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Scott v. Lindamood

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

June 13, 2018




         TO: Honorable Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., Chief District Judge

         By Order entered April 6, 2017 (Docket Entry No. 10), the Court referred this prisoner civil rights action 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 a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Donald Bright (Docket Entry No. 27), to which Plaintiff has not filed a response. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the motion for summary judgment be granted and this action be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mitchell Scott (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) currently confined at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility in Whiteville, Tennessee. He filed this lawsuit pro se and in forma pauperis on January 30, 2017, seeking monetary and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights alleged to have occurred during his previous confinement at the South Central Correctional Facility (“SCCF”) in Clifton, Tennessee. See Complaint (Docket Entry No. 1). Plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint providing additional factual allegations. See Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 3).

         Upon the Court's initial review of the lawsuit under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, Plaintiff was found to have alleged: 1) an arguable First Amendment claim against Correctional Sergeant Doreen Trafton (“Trafton”); and 2) an arguable Eighth Amendment claim against Trafton and Correctional Officer Donald Bright (“Bright”). See Memorandum Opinion (Docket Entry No. 9) at 5-8.[1] Process was issued and served upon the two defendants. Defendant Bright filed an answer to the complaint. See Docket Entry No. 18. In lieu of an answer, Defendant Trafton filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. By Order entered January 24, 2018 (Docket Entry No. 24), the Court granted Defendant Trafton's motion, which was unopposed by Plaintiff, and she was dismissed from the action. A scheduling order was entered setting out a period for pretrial activity in the case. See Docket Entry No. 21.

         Plaintiff's remaining Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Bright is based on allegations that Bright used excessive force against Plaintiff on December 26, 2016.[2] Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he had his arm extended through the “pie hole” opening in his cell door and was asking for “my property and a grievance.” See Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 3-1) at 5. He alleges that Bright became frustrated with Plaintiff and slammed the door to the “pie hole” on Plaintiff's wrist and then put a lock on the pie flap. Id. 5-6. Plaintiff alleges that he was “stuck unable to move my wrist” until another SCCF Captain Keeton came into the housing unit. Id. at 6. He further alleges that Defendant Bright's conduct happened in front of another correctional officer and that Bright made comments that “did not care, ” “we ain't eating fort the next four days, ” and “I should've broken your damn wrist.” Id. at 6.

         On March 22, 2018, Defendant Bright filed the pending motion for summary judgment in his favor. In support of his motion, Defendant Bright relies upon: (1) his own declaration (Docket Entry No. 27-1); (2) the declarations of SCCF Captain Gregory Keeton (Docket Entry No. 27-2), SCCF Grievance Chairperson Leigh Staggs (Docket Entry No. 27-3), SCCF Case Manager Matthew Weaver (Docket Entry No. 27-4), Hardeman County Correctional Facility Health Services Administrator John Borden (Docket Entry No. 28-2), and SCCF Health Services Administrator Jammie Garner (Docket Entry No. 28-3); and, (3) a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Docket Entry No. 28-1).

         Defendant Bright raises two arguments for summary judgment. First, he asserts that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his claim through administrative remedies at the SCCF prior to pursuing the claim in his lawsuit and, thus, failed to comply with the exhaustion requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). See Memorandum in Support (Docket Entry No. 28) at 4-8. Second, Defendant Bright denies using force against Plaintiff and argues that the undisputed facts weigh against any reasonable finding that he violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Id. at 8-15. Bright asserts that, on the day in question, he issued to Plaintiff a prison disciplinary charge for blocking the food port of his cell door and preventing Bright from securing the food port door, a charge to which Plaintiff eventually pled guilty. See Declaration of Bright at ¶¶ 7-9. Bright contends that Plaintiff did not raise allegations during the disciplinary proceedings about being subjected to the use of excessive force. Id. at ¶ 10. He further contends that: (1) there is no record that Plaintiff complained to other prison officials about the alleged excessive force, see Declaration of Weaver at ¶¶ 7-8; (2) there are no medical records showing that Plaintiff made any complaints about suffering excessive force and/or an injury to his wrist, see Declaration of Garner; and, (3) Defendant Keeton denies witnessing Plaintiff with his arm or wrist locked in the food port of his cell door as alleged by Plaintiff. See Declaration of Keeton at ¶¶ 5-7.

         By Order entered March 29, 2018, Plaintiff was notified of the motion for summary judgment, given a deadline of May 11, 2018, to file a response, and advised that his failure to respond could result in the dismissal of his case. See Docket Entry No. 29. However, Plaintiff has not responded in any manner to the motion. In fact, the docket shows that Plaintiff has not made any filings in this action since returning completed service packets to the Clerk's Office in April 2017. See Docket Entry No. 13.


         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).

         The 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 ...

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