United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Winchester
K. LEE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
County, Tennessee, John Carroll, Chase Strange, and Dakota
Liles (“Defendants”) have filed a motion for
summary judgment in this prisoner's civil rights action
for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 49]. Philip
Roberts (“Plaintiff”) has filed a response in
opposition to the motion [Doc. 56], and Defendants have filed
a reply thereto [Doc. 59]. Upon consideration of the
parties' pleadings, the competent summary judgment
evidence, and the applicable law, the Court finds that
summary judgment should be GRANTED, and this
action should be DISMISSED.
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
was a pretrial detainee at the Coffee County Jail during all
times relevant to this lawsuit [Doc. 1 p. 1]. On May 11,
2017, Plaintiff was attacked by three other inmates and asked
jail officials, including Defendant Carroll, to render aid
and move him to another part of the jail [Id. at 2].
Defendant Carroll refused to move Plaintiff, and on May 17,
2017, Plaintiff was attacked by five inmates, three of whom
were involved in the earlier attack [Id.]. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant Strange observed this second attack
from the watch tower but failed to intervene [Id. at
2-3]. After this attack, Plaintiff again requested to be
moved to a different location and for jail officials to
“deal with the offending inmates, ” but jail
officials “ignored his pleas” [Id. at
was assaulted a third time on May 22, 2017, by several
inmates, including the inmates from the previous attacks
[Id.]. Plaintiff again requested that jail officials
“render aid,  move him to a safer location, and to
deal with the offending inmates, ” but his pleas were
ignored [Id.]. According to Plaintiff, all three
attacks resulted in visible injuries and aggravated
Plaintiff's pre-existing leg injury [Id. at
9, 2017, Defendant Liles slammed Plaintiff's arm in a
metal hatch, causing Plaintiff severe pain and suffering
[Id. at 4]. Plaintiff had previously spoken with
Defendant Liles about a food transfer with another inmate,
and Defendant Liles slammed the hatch on Plaintiff's arm
when he reached his arm out of his cell to collect his food
[Id. at 5]. Defendant Liles leaned against the hatch
for several moments, thereby trapping Plaintiff's arm in
the hatch [Id.].
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is proper only when the pleadings and evidence,
viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
illustrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is deemed
“material” if resolving that fact in favor of one
party “might affect the outcome of the suit under
governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To establish an
entitlement to summary judgment, the moving party must
demonstrate that the nonmoving party cannot establish an
essential element of his case for which he bears the ultimate
burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322;
Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 339
(6th Cir. 1993).
the motion is properly supported with competent evidence, the
nonmovant must show that summary judgment is inappropriate by
setting forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue
for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. If the “evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party, ” then there is a genuine dispute as
to a material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If no
proof is presented, however, the Court does not presume that
the nonmovant “could or would prove the necessary
facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d
1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing Lujan v. Nat'l
Wildlife Fed'n., 497 U.S. 871, 889 (1990)).
very purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the
pleadings and assess the proof in order to see whether there
is a genuine issue for trial.” Advisory Committee Note
to the 1963 Amendments to Rule 56. Indeed, “[t]he
amendment is not intended to derogate from the solemnity of
the pleadings[;] [r]ather, it recognizes that despite the
best efforts of counsel to make his pleadings accurate, they
may be overwhelmingly contradicted by the proof available to
his adversary.” Id. The non-moving party (the
plaintiff in this case), must come forward with proof to
support each element of his claim. The plaintiff cannot meet
this burden with “some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986),
“conclusory allegations, ” Lujan, 497
U.S. at 888, or by a mere “scintilla” of
evidence, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. It would
undermine the purposes of summary judgment if a party could
defeat such a motion simply by “replac[ing] conclusory
allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory
allegations of an affidavit.” Lujan, 497 U.S.
at 888. Therefore, in considering a motion for summary
judgment, a court must determine whether the non-moving
party's allegations are plausible.
Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. (emphasis added).
“[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief. . . [is] context-specific[, ] . . .
requir[ing] the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (discussing plausibility
of claim as a requirement to survive a motion to dismiss
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)).
considering a motion for summary judgment, once the court has
“determined the relevant set of facts and drawn all
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party to the extent
supportable by the record, . . . [the ultimate decision
becomes]. . . a pure question of law.” Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 n.8 (2007) (emphasis in
original). “When opposing parties tell two different
stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the
record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court
should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of
ruling on the motion for summary judgment.”
Id. at 380.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT EVIDENCE
Alleged Inmate Assaults
11, 2017, Plaintiff was booked in the Coffee County Jail
(“the jail”) and assigned to a cell in AD pod
[Doc. 49-4 P. 5; Doc. 49-5 p. 2]. The AD pod, one of the few
pods where inmates have an opportunity to work, typically
houses nonviolent offenders and “is not known to have
any pervasive issues with inmate on inmate assaults”
[Doc. 49-4 p. 1 ¶ 5]. AD pod is also routinely monitored
by deputies both on the floor and in the jail's watch
tower [Id. at ¶ 4].
Jonathan Carroll was one of two classification workers at the
Coffee County Jail at the time Plaintiff was booked [Doc.
49-1 ¶ 4]. Plaintiff's intake assessment did not
reveal any indicators that would suggest the need for
protective custody, nor did it reveal anything else that
would indicate Plaintiff would be at a higher risk for
assault [Id. at ¶ 7]. For example, Plaintiff
was booked on nonaggressive charges, he was not suicidal,
affiliated with a gang, or known to have physical
altercations with other inmates [Id. at ¶ 8].
Officer Carroll testified that he had no knowledge of
Plaintiff having an issue with any inmates prior to or during
his stay in AD pod, and he had no reason to believe that
Plaintiff was at risk for assault while housed in AD pod
[Doc. 49-1 at ¶ 9, ¶ 14].
displeased with his cell assignment due to his belief that AD
pod was the “snitch” pod, attempted to refuse his
cell placement, telling Officer Carroll that he
“wasn't going to a rat pod” [Doc. 49-5 p. 3].
Plaintiff told Officer Carroll that the pod contained
informants that “have tried to set [Plaintiff]
up” and that he did not “want to be around”
[Id.]. Plaintiff advised Officer Carroll that
Plaintiff would “have a problem” in AD pod
[Id.]. Officer Carroll responded that he would
“look into it” [Id.]. However, Plaintiff
did not tell Officer Carroll the names of the individuals in
the AD pod that he was concerned about, and Officers Carroll
and Strange had no knowledge of any issues between Plaintiff
and Steven Bostic, Kevin Smith, Nathaniel Farris, or Timothy
Gifford, the inmates who would later allegedly assault
Plaintiff [Doc. 49-1 ¶ 14; Doc. 49-2 ¶ 6].
lockdown on the evening of May 11, 2017, Plaintiff smoked
cigarettes that he had sneaked into the jail [Doc. 49-5 p.
4]. The next day, Inmates Farris, Gifford, and Smith
approached Plaintiff and demanded the tobacco [Id.].
Plaintiff had stored the tobacco in his anus “because
he figured they were going to try to make [him] give them
what [he had]” [Id.]. When Plaintiff refused,
Farris hit and kicked Plaintiff in the face, head, side,
ribs, and legs [Id. at 4-5]. Plaintiff states he
suffered a busted lip, busted eye, and bruising [Id.
at 5]. Plaintiff maintains that he reported the incident to
Defendant Strange, stating, “Look at me, I need out
this unit. . . . I need Carroll back here, look at me, get me
out this unit” [Id. at 6]. Plaintiff avers
that Defendant Strange responded that he would tell Defendant
Carroll and get back to Plaintiff [Id. at 6].
Plaintiff claims after the assault on May 11, 2017, he made
numerous reports of the assault on the kiosk grievance system
and submitted medical requests, but he did not receive a
response to any of his requests or grievances [Id.
continued to smoke tobacco on lockdown, and on May 15, 2017,
Plaintiff was again approached by the same inmates and again
refused to turn over the tobacco [Id. at 6-7].
Plaintiff contends that inmates Farris and Gifford kicked and
punched him multiple times for refusing to give them the
tobacco [Id. at 7]. Plaintiff claims that Officer
Strange was the guard in the tower on that date and asserts
that Officer Strange had, by that time, been previously
reprimanded for sleeping on duty, failing to attend work,
insubordination, and failing to perform duties [Doc. 56-2
¶ 7; Doc. 56-5]. On May 22, 2017, Plaintiff still had
some tobacco and was assaulted for a third time by the same
inmates [Doc. 49-5 p. 8].
Carroll and Strange testified that they had no knowledge of
Plaintiff being assaulted by any inmate in May 2017, nor did
they have knowledge of Plaintiff having issues with Inmates
Farris, Bostic, Gifford, or Smith prior to or during
Plaintiff's stay in AD pod [Doc. 49-1 ¶ 14; Doc.
49-2 ¶ 6]. Officers Carroll and Strange further state
that they had no knowledge of any request made by Plaintiff
to be moved out of AD pod due to a threat to his health or
safety prior to any of the alleged inmate assaults occurring
[Doc. 49-1 ¶ 18; Doc. 49-2 ¶ 10]. Such a request,
if one had been made, would have been documented [Doc. 49-4
p. 3 ¶ 9]. Nevertheless, on May 25, 2017, Plaintiff was
transferred out of AD Pod [Doc. 56-3 p. 2].
1, 2017, Plaintiff submitted both a kiosk grievance and a
kiosk medical request regarding the alleged assaults [Doc.
49-4 p. 9, 17]. Plaintiff made additional grievances related
to the purported attacks on June 2, 3, and 4, 2017, and he
submitted additional medical requests on June 2 and 4, 2017
[See id.]. Plaintiff was evaluated by a medical
provider for injuries related to the assaults on June 7, 2017
[Id. at 32, 35, 36]. At that time, Plaintiff
reported that he had been “jumped 17 days ago”
and complained that he could hardly walk, and that he had
broken ribs, a broken pelvis, knee pain, and ear and back
pain [Id. at 36]. The provider noted that
Plaintiff's x-ray of his pelvis just days earlier showed
no anatomic abnormality, that he had full range of motion in
his knees, full range of motion in his back, no bruising or
swelling deformity, and that his ears were clear with no
redness [Id.]. The provider's impression was
that Plaintiff suffered “no broken bones or bruising,
” and that Plaintiff was “malingering”
[Id. at 36]. Plaintiff was prescribed Naproxen for
14 days, although the medical provider testified that
Plaintiff had no swelling [Doc. 59-1 p. 6-7]. The medical
provider further testified that even though her evaluation
occurred approximately 17 days after the last alleged
assault, Plaintiff's body would have borne some physical
evidence of the injuries alleged by Plaintiff if they had, in
fact, occurred [See, generally, Doc. 59-1].
Alleged Assault by Officer Dakota Liles
9, 2017, Plaintiff and another inmate had an agreement to
swap food [Doc. 49-5 p. 9-10]. Plaintiff communicated this to
Officer Liles, who said that he did not have a problem with
the agreement [Id. at 10]. However, according to
Plaintiff, when Plaintiff reached to get the tray through the
pie flap of his cell door to retrieve the tray, Officer Liles
slammed the door on Plaintiff's arm and held it there for
15-20 seconds [Id.]. Conversely, Officer Liles
denies that he used any force on Plaintiff, and he states
that the incident alleged by Plaintiff never occurred [Doc.
49-3 ¶ 4-5].
never received any medical treatment for his arm [Doc. 49-5
p. 11]. However, Plaintiff believes that he “ripped his
rotator cuff” during the incident, as he gets a sharp
pain in his shoulder if he moves his arm too fast or attempts
to lift something too heavy [Id.]. Although the
grievance is not in the kiosk reports, Plaintiff states that
he filed a grievance about the alleged June 9, 2017, assault
Coffee County ...