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Thomas v. University of Tennessee Hospital

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

March 19, 2018

MATTHEW A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HOSPITAL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS A. VARLAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Court is in receipt of a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 2], a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1; see Doc. 4], as well as various other motions [see Docs. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13], filed by pro se Plaintiff Matthew A. Thomas. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] will be GRANTED; Plaintiff's claims for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment against Buck, Bush, and Moore in their individual capacities, as well as his claims for assault and battery against Buck, Bush, and Moore under Tennessee law, will proceed. The remainder of Plaintiff's federal and state claims will be DISMISSED, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff's motion for ruling on IFP status [Doc. 11] will be DENIED AS MOOT, his motion to appoint counsel [Doc. 9] will be DENIED, and his numerous motions requesting discovery [Docs. 8, 10, 12, 13] will be DENIED AS PREMATURE.

         I. MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. It appears from the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis that Plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the $350.00 filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 1] will be GRANTED.

         Because Plaintiff is an inmate at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, he is herewith ASSESSED the civil filing fee of $350.00. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)(A) and (B), the custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account at the institution where he now resides is directed to submit to the Clerk, U.S. District Court, 800 Market Street, Suite 130, Knoxville, TN, 37902, as an initial partial payment, whichever is greater of:

(a) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's inmate trust account; or
(b) twenty percent (20%) of the average monthly balance in Plaintiff's inmate trust account for the six-month period preceding the filing of the complaint.

         Thereafter, the custodian shall submit twenty percent (20%) of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff's trust account for the preceding month), but only when such monthly income exceeds ten dollars ($10.00), until the full filing fee of three hundred fifty dollars ($350.00) as authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a) has been paid to the Clerk. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2).

         The Clerk is DIRECTED to send a copy of this Memorandum and Order to the Warden of the West Tennessee State Penitentiary, the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction, and the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee to ensure that the custodian of Plaintiff's inmate trust account complies with that portion of the Prison Litigation Reform Act relating to payment of the filing fee. The Clerk is further DIRECTED to forward a copy of this Memorandum and Order to the Court's financial deputy.

         II. PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants “Timothy Hewitt, Public Defender, ” “University of Tennessee Hospital” (hereinafter “UT Hospital”), and several alleged employees of UT Hospital: “Sonny Booth, dispatch” “Christopher Buck, security” “f/n/u D. Moore, security” and “Chuck Bush, EDT” [Doc. 2 at 1]. Plaintiff alleges that, on October 24, 2015, he received information that his girlfriend, Alice Adams, had been in a car accident [Id. at 4]. He went to UT Hospital, where he found Adams in a hallway; she informed him of her injuries, and he “began to try to inquire into why Adams was not being treated” [Id.]. While talking to Adams, Plaintiff “noticed bruises all over Adams's neck and began examining [her] body for other injuries” [Id.]. Plaintiff was able to speak with a nurse at 10:30 in the morning, who stated that Adams was “ready for discharge” [Id.].[1] Plaintiff became “concerned about Adams['] well-being and insinuated” that they should leave to go to another hospital; he also “requested a nurse to speak to her supervisor” [Id. at 5].

         Buck then approached, stating “you need to calm down, ” and then “grabbed [Plaintiff] by the arm and forcefully escorted him” to another room “to seclude him from other pedestrians that were present” [Id.]. Plaintiff complied with Buck's request that he put his hands on the wall, and Buck then advised Plaintiff that he was “under arrest for assaulting a female patient by strangulation” [Id.]. Plaintiff pleaded with Buck to “speak with Alice and review the video footage” and stated that there had been “a misunderstanding” [Id.]. Buck then “grabbed [Plaintiff's] right arm and jammed it up into his body while he ran [Plaintiff's] head into the wall” [Id.]. Plaintiff fell to his knees, realized that his nose was bleeding, and asked Buck “to please stop hitting him” [Id.]. Buck used his knee to hit Plaintiff in the head once more [Id.].

         Plaintiff “managed to pull himself off of the floor and attempt to escape” [Id.]. Before he reached the exit doors, he was tasered by Moore, then again by Buck, then once again by Moore [Id.]. Buck tackled Plaintiff while he was on his knees and held him to the floor while Moore “continued to energize and deploy his taser” [Id.]. Buck handcuffed Plaintiff, and told him: “[you're] lucky we didn't let the K9 loose on you, because this is personal that wasn't an option” [Id.].

         Adams yelled at Buck and Moore that Plaintiff “didn't do anything” and asked them not to hurt him [Id.].[2] After Adams was placed into a closet in the hallway, Buck placed Plaintiff on the hallways floor and “began kicking [him] in the face”; Bush “came and assisted by holding [Plaintiff to the floor], ” while Adams continued to “frantically plead[]” for Plaintiff's safety from the confines of the closet [Id. at 5-6]. Defendants stopped the assault only when Plaintiff “began choking on his own blood, ” at which point, he was escorted to a holding “cell” [Id. at 6].

         When questioned by the police, Buck stated that Plaintiff “had assaulted him and other security officers after he strangled [Adams] on a stretcher in the hallway”; the other officers involved gave similar accounts of the incident [Id.]. Plaintiff maintains that these accounts were “fabricated, ” noting that Adams “continuously denied” that Plaintiff strangled her and refused to sign a statement written by Buck regarding the incident [Id. at 6-7].

         Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was examined by a doctor, who determined that his injuries-including a wounded lip, bruising, four broken teeth, and fractures of the jaw, nose, and various facial bones-were “caused by blunt force trauma” [Id. at 6]. After he was treated for his injuries, Plaintiff was taken to Knox County Jail, where he was “booked on charges ranging from aggravated assault on public officials [to] strangulation of Alice Adams” [Id.].

         Defendant Hewitt was appointed to represent Plaintiff with respect to these charges [Id.]. Plaintiff maintains that Hewitt did not adequately represent him, because he failed to fully investigate the incident or procure useful discovery materials, and because he “ratified . . . coercive tactics” used to induce Plaintiff's guilty plea, despite the fact that he was aware that the charges against Plaintiff were based on false statements [Id. at 6-7].[3]

         Based on these allegations, Plaintiff raises the following claims:

(1) excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution against
(a) Buck, Moore, and Bush, based on their actions during the course of Plaintiff's arrest and detention, and
(b) UT Hospital for adopting “procedures, practices or customs” which allowed the individual defendants to use excessive force;
(2) denial of procedural due process in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment against Buck Moore, Booth, Bush, and Hewitt based on the destruction, concealment, and/or suppression of exculpatory evidence;
(3) denial of substantive due process in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourteenth Amendment against
(a) Moore, Booth, and Bush based on
(1) fabrication of evidence for the purpose of having ...

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