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Williams v. Hawkins

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

May 22, 2018




         By Order entered September 5, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 5), 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.

         Presently pending is the motion for summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 18) of Defendant Eddra Hawkins. 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 dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Senquarius Williams (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate confined at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility (“Detention Facility”).[1] On August 17, 2017, he filed this lawsuit pro se and in forma pauperis, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on allegations that his constitutional rights were violated at the Detention Facility. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that while in the staff dining room on February 28, 2017, he was kneed in the rib cage by Detention Facility Captain Eddra Hawkins (“Hawkins” or “Defendant”) in a manner that was unnecessary, malicious, and sadistic. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1) at 5. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered “serious medical injuries to my ribs, back, and surrounding muscles and nerves, as well as mental pain and suffering.” Id. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint to add that Hawkins had kneed him “repeatedly” while Plaintiff was on the ground in handcuffs after being maced by another officer and while he had no way to defend himself. See Docket Entry No. 14.

         In the order of referral, the Court found that Plaintiff alleged a colorable claim that Hawkins used unconstitutional force against him and directed that process issue to Hawkins.[2] After Defendant Hawkins filed an answer, see Docket Entry No. 12, a scheduling order was entered providing for a period of discovery and pretrial activity in the action. See Docket Entry No. 13.


         On March 9, 2018, Defendant filed the pending motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He acknowledges that an incident occurred on February 28, 2017, during which physical force was used against Plaintiff. However, Defendant asserts that the use of force was necessary because Plaintiff was engaging in an aggressive and disruptive confrontation with two other Detention Facility officers that eventually led to a chemical agent being sprayed on Plaintiff and Plaintiff physically struggling with a female officer. Defendant contends that the officers physically took Plaintiff to the ground after he refused several orders to stop his behavior and to submit to restraints and that he administered two knee strikes to Plaintiff to contain him. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff eventually stopped physically resisting and was taken to be examined by the medical staff, who noted no injuries to Plaintiff's back, ribs, or thigh. He further asserts that subsequent medical examinations also did not reveal any injuries to Plaintiff as a result of the incident.

         Defendant argues that the undisputed facts do not support a claim that he used unconstitutionally excessive force against Plaintiff because the force used was limited, reasonable, and no more than was necessary under the circumstances. He further argues that the undisputed facts show that Plaintiff suffered only a de minimis injury, which prevents him from recovering damages for mental or emotional injury under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) and also weighs against a finding that constitutionally excessive force was used against him. In support of his motion, Defendant relies upon his own declaration (Docket Entry No. 21), as well as the declaration of Dr. James Bridges (Docket Entry No. 20), the declaration of Detention Facility Officer John Rychen (Docket Entry. 22), and a statement of undisputed material facts (Docket Entry No. 23).

         Plaintiff was notified of the motion, advised of the potential consequence of not filing a response, and given a deadline of April 30, 2018, to file a response. See Order entered March 15, 2018 (Docket Entry No. 24). To date, no response has been filed by Plaintiff.


         Summary 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).

         “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 present affirmative evidence to support his or her position. Bell v. Ohio State Univ., 351 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         IV. ...

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