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Raybon-Tate v. Schofield

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

December 1, 2017

DERRICK SCHOFIELD, et al., Defendants.

          TRAUGER JUDGE.



         I. Introduction and Background

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Docket No. 132. Along with that Motion, Defendants have contemporaneously filed a supporting Memorandum of Law (Docket No. 133), a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Docket No. 140), and the Affidavits of Deborah Tomlin (Docket No. 134), Derrick Schofield (Docket No. 135), Stevenson Nixon (Docket No. 136), Tony Parker (Docket No. 137), Marcia Campey (Docket No. 138), and Patricia Crockett (Docket No. 139).

         Plaintiff has filed a Response to the instant Motion, which specifically states that it is a Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, supporting Memorandum of Law, and Affidavits, but which also contains handwritten responses to Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. See Docket No. 144.[1]

         Plaintiff, an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”), filed his pro se, in forma pauperis, Verified Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they failed to place a statewide “incompatible” designation on him, which in turn resulted in him being assaulted. Docket No. 1. Plaintiff sues Defendants in their official capacities, and seeks: (1) a designation of “incompatible” in the TDOC computer system; (2) an Order that he be housed at the DeBerry Special Needs Facility for the remainder of his sentence; (3) to be taken to “outside medical” to “check & clear” him from the assault; (4) to receive physical therapy; (5) $3, 000, 000.00 in compensatory damages from TDOC; and (6) an immediate release from prison. Id.

         Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting materials arguing that they are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law because: (1) Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Schofield and Parker are based upon respondeat superior, which does not provide a basis for the imposition of liability under §1983 absent allegations that they personally authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced to the allegedly unconstitutional conduct; (2) Defendant Schofield did not receive a copy of the hearing transcript referenced in Plaintiff's Complaint and therefore did not have notice of any threats to Plaintiff's safety; (3) Plaintiff's allegations that Defendants should have placed a statewide incompatible designation in his record is conclusory and fails to allege any unconstitutional acts on the part of them; (4) because Defendants did not know of a substantial risk to Plaintiff's safety, they can not be said to have disregarded that risk, such that they cannot be held liable for such an Eighth Amendment claim; (5) none of these Defendants had any knowledge whatsoever about Plaintiff's alleged injuries, such that they cannot be held liable for denying him medical care for those alleged injuries; and (6) there is no evidence in the record that Plaintiff suffered actual injury, and if he did, any such injury would be de minimis, such that under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) Plaintiff would be unable to establish sufficient physical injury. Docket Nos. 132-40. Defendants further argue that this action must be dismissed because they are entitled to qualified immunity and because the Eleventh Amendment bars monetary claims against them in their official capacities, as they are not “persons” as defined in § 1983. Id.

         Plaintiff, in his Response, argues that, “at the end of the day, my entire last 3 - 1983 complaints have been regarding the corruptness of the Tenn. Department of Corrections. And their department repeatedly, not only put my life and safety in danger. But numerous other inmates life and safety in danger in the custody of the T.D.O.C. across the state which is why I refuse to just lay down, give up and die.” Docket No. 144, p. 3. Plaintiff further argues that Defendants “were all at fault for me being assaulted on 1-22-15 one way or another.” Id. at 4. Plaintiff maintains that he repeatedly asked for an incompatible designation but his requests were ignored. Id., passim. Addressing the issue of his injuries, Plaintiff asserts, “Between all the times that I had been assaulted at South Central, C.B.C.X., ‘while in Davidson County Criminal Court' I suffered several permentaly [sic] physically and mentaly [sic] injuries. Still right to this day. I suffer from seriouse [sic] physical challenges and also seriouse [sic] mental challenges mainly ‘P.S.D' [sic] which makes me very extra paranoid. Every [sic] since my assaults at S.C.C.F. and C.B.C.X.” Id. at 5. Plaintiff argues that Defendants should be held “accountable for their actions” and should be made to “protect my life and safety while in their custody. Just as if I was their on [sic] son or daughter.” Id.

         For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned finds that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that Defendants are entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 132) be GRANTED.

         II. Undisputed Facts[2]

         A. Allegations Against These Defendants in Plaintiff's Verified Complaint

         Under TDOC policies and guidelines, “the proper thing to do” would have been for Defendants to place a statewide TDOC incompatible designation on Plaintiff regarding every inmate who was known to be a danger to Plaintiff, but Defendants did not do so, instead refusing Plaintiff's incompatible request. Docket No. 1, p. 4-5.

         Defendant Nixon verbally responded to one of Plaintiff's grievances and threatened to take away his recently-granted classification override. Id. at 6.

         B. Affidavit of Deborah Tomlin

         At all times relevant to the instant action Deborah Tomlin was employed as an Institutional Investigator at the Charles Bass Correctional Complex in Nashville, Tennessee. Docket No. 134, ¶ 2. Investigator Tomlin had spoken with Plaintiff on several occasions and recalls him from memory. Id., ¶ 3. When Plaintiff was transferred to the Charles Bass Correctional Complex, Investigator Tomlin had no knowledge of any other lawsuits Plaintiff had filed, his background, or the basis for his transfer to Charles Bass, as such information is not typically shared with her. Id., ¶ 4.

         Investigator Tomlin never attended any hearings related to any other lawsuit concerning Plaintiff, nor was she provided with any documentation or transcripts related to any other case. Id., ¶ 5. Investigator Tomlin did not receive any other information that would suggest that there was a risk to Plaintiff's safety. Id.

         Investigator Tomlin has no specific knowledge about the alleged assault on Plaintiff at the Davidson County Courthouse on January 22, 2015; it was not brought to her attention at the time it occurred, nor was she asked to conduct an investigation into the alleged assault. Id., ¶ 6.

         The first time that Investigator Tomlin heard that Plaintiff wanted incompatibles put in place on his institutional record was on March 19, 2015, when she receiving an email from Plaintiff's counselor (Tom Rushing), saying that he needed to speak with her. Id., ¶ 7. Investigator Tomlin received another email on the same day with information on the inmates for whom Plaintiff was requesting to be indicated as incompatible. Id., ¶ 8. The inmates for whom Plaintiff requested to be indicated as incompatible on March 19, 2015 were Edwin Santiago, Jr., James Shields III, Audarious Watts, Ladarius Craig, Elbert Gleaves, and Christopher Young. Id., ¶ 9. When Investigator Tomlin received Tom Rushing's emails on March 19, 2015, she immediately started an investigation into the incompatible request and, on April 1, 2015, she entered the requested inmates' names into TOMIS as being incompatible with Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 10. At the time of Investigator Tomlin's Affidavit, those inmates remained listed as being incompatible with Plaintiff. Id. Investigator Tomlin's understanding was that in anticipation of Charles Bass Correctional Complex May 2015 closure, Plaintiff approached his counselor to make sure that when he was assigned to a new prison, he did not get assigned to one where these particular inmates were being housed. Id., ¶ 11. Prior to March 19, 2015, neither Plaintiff nor anyone else had given Investigator Tomlin any reason to believe that there was a threat to Plaintiff's safety, or that incompatibles needed to be placed on his institutional record. Id., ¶ 12.

         Investigator Tomlin is certain that Plaintiff never personally told her that he feared any other inmate or that he wanted an incompatible designation put in place between he and another inmate. Id., ¶ 13. If an inmate claims that he is in fear for his life or that his safety is at risk, he is segregated while the incompatible investigation is conducted. Id., ¶ 16.

         As of March 19, 2015, none of the inmates were housed with Plaintiff at Charles Bass so there was no immediate threat to his safety. Id., ¶ 14. Prior to March 19, 2015, Investigator Tomlin had no reason to designate Plaintiff as incompatible with any other inmate, and she could not have done so without having evidence that such a designation was necessary. Id., ¶ 15.

         Investigator Tomlin has no knowledge of Plaintiff's alleged injuries, nor has she ever been in a position to offer Plaintiff medical care. Id., ¶ 17.

         C. Affidavit of ...

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