Sparks v. Ingle et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION - For the reasons stated above, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED as to all claims against Commissioner Dunn; the plaintiffs Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical care claim against Sheriff Ingle; and the pla intiffs Eighth Amendment condition of confinement claims against defendants Whitley and Ingle. The motion for summary judgment is DENIED as to Mr. Sparkss Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical care claim against Mr. Whitley. By separate order, the Court will order the parties to mediate this claim. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 3/14/2017. (KEK)
2017 Mar-14 PM 04:32
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
STACY ALLEN SPARKS,
SHERIFF RODNEY INGLE, et al.,
Case No. 5:14-cv-00013-MHH-JHE
Plaintiff Stacey Allen Sparks filed a pro se complaint and two amended
complaints. Mr. Sparks seeks monetary damages or injunctive relief pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his civil rights. (Docs. 1, 8, 10 & 13). Mr. Sparks
contends that jail administrators and correctional officers at the Fayette County Jail
violated his Eighth Amendment and due process rights by denying him medical
attention and anti-seizure medication. (Doc. 1 at 3-4). Mr. Sparks suffers from
epilepsy, asthma, and food allergies. (Doc. 1 at 3; Doc. 34-1 at 8-19). Mr. Sparks
also contends that the food served at the Fayette County Jail is not adequate to
meet daily nutritional requirements or to accommodate his food allergies and that
the Fayette County Jail is poorly ventilated. (Doc. 1 at 3). Mr. Sparks’s claims are
before the Court on the defendants’ motions for summary judgment.1
Consistent with the procedures from § 1983 actions, the defendants filed a special report. (Doc.
31). The Court has construed the defendants’ special report as a motion for summary judgment.
I. Standard of Review
“The 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.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary judgment, a party opposing a
motion for summary judgment must cite “to particular parts of materials in the
record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the
motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(A). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3).
considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the evidence in the
record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply,
Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015).
Any “specific facts” pled in a pro se plaintiff’s sworn complaint must be
considered in opposition to summary judgment. See Caldwell v. Warden, FCI
Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Perry v. Thompson, 786
F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1986)). Additionally, because the plaintiff is pro se, the
Court must construe the complaint more liberally than it would pleadings drafted
by lawyers. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d
1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard
than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.”).
II. Summary Judgment Facts
On January 16, 2013, Mr. Sparks was booked into the Fayette County Jail
(“FCJ”) facility for misdemeanor probation violations.
(Doc. 31-4 at 23)
(displaying eight convictions for negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument,
Case Numbers DC-2011-260 through 261; DC-2011-621 to 622). A jail booking
card bearing the same date states that on the day he entered the jail, Mr. Sparks
was six feet, one inch tall and weighed 170 pounds. (Id.). The booking card
displays a “medical alert” concerning a seizure that Mr. Sparks experienced in
2011. (Doc. 39 at 2, 11; Doc. 31-4 at 21, 23).
Between January 17, 2013, and January 19, 2013, jail staff administered an
anti-seizure medicine to Mr. Sparks twice each day. (Doc. 31-4 at 2).2 The record
indicates that the plaintiff was “out” of this medication from January 20, 2013 until
January 29, 2013. (Id.). Between January 29, 2013, and March 29, 2013, jail staff
again gave Mr. Sparks anti-seizure medication as ordered. (Id. at 2-7). On March
30, 2013, the plaintiff again ran “out” of Levetiracetam. (Id. at 7). Mr. Sparks
Mr. Sparks took Levetiracetam, an anticonvulsant used for “[a]djunctive therapy in the
treatment of myoclonic,” “partial-onset,” and “primary generalized tonic-clonic” seizures in
adults. See www.merckmedicalmanuals.com.
asserts that he “made several requests verbally to Officers about receiving his
medication and never received a proper response.” (Doc. 39 at 3).
Mr. Sparks asked then Jail Administrator (currently Chief Jailer) Chris
Whitley “to see the Doctor or inquire about his seizure medicine,” but “[e]very
time” Whitley would give him “the run around,” stating that “(1) [a]ll the deputies
[were] busy and could not take him to the doctor, (2) the sheriff has not approved it
yet, or (3) the Fayette County Commission could not afford it.” (Doc. 1 at 7; doc.
32-2 at 1). The plaintiff attests Whitley “did not pass” his “complaints on to”
Sheriff Ingle, as required by FCJ employee policy. (Doc. 39 at 2-3; doc. 40-2 at 2).
Mr. Whitley admits he “or the Chief Jailor make medical appointments for
inmates,” but he does “not recall” Mr. Sparks complaining about “seizures[,]
needing anti-seizure medication[,]” or requesting “to see a doctor or receive
medical attention.” (Doc. 31-2 at 5-6). Mr. Whitley denies making the statements
the plaintiff attributes to him, and describes the plaintiff as an impatient, “constant
complainer” about mostly “minor and knit-picky” matters. (Id. at 2).
Without his medication, Mr. Sparks suffered two seizures that “[e]ndangered
himself of dying or injuring himself badly.” (Doc. 1 at 7; doc. 39 at 2, 6). Bobby
Smith, Jr., was an inmate at the FCJ from April 7, 2012, until June 20, 2015. (Doc.
39 at 7). Smith declares as follows:
I was housed in one of three one man cells across from the Plaintiff’s
cell block. I could see the jailer when he opened the door, to where
the Plaintiff was housed. A couple of times I heard banging on the
walls and door. I asked Chris Whitley what was going on. He told
me Stacy Sparks was having another seizure. T[h]is happened at least
(Id. at 8).
Sheriff Ingle told the plaintiff “he was working on” getting the medicine, but
this was “months after” Mr. Sparks had been deprived of the prescription. (Doc. 1
at 8). Sheriff Ingle declares he usually visits the FCJ “several times a week and
stay[s] apprised of the happenings in the facility through communication with jail
staff; however,” the sheriff recalls “no meaningful interaction with the Plaintiff
during his incarceration.” (Doc. 40-2 at 1-2). Sheriff Ingle denies Mr. Sparks told
him, “any jail staff member, inmate or any other person that [he] had a seizure” in
the FCJ, and asserts the plaintiff never complained to him “regarding seizures[,]
needing anti-seizure medication[,]” or request “to see a doctor or receive medical
attention.” (Id. at 5). Mr. Sparks contends that Sheriff “Ingle has been charged
and has settled complaints by the ACLU concerning the welfare and conditions of
the” FCJ. (Doc. 39 at 1). Moreover, Sheriff Ingle’s office is “only steps away from
the jail population,” and “[b]eing in his office does not constitute a visit to the jail.”
(Id.). Bobby Smith, Jr. declares he saw Sheriff Ingle in the jail maybe “10 times”
while he was incarcerated, and Sheriff Ingle “would go weeks without being seen
by inmates. The only time” Sheriff Ingle “was seen was during a shakedown or
disturbance.” (Id. at 8).
On May 15, 2013, Dr. Magouirk examined Mr. Sparks. (Doc. 31-4 at 22).
Mr. Sparks’s chief complaint was prescription renewal; he had “no complaints”
regarding his symptoms, area of involvement, condition, degree of intensity or
severity, duration, onset or timing, and no need for modification in treatment as he
was “doing well, without acute complaints.” (Id.).
Dr. Magouirk noted that Mr. Sparks was “well-nourished [194 pounds],
well-developed, and in no acute distress.”
conversant, [and in] good spirits.” (Id.).
The plaintiff was “awake,
Dr. Magouirk assessed the plaintiff as
having “convulsions or seizures” and “asthma.” (Id.). Dr. Magouirk prescribed
Phenytoin, Keppra, Albuterol, and Azmacort. (Id.).3 Dr. Magouirk instructed Mr.
Sparks to return if problems developed or worsened. (Id.). From May 15, 2013, to
August 16, 2013, Mr. Sparks received the medication that Dr. Magouirk
prescribed. (Doc. 34-1 at 8-19).
In addition to his seizure disorder and asthma, Mr. Sparks is allergic to
peanut butter and onions. (Doc. 39 at 3). The jail served peanut butter sandwiches
“when they did not have hot meals, and the hot meals ha[d] onions that could cause
asthma attacks.” (Doc. 1 at 8). Mr. Sparks reports that he:
Phenytoin is used for “[c]ontrol of generalized tonic-clonic and complex partial (psychomotor,
temporal lobe) seizures[,]” and Keppra is the brand name for Levetiracetam.
was often given 4 pieces of bread and 2 pieces of cheese when onions
were served in a meal from the local Chinese restaurant which was
done as much as 4 times a week. In addition, the Plaintiff was given
only sandwich bread at lunch when the population got 2 peanut butter
That is clearly less than 2000 calories a day.
(Id. at 3).
Eric Dubielak, a Fayette County deputy sheriff since May 2010 and jail
administrator since July 2013, provided sample FCJ daily menus for a one week
period in 2014 and a two week period in 2015. (Doc. 31-6 at 2-4; doc. 40-1 at 1).
Mr. Dubielak and Sheriff Ingle declare these menus are “the same” as those in
place during the plaintiff’s incarceration. (Doc. 40-1 at 8; doc. 40-2 at 6). The jail
administrators are responsible for preparing the menus, which “are planned to meet
or exceed a 2000 calorie a day diet[,]” and “meet or exceed nutrition standards by
the American Dietetic Association.” (Doc. 40-1 at 8; Doc. 40-2 at 6-7.). Mr.
Dubielak and defendants Ingle and Whitley attest, and the sample menus reflect,
Bobby Smith, Jr. confirms meals from the Chinese restaurant contained a lot of onions, states
he saw the plaintiff being given cheese sandwiches instead of Chinese food, and asserts the jailer
told him this was because the plaintiff could not eat onions. (Doc. 39 at 12).
In an affidavit, Mr. Sparks attests he “was given a cheese sandwich when general population
was given two peanut butter sandwiches, which doesn’t comply with nutritional daily allowance
one should have of 2000 calories.” (Doc. 39 at 12). Moreover, Bobby Smith Jr., declares he
“often saw cheese sandwiches on the tray with the peanut butter sandwiches. [Smith] would ask
the jailer who those sandwiches were for. He would say Stacy Sparks. The reason [Smith]
asked was because [he] wanted an extra sandwich.” (Doc. 39 at 8).
Lunch and Dinner meals are normally one starch, two vegetables, one
meat, one bread, and a dessert or snack item. Breakfast is normally
grits or oatmeal with a serving of eggs or peanut butter and a snack.
. . . Meals are prepared in the facility kitchen by jail trustees
supervised by Corrections Officers. Under no circumstances may any
meals be modified for disciplinary purposes or as a reward for good
inmate behavior. A member of the Jail staff will observe the service
of food in order to ensure that the portions of food on each tray are
Occasionally, an inmate’s family, a church or community group
requests to bring a meal to the jail. The meal must be approved by the
Chief Jailer, Jail Administrator or Sheriff to confirm that the meal will
meet jail standards.
(Doc. 31-2 at 6-7; doc. 31-6 at 2-4; doc. 40-1 at 8; doc. 40-2 at 6-7).
Peanut butter and Chinese food are often listed on the menus. (Doc. 31-6 at
2-4). However, where either item is listed, additional items are also listed. (Id.).
For instance, grits or oatmeal, and peanut butter and a snack are breakfast menu
If peanut butter or Chinese food is listed for lunch or dinner,
additional items such as corn, tat[e]rs, peas or beans, and a snack or bread are also
listed. (Id.). The plaintiff and Bobby Smith, Jr. attest the sample menus did not
exist while they were in the FCJ and assert they were given bologna or peanut
butter for breakfast and lunch. (Doc. 39 at 3, 7, 11). Mr. Sparks states he suffered
from malnutrition that caused severe weight loss. (Doc. 39 at 4).
Mr. Sparks contends that Prison Commissioner Dunn was responsible for
the conditions at the FCJ when Mr. Sparks “became a ward of the state” (id. at 3)
on May 7, 2013, when he pled guilty to Second Degree Theft and received a
twenty-year sentence, split to serve four years (doc. 31-4 at 20). Mr. Sparks
declares the “State of Alabama should have known the conditions of the” FCJ.
(Doc. 39 at 4). But, Mr. Dunn did not become Commissioner of the Alabama
Department of Corrections (“ADOC”) until April 1, 2015, and he was not
employed at the ADOC before his appointment as Commissioner. (Doc. 27-1 at
Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
As an initial matter, defendants Ingle and Whitley argue that Mr. Sparks’s
claims are barred for failure to exhaust the administrative remedies. (Doc. 31 at
10-13). Title 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a), as amended by the PLRA, provides:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under
section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner
confined in any jail, prison or other correctional facility until such
administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.
Id. “[E]xhaustion is a” mandatory “precondition to suit.” Alexander v. Hawk, 159
F.3d 1321, 1325-26 (11th Cir. 1998) (discussing 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a)’s exhaustion
mandate). A prisoner must exhaust the administrative remedies available to him
regardless of whether those remedies meet certain “minimum acceptable
standards” of fairness and effectiveness or provide the relief the prisoner seeks.
Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 740 n. 5, 741 (2001). Courts cannot waive or
excuse exhaustion even when it would be “appropriate and in the interests of
Evaluating whether claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies is a two-step process.6 Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d at
1082 (citing Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990)
(comparing the decision to the “‘two forms’ of attacks C facial and factual C on
subject matter jurisdiction”)).
First, district courts look to the factual allegations in the motion to
dismiss and those in the prisoner’s response and accept the prisoner’s
view of the facts as true. The court should dismiss if the facts as
stated by the prisoner show a failure to exhaust. Second, if dismissal
is not warranted on the prisoner’s view of the facts, the court makes
specific findings to resolve disputes of fact, and should dismiss if,
based on those findings, defendants have shown a failure to exhaust.
[Turner, 541] at 1082-83; see also id. at 1082 (explaining that
defendants bear the burden of showing a failure to exhaust).
Whatley v. Warden, Ware State Prison, 802 F.3d 1205, 1209 (11th Cir. 2015).
Defendant Whitley attests that “[a]t booking, Plaintiff was given the Fayette
County Jail Handbook containing the jail rules and regulations.” (Doc. 31-2 at 2).
The defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies should be raised in a motion
to dismiss, or be treated as such if raised in a motion for summary judgment. Bryant v. Rich, 530
F.3d 1368, 1375 (11th Cir. 2008).
Mr. Whitley also declares, and defendant Ingle agrees, that:
[t]he Fayette County Sheriff’s Office has a grievance policy for
inmates to express complaints with the conditions of their
confinement. This policy requires that members of the Fayette
County Jail staff receive and answer any written grievances made by
inmates to the Sheriff, Jail Administrator or any Corrections Officer.
Inmates in the Jail are furnished Inmate Request Forms for the
purpose of stating their requests or grievances in writing. When an
inmate has a grievance, he or she may request a form from any
member of jail staff, complete it, and return it to any member of jail
staff. Grievances are forwarded to the Jail Administrator for review
and appropriate action. If an inmate is dissatisfied with the response
he or she receives, he or she may appeal to the Sheriff Ingle, who will
make the final decision.
(Doc. 31-2 at 3; Doc. 40-2 at 2-3).
Defendant Whitley does “not recall ever receiving an Inmate Request Form
from the [p]laintiff regarding the allegations in his complaint or any other matter.
Any Inmate Request Forms filed by” the plaintiff “would be in his Inmate File.”
(Doc. 31-2 at 3). Whitley attests the plaintiff did not make “a complaint or
grievance” to him “regarding the allegations” in the complaint, nor is he aware of
the plaintiff having done so “to any other employee . . . or to the Sheriff himself.”
(Id.). Defendant Ingle asserts he “received no Inmate Request Form, grievance, or
an appeal from” Mr. Sparks, and defendants Whitley and Ingle argue that Mr.
Sparks failed to follow the grievance procedure. (Doc. 31-2 at 4; Doc. 40-2 at 3).
Attached to defendants Whitley and Ingle’s motion for summary judgment is
the “Fayette County Jail Inmate Handbook Rule and Regulations 2014.” (Doc. 3111
5). The only portion of the handbook pertinent to the issues at hand is titled,
“Inmate Request Forms,” and it reads, “Inmate request forms are used for medical,
grievance, and other communication with Jail Administrator, Chief Jailer or
Forms will be filled out legible and complete.”
(Id. at 3).
Administrator Dubielak attests inmate request forms are placed in an inmate’s file.
(Doc. 40-1 at 3). The defendants have not produced request forms from Mr.
Mr. Sparks contends that “during his incarceration there was NEVER any
type of handbook given out nor was there ANY type of Grievance Forms o[r]
process at the Fayette County Jail. The defendant has showed a handbook that just
came into existence but no grievance forms or request[s] because neither EXIST.”
(Doc. 39 at 2). Bobby Smith, Jr., agrees and adds that he received an inmate
handbook for the first time in the fall of 2014. (Id. at 7-8). Defendant Whitley
declares the plaintiff received a copy of the Inmate Handbook (doc. 31-2 at 7), but
Mr. Whitley does not assert that he has personal knowledge of this fact. None of
the defendants attests that a handbook identical to the 2014 handbook existed in
2013. Defendants Whitley and Ingle describe a grievance process that includes an
inmate’s opportunity to appeal an unsatisfactory decision to defendant Ingle, but
the 2014 handbook describes no such procedure. These discrepancies give rise to a
factual dispute regarding the grievance procedure available at the FCJ. Therefore,
defendants Whitley and Ingle have not demonstrated a failure to exhaust as a
matter of law.
Prison Commissioner Jefferson S. Dunn
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
A “suit against the State [of Alabama] and its [agencies for monetary
damages is] barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless Alabama has consented to
the filing of such a suit.” Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (citing
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974); Ford Motor Co. v. Department of
Treasury, 323 U.S. 459 (1945); and Worcester County Trust Co. v. Riley, 302 U.S.
292 (1937)). No such consent can “be given under Art. I, Sec. 14, of the Alabama
Constitution, which provides that “the State of Alabama shall never be made a
defendant in any court of law or equity.” Id.; see also, Pennhurst State Sch. &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984). Further, “a suit against a state
official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a
suit against the official’s office. As such, it is not different from a suit against the
state itself.” Will v. Michigan Dept. State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (citation
Because defendant Dunn is an employee of the Alabama Department of
Corrections, which is an agency of the State of Alabama, to the extent he is named
as a defendant in his official capacity, Eleventh Amendment immunity prohibits
the plaintiff’s suit for monetary damages against Commissioner Dunn.7
Mr. Dunn was not appointed Prison Commissioner for the Alabama
Department of Corrections until April 1, 2015 (doc. 27-1 at 1), approximately
eighteen months after Mr. Sparks was released from the Fayette County Jail.
Before his appointment, Mr. Dunn had not been an employee of the Alabama
Department of Corrections. (Id.). Therefore, Mr. Dunn could not have been
responsible for Mr. Sparks’s alleged injuries. As a result, Mr. Sparks’s claim
against Commissioner Dunn fails as a matter of law.
Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs
On January 16, 2013, the plaintiff was booked into the Fayette County Jail
for misdemeanor probation violations. (Doc. 31-4 at 23) (eight convictions for
negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument, Case Numbers DC-2011-260
through 261; DC-2011-621 to 622). On February 6, 2013, a Fayette County
District Judge revoked the plaintiff’s probation on all eight cases, ordered him to
serve twelve months in the county jail, and directed his sentence to begin January
Because Mr. Sparks no longer is an inmate of the Fayette County Jail, there is no basis for
16, 2013. See State of Alabama v. Stacy Sparks, DC-3022-000621.00, doc. 7).8
Thus, at all times relevant to the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint, he was a
An officer or prison official’s “‘deliberate indifference to [the] serious
medical needs of [a] prisoner[ ] constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction
of pain . . . proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.’” Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d
1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003). The Eleventh Circuit has explained:
Deliberate indifference to a detainee’s serious medical needs requires
1) an objectively serious medical need and 2) a defendant who acted
with deliberate indifference to that need. A “serious medical need” is
“one that is diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one
that is so obvious that a lay person would recognize the need for
medical treatment.” For liability, the defendant must 1) have
subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm, 2) disregard that risk,
and 3) display conduct beyond gross negligence.
Deliberate indifference may result not only from failure to provide
medical care at all, but also from excessive delay: “Even where
medical care is ultimately provided, a prison official may nonetheless
act with deliberate indifference by delaying the treatment of serious
Pourmoghani-Esfahani v. Gee, 625 F.3d 1313, 1317 (11th Cir. 2010)
(internal citations omitted).
This Court “may take judicial notice” of “state court proceedings.” Coney v. Smith, 738 F.2d
1199, 1200 (11th Cir. 1984) (citing Moore v. Estelle, 526 F.2d 690, 694 (5th Cir. 1976)). See
also, Fed. R. Evid. 201(b)(2) (“The court may judicially notice a fact that is not subject to
reasonable dispute because it . . . can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose
accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.”).
Objectively Serious Medical Need
Mr. Sparks suffers from a seizure disorder, and a medical alert concerning
the disorder was present in his jail file. (Doc. 31-4 at 23). With the exception of a
brief period in January 2013, the plaintiff was given his daily seizure medication at
the FCJ until it ran “out” on March 30, 2013. (Id. at 2, 7).
The plaintiff was
administered no medication whatsoever until May 15, 2013. (Id. at 8). The
plaintiff’s “unmedicated epileptic condition while at the jail posed a serious threat
to his health” and satisfies the first prong of his Eighth Amendment claim, which is
the presence of a “serious medical need.” Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d 859,
863 (7th Cir. 1998).
Former Jail Administrator Chris Whitley
With regard to the second prong, and construing the disputed facts in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, between March 30, 2013, and May 15, 2013,
Mr. Sparks repeatedly asked then Jail Administrator Chris Whitley “to see the
Doctor or inquire about his seizure medicine,” but “[e]very time” Whitley would
give Mr. Sparks “the run around,” stating that “(1) [a]ll the deputies [were] busy
and could not take him to the doctor, (2) the sheriff has not approved it yet, or (3)
the Fayette County Commission could not afford it.” (Doc. 1 at 7; Doc. 32-2 at 1).
Mr. Whitley “did not pass the plaintiff’s complaints on to” the sheriff, as FCJ
employee policy requires. (Doc. 39 at 2-3; Doc. 40-2 at 2).
Mr. Sparks had two seizures because he was not given his medication, and
Mr. Whitley was well aware of the seizures because he twice told inmate Bobby
Smith, Jr. that the loud banging Mr. Smith heard was the sound of Mr. Sparks
having a seizure. (Doc. 39 at 8). Mr. Whitley admits either he “or the Chief
Jailor” was responsible for making medical appointments for inmates” at that time.
(Doc. 31-2 at 5-6). Mr. Sparks’s medication was not renewed until he was taken
for an appointment with Dr. Magouirk on May 15, 2013. (Doc. 31-4 at 22).
Although the plaintiff reported no complaints to Dr. Magouirk, the doctor renewed
the anti-seizure medication Mr. Sparks had been taking and added a new antiseizure medication to the plaintiff’s daily regimen. (Id.). Mr. Sparks received both
medications until he was transferred to state prison on August 16, 2013. (Id. at 819).
Mr. Sparks has produced sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute as to
whether Mr. Whitley had subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm to Mr.
Sparks but intentionally disregarded that risk by delaying the renewal of Mr.
Sparks’s anti-seizure prescriptions. Mr. Whitley argues the plaintiff’s civil action
cannot be brought because the plaintiff suffered no physical injury from the
seizures. (Doc. 31 at 13) (citing 42 U.S.C.A. § 1997e(e)). Title 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(e) provides that a plaintiff may not recover monetary damages
(compensatory or punitive) for mental or emotional injury unless he also alleges he
suffered more than a de minimus physical injury. Quinlan v. Personal Transport
Servs., Inc., 329 Fed. Appx. 246, 248 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Smith v. Allen, 502
F.3d 1255, 1271 (11th Cir. 2007)). Although § 1997e(e) does not define physical
injury, the Eleventh Circuit has explained “the physical injury must be more than
de minimus, but need not be significant.” Id. (quoting Harris v. Garner, 190 F.3d
1279, 1286 (11th Cir. 1999), vacated in part on other grounds, 216 F.3d 970 (11th
Cir. 2000) (en banc)). Notably, however, “[n]ominal damages are appropriate if a
plaintiff establishes a violation of a fundamental constitutional right, even if he
cannot prove actual injury sufficient to entitle him to compensatory damages.”
Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1162 (11th Cir. 2003).
Here, Mr. Sparks does not contend he suffered any pain or physical injuries
as a result of the two seizures he experienced when not receiving his medication.
The only evidence as to the severity of these seizures is an affidavit from another
inmate stating he and Mr. Whitley could hear the plaintiff’s “body banging on the
walls and door.” (Doc. 39 at 8).
Furthermore, on May 15, 2013, when he saw
Dr. Magourik, Mr. Sparks had “no complaints” regarding his symptoms, area of
involvement, condition, degree of intensity or severity, duration, onset or timing,
and no need for modification in treatment as he was “doing well, without acute
complaints.” (Doc. 31-4 at 22). Any physical injury Mr. Sparks suffered as a
result of these two seizures was, at most, de minimus.
In his complaint, Mr. Sparks requests, “[a]ny additional relief this court
deems just proper, and equitable.” (Doc. 1 at 10). This can be liberally construed
as requesting nominal damages. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment
deliberate indifference claim against Mr. Whitley will go forward because nominal
damages may be available. See Brooks v. Warden, 800 F.3d 1295, 1308 (11th Cir.
2015) (inmate may seek nominal damages for constitutional injury, absent physical
injury, consistent with the text and purpose of the PLRA).
Mr. Whitley also argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. 31
at 15-19). To establish qualified immunity, a public official must prove “he was
acting within the scope of his discretionary authority when the allegedly wrongful
acts occurred[,]” and then the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show the defendant
lacked good faith, which is done by demonstrating the defendant public official’s
actions “violated clearly established constitutional law.” Courson v. McMillian,
939 F.2d 1479, 1487 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Rich v. Dollar, 841 F.2d 1558,
1563-64 (11th Cir. 1988)). The standard for determining whether a right is wellestablished for purposes of qualified immunity is whether the right violated is one
about “which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 818 (1982).
Qualified immunity is not available because delaying
medical treatment and withholding medication are well-established bases for
constitutional violations. See Johnson v. Hay, 931 F.2d 456, 461 (8th Cir. 1991)
(denying qualified immunity to former prison pharmacist who intentionally refused
to fill an inmate’s anti-seizure medication); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104–05
(1976) (the Eighth Amendment prohibits the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain . . . . whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their response
to the prisoner’s needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying
access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once
prescribed.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Therefore, genuine
issues of material fact preclude summary judgment for Mr. Whitley in his
b. Sheriff Rodney Ingle
Construing the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, Mr. Whitley
failed to notify Sheriff Rodney Ingle about the plaintiff’s need for anti-seizure
medication, although employee policy required Mr. Whitley to do so. (Doc. 39 at
2-3; doc. 40-2 at 2).
Months after he had been deprived of his medication, Mr.
Sparks asked Sheriff Ingle for assistance, and Ingle responded that he was working
on getting the medication. (Doc. 1 at 8). On May 15, 2013, Dr. Magouirk
examined Mr. Sparks and prescribed the necessary medication. (Doc. 31-4 at 22).
The foregoing facts do not create a genuine dispute regarding whether
Sheriff Ingle was subjectively aware that Mr. Sparks was not receiving his
medication and had suffered two seizures, but nevertheless intentionally delayed
the plaintiff’s ability to renew his medication. Rather, Mr. Sparks’s facts suggest
that a short time after he spoke directly to Sheriff Ingle, he saw the doctor who
renewed his medication, and Mr. Sparks received the medication until his transfer
to a state penitentiary.
Mr. Sparks also appears to be attempting to establish liability against Sheriff
Ingle based upon Sheriff Ingle’s supervisory status. Mr. Sparks declares “[Sheriff]
Ingle has been charged and has settled complaints by the ACLU concerning the
welfare and conditions of the” FCJ. (Doc. 39 at 1). Moreover, Sheriff Ingle’s
office is “only steps away from the jail population,” and “[b]eing in his office does
not constitute a visit to the jail.” (Id.).
Because “[t]here is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983,” Harris v.
Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 917 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing Monell v. Dept. of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-92 (1978); and LaMarca v. Turner, 995 F.2d 1526,
1538 (11th Cir. 1993)), “[t]he standard by which a supervisor is held liable in her
individual capacity for the actions of a subordinate is extremely rigorous.” Braddy
v. Florida Dept. of Labor and Employment Security, 133 F.3d 797, 802 (11th Cir.
“Supervisory personnel may be held accountable for the constitutional
violations of their subordinates only upon proof that” the supervisor (1) was
“directly involved in the wrongdoing; (2) failed to remedy a wrong after learning
of it through report or appeal; (3) created or allowed a policy under which the
violation occurred; or (4) [was] grossly negligent in managing subordinates who
caused the wrongdoing.” Johnson v. Butler, 2015 WL 8295346, *2 (N.D. Ala.
2015) (citing Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 323 (2d Cir. 1986)).
Sheriff Ingle’s failure to visit the jail often and Mr. Sparks’s vague,
unsupported declaration that Sheriff Ingle has settled complaints by the ACLU
concerning the welfare of inmates and conditions at the jail fail to create a genuine
issue of material fact regarding the liability of the sheriff in his supervisory
capacity in this particular case.
The Court grants Sheriff Ingle’s motion for
summary judgment as to Mr. Sparks’s Eighth Amendment medical care claim.
Condition of Confinement
To establish an Eighth Amendment condition of confinement claim, a
plaintiff must prove three elements: (1) a condition of confinement that inflicted
unnecessary pain or suffering (i.e., was cruel and unusual), (2) the defendants’
“deliberate indifference” to that condition, and (3) causation. LaMarca v. Turner,
995 F.2d 1526, 1535 (11th Cir. 1993) (internal citations omitted). Whether a
particular condition of confinement constituted cruel and unusual punishment is an
objective inquiry and whether prison officials were deliberately indifferent to that
condition is a subjective inquiry. Id. at 1535 n. 17 (citing Hudson v. McMillian,
503 U.S. 1 (1992)).
Prison conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment only when they
result in “unquestioned and serious deprivation of basic human needs.” Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). While it is the duty of prison officials to
furnish prisoners with “reasonably adequate” food, clothing, shelter, and sanitation,
Newman v. Alabama, 559 F.2d 283, 286 (5th Cir. 1977), rev’d in part on other
grounds, 438 U.S. 781 (1978), the Constitution “does not mandate comfortable
prisons,” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1982). “[T]he Constitution does
not require that prisoners be provided any and every amenity which some person
may think is needed to avoid mental, physical, and emotional deterioration.”
Newman, 559 F.2d at 291. “Conditions that cannot be said to be cruel and unusual
under contemporary standards are not unconstitutional. To the extent that such
conditions are restrictive and even harsh, they are part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347.
“To be deliberately indifferent, a prison official must knowingly or
recklessly disregard an inmate’s basic needs.” LaMarca, 995 F.2d at 1535. To
establish that an official was deliberately indifferent, “a plaintiff must prove that
the official possessed knowledge both of the infirm condition and of the means to
cure that condition, ‘so that a conscious, culpable refusal to prevent the harm can
be inferred from the defendant’s failure to prevent it.’”
Id. at 1535 (quoting
Duckworth v. Franzen, 780 F.2d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 479 U.S.
It is undisputed that the plaintiff suffers from onion and peanut allergies.
(Doc. 39 at 3). However, it also is undisputed that the plaintiff was given cheese
sandwiches when Chinese food containing onions or peanut butter sandwiches
were served to general population inmates. (Id.).
Moreover, Mr. Sparks has presented no evidence that indicates that he
became malnourished and lost weight because of the food provided at FCJ.
Rather, Mr. Sparks gained weight. According to his January 16, 2013 jail booking
card, he weighed 170 pounds. (Doc. 31-4 at 3). Five months later, on May 15,
2013, Dr. Magouirk recorded the plaintiff’s weight at 194 pounds. (Id. at 22). Dr.
Magouirk observed that Mr. Sparks was “well-nourished, well-developed, and in
no acute distress.” (Id.). Mr. Sparks was “conversant, [in] good spirits,” and had
no complaints other than desiring that his medication be renewed. (Id.).
Sparks has produced no evidence to establish that he lost weight or that he suffered
an allergic reaction between May 15, 2013 and August 16, 2013, the day he was
transferred to a state correctional facility. (Doc. 40-1 at 2).
Thus, despite Mr. Sparks’s and Mr. Smith’s contentions that bologna or
peanut butter was served for breakfast and lunch and Mr. Sparks’s contradictory
statement concerning the cheese sandwiches he received in place of Chinese food
or peanut butter, the evidence indicates that the FCJ provided “‘well-balanced
meal[s], containing sufficient nutritional value to preserve health, [which] is all
that is’” necessary to satisfy the Constitution’s requirement “that prisoners be
provided ‘reasonably adequate food.’” Hamm v. DeKalb Cty., 774 F.2d 1567,
1575 (11th Cir. 1985) (quoting Smith v. Sullivan, 553 F.2d 373, 380 (5th Cir.
1977); Jones v. Diamond, 636 F.2d 1364, 1378 (5th Cir. 1981)).9 The plaintiff has
produced no evidence to show that the substituted cheese sandwiches in any way
caused or triggered the two seizures he had while at the facility.
Moreover, the plaintiff does not allege he complained to defendants Whitley
or Ingle about the quality or quantity of the food items available to him—from a
nutritional or medical standpoint.
Nor did he make any complaints to Dr.
As such, there is no evidence defendants Whitley or Ingle were
subjectively aware that any constitutional deprivation was occurring in relation to
the food offered to the plaintiff, but were deliberately indifferent to the purported
Because Mr. Sparks has not presented evidence to establish either a
constitutional deprivation or deliberate indifference in connection with his Eighth
Under Bonner v. City of Pritchard, 661 F.2d 1206, 1209 (11th Cir.1981) (en banc), this
court is bound by cases decided by the former Fifth Circuit before October 1, 1981.
Amendment condition of confinement claims, the Court will enter summary
judgment on those claims.
For the reasons stated above, the motion for summary judgment is
GRANTED as to all claims against Commissioner Dunn; the plaintiff’s Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference to medical care claim against Sheriff Ingle;
and the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment condition of confinement claims against
defendants Whitley and Ingle.
The motion for summary judgment is DENIED as to Mr. Sparks’s Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference to medical care claim against Mr. Whitley. By
separate order, the Court will order the parties to mediate this claim.
DONE and ORDERED this March 14, 2017.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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