United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia Division
REPORT AND RECOMENDATION
BARBARA D. HOLMES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Order entered February 21, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 6), this
prisoner civil rights 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.
pending is the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No.
21) of Defendants Zebulon Stults and Cory Cottrell. Plaintiff
has not responded to the motion. For the reasons set out
below, the undersigned Magistrate Judge respectfully
recommends that the motion be granted and this action be
Crockett (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate of the
Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) who
is currently confined at the West Tennessee State Prison
(“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee. On January 6,
2017, he filed this action pro se and in forma
pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages and
injunctive relief based on allegations that his
constitutional rights were violated at the South Central
Correctional Facility (“SCCF”) in Clifton,
Tennessee, where he was confined at the time he filed the
lawsuit and prior to being transferred to WTSP.
October 28, 2016, Plaintiff was being escorted from the
shower area in his housing unit at the SCCF back to his cell
by Correctional Officers Zebulon Stults
(“Stults”) and Cory Cottrell
(“Cottrell”). As per the institutional policy for
his unit, Plaintiff was restrained in handcuffs and a belly
chain at the time of being escorted. Plaintiff alleges that
Stults attacked him from behind and slammed his head into the
ground, causing him to lose consciousness. He alleges that
Stults and Cottrell then used their knees to apply all of
their weight onto Plaintiff's head and lower back.
Plaintiff contends that his wrists were cut and swollen as a
result of the attack and that he has suffered constant
migraine headaches and back pain since the attack occurred.
He alleges that Stults and Cottrell charged him with
disciplinary offenses after the incident, but that he was not
convicted of the charges. He further alleges that the
officers were not reprimanded after the assault and that
other prison staff tried to “cover up” the
incident. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1).
order of referral, the Court found that Plaintiff had alleged
colorable claims that Stults and Cottrell violated his Eighth
Amendment rights. Upon Defendants' joint answer to the
Complaint, see Docket Entry No. 17, a scheduling
order was entered. See Docket Entry No. 18.
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
seek summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. They acknowledge that an incident occurred
on October 28, 2016, during which they used physical force to
bring Plaintiff to the ground and to restrain him. However,
they assert that such force was necessary because Plaintiff
had repeatedly attempted to pull away from the officers while
being escorted, had ignored verbal orders to stop his
behavior, and had attempted to use his body to shove Cottrell
down the stairs in the unit. They contend that the use of
force was limited and reasonable and was no more than was
necessary under the circumstances. They assert that once
Plaintiff stopped physically resisting, he was taken to be
examined by the medical staff, who, 1) noted no injuries
other than redness and an abrasion to Plaintiff's right
wrist, and, 2) directed that Plaintiff's handcuffs be
loosened and that he be returned to his cell. Defendants
contend that an internal investigation of the incident
occurred and resulted in a finding that their use of force
was necessary and justified.
argue that the claim brought against them in their official
capacities must be dismissed because such a claim is
essentially a claim against Corrections Corporation of
America (“CCA”), who was a private company that
administered the TTCC and was their employer at the time, but
that the Court already dismissed claims brought against CCA
in its initial review of the Complaint. With respect to the
claims brought against them individually, Defendants argue
that the undisputed facts do not support a claim that they
used excessive force against Plaintiff in violation of his
Eighth Amendment rights. In support of their motion,
Defendants rely upon the declarations of Cottrell (Docket
Entry No. 21-3), SCCF Health Services Administrator Jammie
Garner (Docket Entry No. 21-4), SCCF Unit Manager Ryan
Deatherage (Docket Entry No. 21-5), and Stults (Docket Entry
No. 21-6), and a statement of Undisputed Material Facts
(Docket Entry No. 21-2).
was notified of the motion and given a deadline of October
27, 2017, to file a response. See Order entered
September 18, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 22). To-date, no
response has been filed by Plaintiff.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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). 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). In considering whether
summary judgment is appropriate, the Court must “look
beyond the pleadings and assess the proof to determine
whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Sowards
v. Loudon Cnty., 203 F.3d 426, 431 (6th Cir.), cert.
denied, 531 U.S. 875, 121 S.Ct. 179, 148 L.Ed.2d 123
(2000). 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).
moving party has the burden of showing the absence of genuine
factual disputes from which a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, at
249-50. “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). In other
words, to defeat summary judgment, the party opposing the
motion must ...