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Day v. White County

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

December 11, 2017

SHANNON LYNN DAY, Plaintiff,
v.
WHITE COUNTY, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Yoko Sumi Gaeshi is an uncommon, yet effective, takedown move used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Stephan Kesting, Top 10 Throws and Takedowns for BJJ, available at www.grapplearts.com/top-10-throws-and-takedowns-for-bjj (June 15, 2015). When successfully completed, the thrower “typically end[s] up in a very strong side control position, ready to continue your attack and tap [his or her] opponent out!” Id. While that move may be appropriate and effective in a Jiu Jitsu competition, it is rarely appropriate for a prison guard to use while escorting a prisoner to his cell. White County, Tennessee, Deputy Sheriff Joseph Thomas used a takedown maneuver similar to the Yoko Sumi Gaeshi on Shannon Day, causing a bone fracture and leading to this action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court are Motions for Summary Judgment filed by Quality Correctional Health Care, Inc. (Doc. No. 20), White County, and Thomas (collectively Doc. No. 31). Day also filed a Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on his excessive force claim against Thomas. (Doc. No. 37.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motions are granted in part and denied in part, and Day's Motion is denied.

         I. UNDISPUTED FACTS

         On November 7, 2012, Day was arrested and taken to the White County Jail for violating a protective order. (Doc. No 48 at 1.) At the jail, Day made more than the one phone call allowed under the jail policies, so Thomas approached Day and told him three times to get off the phone. (Id. at 2.) When Day refused, Thomas reached around Day and hung up the phone. (Id. at 3.) Thomas then put his hand on Day's back, indicating that he wanted Day to walk back to his cell. (Doc. No. 47-7 at 7.) Thomas claims Day cursed at him three times, leading Thomas to put his fist in the middle of Day's back “to control the situation.” (Id. at 4-5; Doc. No. 48 at 4-5.) When Thomas' fist was pushing on Day's back, Day started turning in the direction of the exit door, although the video of the incident does not depict Day making any effort to escape, at which point Thomas put both his arms around Day's neck and performed a takedown maneuver (similar to the Yoko Sumi Gaeshi), ending in a strong side control position. (Doc. No. 35.)

         Day lost consciousness as he hit the ground, and Thomas held him down until Gregory Matthews, another correctional officer, came to assist. (Id.; Doc. No. 48 at 6.) Once Thomas handcuffed Day, the two officers searched Day for contraband, finding a pen hidden in his pants. (Doc. No. 48 at 6.) The officers helped Day stand up and escorted him to a different cell away from the sally port door. (Id. at 7.) Day testified that he fractured a bone in his shoulder during the fall (Doc. No. 27-4 at 6), which Quality Correctional Health Care verifies (Doc. No. 21-1 at 1).

         Day made multiple written requests for medical treatment for his shoulder by filling out a request form and placing it under his door. (Doc. No. 47-7 at 9.) Someone, although it is unclear from the record if the person is a White County or Quality Correctional Health Care official, is supposed to sign the form and return it to Day. (Id. at 10.) This never happened. (Id.) He also made three to five verbal requests per day to “everybody in command that [he] could see.” (Doc. No. 27-4 at 3.) The officers ignored every request, both verbal and written. (Id. at 4.) The Quality Correctional Health Care nurse would also visit Day's cell twice per day, and each time Day would request medical attention for his “broken shoulder” and each time the nurse told him to fill out a request. (Id. at 6.)

         On November 30, 2012, Day was walking down a narrow corridor in the jail and passed the open door to the area staffed by an employee of Quality Correctional Health Care. (Id. at 5; Doc. No. 21 at 1.) While there, he “pleaded to the” nurse that he needed treatment for his shoulder. (Doc. No. 27-4 at 5.) The nurse ordered an x-ray examination, which found that Day fractured his left shoulder. (Doc. No. 21-1.) The nurse never discussed the results with Day. (Doc. No. 27-4 at 9.) The next day, a different nurse gave Day an immobilizer sling for his shoulder and a prescription for 800 mg of Motrin twice per day. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 2.)

         On December 4, 2012, Day was taken to an orthopedic clinic in Cookeville, Tennessee. (Id. at 2-3.) After that appointment, the doctor scheduled an MRI on Day's shoulder for December 13, 2012. (Doc. No. 21-1.) After the MRI, Carl Hollmann, M.D., prescribed no further treatment. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 3.) Day was released from the White County Jail on December 21, 2012. (Id. at 3.)

         II. EXCESSIVE FORCE

         Day brings an excessive force claim against Thomas, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1 at 10-12.) In response, Thomas asserted qualified immunity, alleging that he did not violate any of Day's clearly defined constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 32.) Day, in turn, moved for summary judgment on this claim, arguing that no reasonable jury could find that Thomas acted reasonably. (Doc. No. 38.)

         A. Qualified Immunity Standard

         The Supreme Court set forth the standard for qualified immunity suits:

In [Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 121 S.Ct. 2151 (2001)], this Court mandated a two-step sequence for resolving government officials' qualified immunity claims. First, a court must decide whether the facts that a plaintiff has alleged (see Fed. Rules Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6), (c)) or shown (see Rules 50, 56) make out a violation of a constitutional right. 533 U.S., at 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151. Second, if the plaintiff has satisfied this first step, the court must decide whether the right at issue was “clearly established” at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct. Ibid. Qualified immunity is applicable unless the official's conduct violated a clearly established constitutional right. Anderson, at 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034.

Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232. In evaluating if a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity, the Court must adopt “the plaintiff's version of the facts . . . unless the plaintiff's version is ‘blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it.” Soudemire v. Mich. Dept. of Corr., 705 F.3d 560, 565 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)). The plaintiff “has the burden to prove that a right is clearly established.” Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 494 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Barrett v. Steubenville City Sch., 388 F.3d 967, 970 (6th Cir. 2004)). When, on summary judgment, “the legal question of immunity is completely dependent on which view of the disputed facts is ...


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