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Gatlin v. Hodges

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

November 1, 2019

ANTWAIN GATLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
C/O HODGES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHRISTOPHER H. STEGER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This is a pro se prisoner's civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Now before the Court is Defendant Hodges' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 30], in support of which Defendant Hodges filed a memorandum, a statement of undisputed facts, and several exhibits [Docs. 30-1, 30-2, 30-3, 31, and 32]. Plaintiff did not file a substantive response in opposition, [1]and the time for doing so has passed. E.D. Tenn. LR 7.1(a)(2). As such, Plaintiff waived any opposition thereto. Elmore v. Evans, 449 F.Supp. 2, 3 (E.D. Tenn. 1976), aff'd mem. 577 F.2d 740 (6th Cir. 1978); E.D. Tenn. LR 7.2. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Hodges' motion for summary judgment [Doc. 30] will be GRANTED and this action will be DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court previously summarized the factual allegations of Plaintiff's complaint and amended complaint as follows:

Plaintiff alleges that on September 28, 2017, Defendant Correctional Officer Hodges assaulted him with a water bottle. Plaintiff further alleges that a nurse then checked out his injuries and gave him a dose of anti-inflammatory medicine, but this medicine did not alleviate the pain. Plaintiff also states that the nurses did not follow up with a checkup or an x-ray as they had stated they were going to do.
Additionally, in his amended complaint, Plaintiff claims that he suffers from acute stress disorder due to the underlying incident, that Defendant Hodges was deliberately indifferent to his safety, that Defendant Hodges intentionally threw the water bottle at him from a distance of approximately twenty-five feet, that Defendant Lee is responsible for the actions of Defendant Hodges because he is the Warden, and that TDOC is liable for the actions at issue because it has violated its own policies.

[Doc. 10 p. 2-3 (internal citations omitted)]. The Court screened the amended complaint and allowed Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Hodges to proceed [Id. at 4-5].

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment 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.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. McLean v. 988011 Ontario Ltd, 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). As such, the moving party has the burden of conclusively showing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Smith v. Hudson, 600 F.2d 60, 63 (6th Cir. 1979).

         To successfully oppose a motion for summary judgment, “the non-moving party . . . must present sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for him.” Jones v. Muskegon County, 625 F.3d 935, 940 (6th Cir. 2010). A district court cannot grant summary judgment in favor of a movant simply because the other party did not respond to the motion, however. Stough v. Mayville Cmty. Sch., 138 F.3d 612, 614 (6th Cir. 1998). Rather, the court must, at a minimum, ensure that the movant has met its initial burden. Id. In doing so, the court “must not overlook the possibility of evidentiary misstatements presented by the moving party.” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trs., 980 F.2d 399, 407 (6th Cir. 1992). The court must “intelligently and carefully review the legitimacy of [] an unresponded-to motion, even as it refrains from actively pursuing advocacy or inventing the riposte for a silent party.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant Hodges seeks summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) the fact that Defendant Hodges' water bottle hit Plaintiff is insufficient to establish a violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, as it is undisputed that Defendant Hodges did not intend to hit Plaintiff with the water bottle or know of any risk that this would occur; and (2) Defendant Hodges is entitled to qualified immunity. The Court agrees with Defendant Hodges that Plaintiff has not set forth evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in Plaintiff's favor on his Eighth Amendment Claim. Accordingly, Defendant Hodges is entitled to summary judgment on this ground and the Court does not reach the issue of qualified immunity.

         A. Applicable Law

         In determining whether prison officials violated the Eighth Amendment by “inflict[ing] unnecessary and wanton pain in using force upon a prisoner, ”[2] the key issue is “‘whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline . . . or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.'” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2475 (2015) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986)). “[A] prison official who was unaware of a substantial risk of harm to an inmate may not be held liable under the Eighth ...


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