Lambert v. Alabama Department of Corrections et al
ORDER ADOPTING the Magistrate Judge's 10 REPORT AND ACCEPTING the Magistrate Judge's 10 RECOMMENDATIONS; It is therefore ORDERED that all of Plaintiff's claims against defendants Alabama Department of Corrections, Bibb Correctiona l Facility, Warden Willie Thomas, Captain John Hutton, and defendant Jeffery Huff are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). It is further ORDERED that the Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against defendants Parker and McKay are REFERRED to the Magistrate Judge for further proceedings. Signed by Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins on 10/16/2015. (JLC, )
2015 Oct-16 AM 11:12
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
OF CORRECTIONS, et al.,
Case No. 7:15-cv-00345-VEH-HGD
The magistrate judge filed a report and recommendation on September 16,
2015 (doc. 10) recommending that the plaintiff’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment
claims against defendants Alabama Department of Corrections, Bibb Correctional
Facility, Warden Willie Thomas, Captain John Hutton, and defendant Jeffery Huff be
dismissed. The report further recommended that the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment
claims against defendants Parker and McKay be referred to the magistrate judge for
further proceedings. The plaintiff has filed objections to the magistrate judge’s
recommendations concerning Warden Willie Thomas, Captain Hutton, and defendant
Huff. (Doc. 11).
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The plaintiff objects to the dismissal of defendant Huff on the basis that Huff
“knew that inmate Holmes was a general population inmate, and wasn’t supposed to
be inside of the B-Dorm modification unit of Bay 3. Defendant Huff knew that there
existed a substantial risk of serious harm, by inmate Holmes . . . being in this area of
the prison.” (Doc. 11 at 1-2). However, no facts are alleged in the plaintiff’s
complaint which allow such assumptions to be drawn. Rather, in his complaint the
plaintiff asserts only that “Officer Huff, by way of his witness testimony serves to
show that inmate Holmes was in an area that he should not have been in.” (Doc. 1
To support a claim for deliberate indifference on the part of a prison official,
a plaintiff inmate must show: “(1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm;
(2) disregard of that risk; (3) by conduct that is more than gross negligence.” Thomas
v. Bryant, 614 F.3d 1288, 1312 (11th Cir. 2010). Prison officials are not held liable
for every attack by one inmate upon another, Zatler v. Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 400
(11th Cir. 1986), nor are they guarantors of a prisoner’s safety. Popham v. City of
Talladega, 908 F.2d 1561, 1564 (11th Cir. 1990). Rather, a prison official must be
faced with a known risk of injury that rises to the level of a “strong likelihood rather
than a mere possibility” before his failure to protect an inmate can be said to
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constitute deliberate indifference. Brown v. Hughes, 894 F.2d 1533, 1537 (11th Cir.
1990) (citations omitted).
The plaintiff’s simple assertion – that inmate Holmes’s mere presence in the
modification unit shows that defendant Huff knew that a substantial risk of serious
harm existed – is insufficient to state a claim against defendant Huff. Moreover,
even if defendant Huff knew that inmate Holmes was prohibited from the
modification bay area, such an allegation falls far short of showing that, subjectively,
Huff was aware that Holmes presented a substantial risk of serious harm to the
plaintiff specifically. See Murphy v. Turpin, 159 Fed.App’x 945, 948 (11th Cir.
2005) (“Put another way, because Murphy alleged no facts indicating that any officer
was aware of a substantial risk of serious harm to him from Thomas and failed to take
protective measures, his claim fails.”)(emphasis in original). “Merely negligent
failure to protect an inmate from attack does not justify liability under [§] 1983.”
Goodman v. Kimbrough, 718 F.3d 1325, 1332 (11th Cir. 2013) (quoting Brown v.
Hughes, 894 F.2d 1533, 1537 (11th Cir. 1990) (per curiam)).
The plaintiff next objects to dismissal of the claims against defendant John
Hutton. (Doc. 11 at 2). The plaintiff asserts that Captain Hutton “failed to train his
officers, and exhibited deliberate indifferen[ce], when he failed to execute any
actions, knowingly, when he knew his officers did not know how to properly keep
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inmates housed in Bay 3 of the B-Dorm Modification Unit, safe from those inmates
housed in general population.” (Id.). The plaintiff asserts the same argument applies
to Warden Willie Thomas. (Id., at 3). Such assertions are far too general to survive
§ 1915A review. Any duty on the part of a supervisor to train subordinates so as to
prevent constitutional torts arises only where (1) the supervisor has contemporaneous
knowledge of an offending incident or knowledge of a prior pattern of similar
incidents, and (2) circumstances exist under which the supervisor’s inaction could be
found to have communicated a message of approval to the offending subordinate.
Chinchello v. Fenton, 805 F.2d 126, 133-34 (3rd Cir. 1986). See also Cannon v.
Taylor, 782 F.2d 947, 951 (11th Cir. 1986) (nothing less than a showing of gross
negligence is required to establish liability for inadequate training). Additionally, the
plaintiff must “identify a deficiency in a training program closely related to the injury
complained of and must further show that the injury would have been avoided ‘under
a program that was not deficient in the identified respect.’” Gordon v. Kidd, 971 F.2d
1087, 1097 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 391
(1989)). Here, the plaintiff has failed to allege that the attack on him occurred
because Captain Hutton and/or Warden Thomas failed to properly train their staff.
See Woody v. Cronic, 401 Fed.App’x 509, 511 (11th Cir. 2010).
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Finally, the plaintiff objects to the report and recommendation because his
“breach of security” claim was not addressed. (Doc. 11 at 3). The plaintiff alleges
that “the security staff who [were] on duty during the 16th day of June, 2014, at 9:35
a.m. . . . were negligent in their duties and were deliberately indifference to his safety
and security . . . .” (Doc. 1 at 4). Because the plaintiff asserted that the negligence
in security led to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s safety, the report and
recommendation addressed this as part of the plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim.
If the plaintiff is also attempting to state some type of negligence for breach of
security claim, the same fails to raise a claim of constitutional proportion and would
be dismissed on that basis alone.
Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the court
file, including the report and recommendation and the objections to the report and
recommendation, the court is of the opinion that the magistrate judge’s report is due
to be and is hereby ADOPTED and the magistrate judge’s recommendation is
ACCEPTED. It is therefore ORDERED by the court that all of plaintiff’s claims
against defendants Alabama Department of Corrections, Bibb Correctional Facility,
Warden Willie Thomas, Captain John Hutton, and defendant Jeffery Huff are
DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). It is further ORDERED by the
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court that the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims against defendants Parker and
McKay are REFERRED to the magistrate judge for further proceedings.
DONE this 16th day of October, 2015.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS
United States District Judge
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