housed at the Bledsoe County
Correctional Complex (“BCCX”), but who has since
been transferred to the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center,
filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action pursuant to 42
U.S.C . §1983, alleging in his Amended Complaint that
Defendants violated his rights by utilizing excessive force
against him when an unknown Officer “put leg shackles
on him excessively tight sadistically and maliciously to
inflict pain and cause suffering” before transporting
him to the Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility
(“DSNF”) on the bus. Docket No. 32. Plaintiff
sues Brandon Copeland and Ronald McBay seeking compensatory
and punitive damages. Id. Plaintiff does not specify
the capacity in which he sues Defendants Copeland and McBay;
accordingly, Plaintiff is deemed to sue them solely in their
official capacity. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591,
592-594 (6th Cir. 1989) (plaintiffs, including pro se
prisoners, are required to specify in their §1983
actions that they are suing state defendants in their
individual capacities for damages; if a plaintiff does not
specify the capacity in which a defendant is sued, the Court
presumes that the defendant is being sued in his official
filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting
materials on March 6, 2017, arguing that because Plaintiff
cannot identify the Officer who allegedly placed restraints
on his ankles too tightly, he cannot state a claim against
them for the alleged use of excessive force, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §1983. Docket Nos. 62-67. Defendants additionally
argue that Plaintiff has alleged that he suffered only de
minimis injuries, if any at all, such that he has failed to
state a claim for relief under §1983. Id.
Finally, Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified
responds by reiterating the factual allegations of his
Amended Complaint and arguing that genuine issues of material
fact exist that preclude granting summary judgment. Docket
Nos. 70-72. Addressing first the objective component
of his claim, Plaintiff argues that his allegations that: (1)
he was placed in “significantly confining restraints
during the transport trip on September 14th, 2015,
that caused him to suffer extreme swelling in his ankles, and
that when the restraints were removed, he had bruising,
scarring, and lacerations/cuts”; (2) he suffered
“extremely sever [sic]” pain; and (3)
the unknown Officer “refused to take any corrective
action to relieve the tightness or manner of the restraints
despite the Plaintiff's cries to adjust these restraints
& despite the obvious signs of physical pain that were
being caused by the restraints, ” sufficiently
“raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the
objective component of [his] claim.” Id. at
5-6. Plaintiff further contends that his Affidavit is in
direct contradiction with the Affidavits of Defendants
Copeland and McBay such that the “conflicting versions
of the events at issue raises a credibility question which is
not appropriately resolved in the stance of determining
summary judgment and is best left to the trier of
fact.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff also responds that
his assertions of numbness, pain, swelling, lacerations/cuts
and bleeding are evidence of more than just a de minimis
to the subjective component of his claim, Plaintiff argues
that “determination of this issue requires
consideration of factors such as ‘the need for the
application of force, the relationship between the need and
the amount of force that was used, and the extent of injury
inflicted.'” Id. at 7, citing
Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21. Plaintiff argues that
genuine issues of material fact exist with regard to the
relationship between the need and the amount of force that
was used, the extent of injury inflicted on Plaintiff, the
threat to the safety of staff and other prisoners as
reasonably perceived by the Transportation officers on the
basis of the facts known to them, and any efforts made to
temper the severity of a forceful response. Id. at
8. Plaintiff argues that “resolution of these
underlying factual disputes is necessary to determining
whether an Eighth Amendment violation occurred, ” such
that Defendants motion must be denied. Id.
the identity of the Officer who shackled him, Plaintiff
responds that he “has proffered since the inception of
this litigation that ‘one' of the two (2) Officers
placed excessively tight leg restraints on him'”
and that he “has been unable to secure the legal name
of the individual responsible for such action” due to
the concealment of the Officer's official nametag.
Id. at 9. Plaintiff argues that he has diligently
attempted to ascertain the identity of the unknown Officer
but has been unable to do so due to TDOC's
unresponsiveness, his inability to obtain the video footage
of the day in question, and Defendants' deliberate
“stonewall[ing]” of his attempts to do so,
thereby “creating unavoidable circumstances beyond his
control.” Id. at 10. Plaintiff maintains that
in “regard to his current inability to presently and
promptly identify this unknown officer, he has presented
evidence that at least one (1) of the Defendants caused him
to suffer significant pain and injuries that necessitated
medical attention and that such actions were excessive,
gratuitous and malicious in nature, thus establishing
culpability of excessive force.” Id. at 11.
Plaintiff asserts that both Defendants Copeland and McBay
have been put on notice of Plaintiff's intentions to hold
at least one of them liable for the actions of which he
complains and he argues that he can visually identify which
Officer caused him harm. Id. at 12.
the unknown Officer's mental state, Plaintiff argues that
the dismissive response he received when he notified the
unknown Officer that his leg restraints were too tight
“validates that the defendant(s) actions were done in a
malicious and gratuitous manner to cause pain.”
Id. at 14. Plaintiff maintains that “a
dismissive response from an officer is sufficient to meek the
second prong of a claim for excessively forceful
his injury, Plaintiff contends that he has established that
he suffered more than a de minimis injury. Id. at
15-16. Plaintiff further contends that a prisoner alleging an
Eighth Amendment violation need not prove that he suffered a
serious physical injury, but rather, demonstrate instead that
the infliction of pain was unnecessary and wanton; Plaintiff
maintains that he has done so. Id.
argues also that Defendants are not entitled to qualified
immunity because the law was clearly established that
excessive cuffing is tantamount to excessive force.
Id. at 16-20.
in their Reply, maintain that there are no disputed facts in
this case and that they are entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law. Docket No. 73. Substantively, Defendants argue
that Plaintiff has failed to identify which Officer placed
the shackles upon him, despite the facts that the Officers
were wearing nametags and Defendants provided Plaintiff with
the names of every Officer who was in the vicinity on the
date of the incident in question. Id. at 2-3.
further reply that the names of the Officers provided were
obtained from a shift roster found in the prison's human
resources department, not any video, because, since no
investigation was warranted or undertaken, no video was
preserved, and any video that had been originally taken was
taped over in the normal course of business, long before the
Complaint was ever filed in this case. Id. at 3.
Defendants reiterate their contention that because Plaintiff
cannot or will not identify the individual responsible for
restraining him on that date, his claim must fail.
Id. at 4.
reasons set forth below, the undersigned finds that there are
no genuine issues as to any material fact and that Defendants
are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. The
undersigned therefore recommends that Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 32) be GRANTED.
Affidavit of Ronald McBay
times relevant to the instant action, Ronald McBay was
employed by the Tennessee Department of Correction
(“TDOC”) as a Correctional Corporal at the
Bledsoe County Correctional Complex (“BCCX”).
Docket No. 65, ¶¶ 2, 3. While a TDOC employee, Cpl.
McBay has never been disciplined for the mistreatment of an
inmate. Id., ¶ 4.
date of the alleged incident, Cpl. McBay was working in the
BCCX transportation yard and was wearing his nametag on his
uniform, as required by TDOC policy. Id.,
¶¶ 5, 6. Inmates are searched and shackled prior to
getting on their assigned bus. Id., ¶ 7. It is
common practice during that process for different members of
the transportation team to assist with the different tasks,
including placing the appropriate restraints on each inmate.
Id., ¶ 8.
date of the alleged incident, there were 33 inmates leaving
from BCCX, traveling to other destinations. Id.,
¶ 9. Cpl. McBay cannot recall whether he personally
shackled Plaintiff, nor can he identify the officer who did,
but if Cpl. McBay did place restraints on Plaintiff, he had
no intent to cause him harm or to injure him in doing so.
Id., ¶¶ 10, 21.
McBay always places the shackles on the inmates using the
same routine: sliding an index finger between the
inmate's leg and the restraint to ensure that there is
adequate room to move freely, but without enough room to slip
out of the restraints. Id., ¶ 11. If an inmate
complains that his shackles are too tight, Cpl. McBay always
double checks the restraints and loosens their fit if
indicated. Id., ¶ 12.
especially important to properly secure prisoners when they
are being transported from one prison to another, as they
could present a security risk to the general public once they
have left the prison complex. Id., ¶ 13.
Placing restraints over inmates' pants is prohibited as
it is a known security risk and Cpl. McBay could not have
allowed Plaintiff to be transported with restraints that gave
him an opportunity to escape. Id., ¶ 14.
Inmates must wear socks that are rolled up their legs during
transportation and the restraints are placed over the socks
and not directly against the skin. Id., ¶ 15.
McBay does not recall any specific conversation with
Plaintiff, including the alleged statements attributed to him
by Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint: “Stop you-ins
f-ing winning [sic] and get on the f-ing bus.”
Id., ¶ 16. Cpl. McBay did not make such a
statement to Plaintiff or anyone else on that date, nor would
he ever. Id.
McBay has no recollection of Plaintiff complaining that his
shackles were too tight after they were placed, nor of
Plaintiff telling him that he was injured or that his
restraints were causing him pain or injury. Id.,
¶ 17. Had Cpl. McBay witnessed such an injury or had
Plaintiff reported such an injury to him, Cpl. McBay would
have loosened his cuffs if it could have been done safely,
and ensured that he received proper medical care.
Id., ¶ 18. At no time did Cpl. McBay deny
Plaintiff medical care, nor did he stop anyone else from
providing medical care to Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 19.
McBay had no malice toward Plaintiff. Id., ¶
Affidavit of ...