Ashford v. Harris et al

Filing 32

RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION recommending that 17 Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed with prejudice. Objections to R&R due 11 days from the time of the Recommended Disposition. Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 11/19/09. (hph)

Download PDF
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT E A S T E R N DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS PINE BLUFF DIVISION C H A R L E S ASHFORD A D C #133975 V. G R A N T HARRIS, et al. C A S E NO.: 5:09CV00097 SWW/BD P L A IN T IF F DEFENDANTS R E C O M M E N D E D DISPOSITION I. P r o c e d u r e for Filing Objections: T h e following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District J u d g e Susan Webber Wright. Any party may file written objections to this re c o m m e n d a tio n . Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal b a s is for the objection. If the objection is to a factual finding, specifically identify that f in d in g and the evidence that supports your objection. An original and one copy of your o b je c tio n s must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later th a n eleven (11) days from the date you receive the Recommended Disposition. A copy w ill be furnished to the opposing party. Failure to file timely objections may result in w a iv e r of the right to appeal questions of fact. M a il your objections and "Statement of Necessity" to: C le rk , United States District Court E a s te rn District of Arkansas 6 0 0 West Capitol Avenue, Suite A149 L ittle Rock, AR 72201-3325 II. B ackground: P la in tif f , an inmate at the Varner Super Max Unit ("VSM") of the Arkansas D e p a rtm e n t of Correction ("ADC") filed this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. 1983. (D o c k e t entry #2) In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he has not been provided n u tritio n a lly adequate food and, as a result, has suffered weight loss. Plaintiff originally n a m e d as Defendants Grant Harris, Warden of VSM; John Whaley, Assistant Warden of V S M ; and Charles Freyder, Chaplain at VSM. The Court previously dismissed all claims a g a in s t Mr. Freyder. (#11) Defendants Harris and Whaley now have filed a motion for s u m m a ry judgment. (#17) In the motion, the Defendants argue that: (1) they are entitled to qualified im m u n ity; (2) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for deliberate indifference; (3) Plaintiff h a s failed to state a conditions-of-confinement claim; and (4) respondeat superior does n o t apply to 1983 claims. Plaintiff has responded to the Defendants' motion. (#31) Based upon the evidence presented, the Court recommends that the Defendants' m o tio n (#17) be GRANTED and that Plaintiff's claims be DISMISSED with prejudice.1 Because Plaintiff has failed to state either a deliberate-indifference or a c o n d itio n s -o f -c o n f in e m e n t claim, the Court will not address the Defendants' qualified im m u n ity argument in this recommendation. In addition, the Court notes that despite b e in g characterized as both a deliberate-indifference and conditions-of-confinement c la im , the claim that an individual has been denied a nutritionally adequate diet arises u n d e r the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment contained in the Eighth A m e n d m e n t. Although a deliberate-indifference claim requires that Plaintiff establish th a t the Defendants were aware of a substantial risk of serious harm to Plaintiff and c o n s c io u s ly disregarded that risk, Farmer v. Brennen, 511 U.S. 825, 832, 114 S.Ct. 1970 2 1 III. D is c u s s io n : A. S ta n d a rd S u m m a ry judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the light most f a v o ra b le to the nonmoving party, presents no genuine issue of material fact. FED. R. C IV. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty L o b b y , Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 246 (1986). Once the moving party has successfully carried its b u rd e n under Rule 56(c), the nonmoving party has an affirmative burden to go beyond the p le a d in g s and by depositions, affidavits, or otherwise, designate "specific facts showing th a t there is a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Mosley v. City of N o r th w o o d s , 415 F.3d 908, 910-11 (8th Cir. 2005) ("The nonmoving party may not `rest o n mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of s p e c if ic facts which create a genuine issue for trial.'" (quoting Krenik v. County of Le S u e u r , 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995))). If the opposing party fails to carry that burden o r fails to establish the existence of an essential element of its case on which that party w ill bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment should be granted. See Celotex, (1 9 9 4 ), and a conditions-of-confinement claim requires that Plaintiff establish that he was d e p riv e d of a "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U .S . 337, 347, 101 S.Ct. 2392 (1981), both require that Plaintiff provide proof of a n u tritio n a lly deficient diet. Here, Plaintiff has failed to present any such proof. As a re s u lt, the Court does not address these claims separately in this recommendation. 3 477 U.S. at 322. "Although it is to be construed liberally, a pro se complaint must c o n ta in specific facts supporting its conclusions." Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1 3 3 7 (8th Cir. 1985). B. A n a l ys i s H e re , Plaintiff claims that he was denied nutritionally adequate food and that D e f e n d a n ts Harris and Whaley, although aware of this situation, failed to act. It is wells e ttle d that under the Eighth Amendment "prisoners have a right to nutritionally adequate f o o d ." Wishon v. Gammon, 978 F.2d 446, 449 (8th Cir. 1992). In order to establish that a p riso n e r plaintiff has been denied nutritionally adequate food, he must present some e v id e n c e to support this claim. See Pratt v. Corrections Corp. of America, 267 Fed. A p p x . 482, *1 (8th Cir. 2008) (unpublished per curiam) (inmate plaintiff's vegetarian diet d id not violate his eighth amendment rights "as he did not rebut defendants' evidence that m e a ls were nutritionally adequate"). Plaintiff has failed to present any such evidence. In contrast, the Defendants have a tta c h e d to their motion a document containing the caloric and nutritional information of its Kosher meal plan. (#19-7) Based upon this evidence, it appears that the Kosher meal p la n provides approximately 2,620 calories a day, including 107 grams of protein. (#197 ) Because Plaintiff has failed to present any evidence that the Kosher meal plan failed to 4 provide him a nutritionally adequate diet, Plaintiff cannot establish either a deliberate in d if f e re n c e or condition-of-confinement claim as a matter of law.2 In addition, Plaintiff has failed to present evidence that he sustained any injury as a re s u lt of the alleged nutritional deprivation. In his Complaint, Plaintiff specifically a lle g e s that "he has been under going a severe weight loss weighing only 150 pounds," (#2 at p.4), but according to Plaintiff's "inmate synopsis" completed at the time Plaintiff e n te re d the ADC, which is attached to the Defendants' motion for summary judgment, in 2 0 0 5 , Plaintiff weighed 144 pounds. (#19-2) Accordingly, it appears that Plaintiff has a c tu a lly gained, rather than lost, weight since his arrival at the ADC. Plaintiff, again, has f a ile d to present any evidence to the contrary. C. R e s p o n d e a t Superior P la in tif f claims that Defendants Harris and Whaley were aware that he was re c e iv in g inadequate nutrition, but failed to remedy the situation. Although the The Court also notes that when Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the alleged in a d e q u a c ie s of the Kosher diet, he was informed that only the Unit's Chaplain could h a v e him removed from the Kosher meal plan list. (#2 at p.8) In his Complaint, Plaintiff s ta te s that he did file a request to be removed from the Kosher diet list. Although the D e f e n d a n ts provide a memo from the chaplain removing Plaintiff from the Common Fare M e a l plan (formerly known as the Kosher diet), that memo is dated August 28, 2008. (#19-10) Plaintiff's grievance is dated October 2008 (#2 at p.8), and the Chief D e p u ty/D e p u ty/A s s ista n t Director's Decision is dated February 27, 2009. (#19-10) Accordingly, it is not clear whether Plaintiff was, in fact, removed from the Kosher diet w h e n requested. Because Plaintiff has failed to present any evidence that he was denied o f a nutritionally inadequate diet while on the Kosher meal plan, however, his claim still f a ils . 5 2 Defendants correctly argue that respondeat superior is not a basis for liability under 1983, supervisors may be liable when their "corrective inaction amounts to deliberate in d if f e re n c e ." Fruit v. Norris, 905 F.2d 1147, 1151 (8th Cir. 1990). Here, because P la in tif f claims that Defendants were personally aware of his situation and failed to act, h e is not attempting to hold these Defendants liable based upon respondeat superior. However, because the Court has determined that Plaintiff has failed to establish a c o n s titu tio n a l claim as a matter of law, the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment. IV. C o n c lu s io n : T h e Court recommends that the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (#17) b e GRANTED. Plaintiff's claims should be DISMISSED with prejudice. D A T E D this 19th day of November, 2009. ____________________________________ U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 6

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?