Vaughn v. Huskins et al

Filing 54

ORDER ADOPTING IN PART 52 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS ; granting in part and denying in part 42 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Honorable Jimm Larry Hendren on September 16, 2011. (src)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS FAYETTEVILLE DIVISION CHESTER S. VAUGHN PLAINTIFF v. Civil No. 09-5205 DR. JAMES HUSKINS, Benton County Detention Center; NURSE MARSHA SMITH, Benton County Detention Center; SGT. FRY, Benton County Detention Center; CAPTAIN ROBERT HOLLY, Benton County Detention Center; and SHERIFF KEITH FERGUSON DEFENDANTS O R D E R Now on this 16th day of September, 2011, come on for consideration defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment (document #42); the Report And Recommendation Of The Magistrate Judge ("R&R") (document #52); and plaintiff's Objections thereto (document #53), and from these documents, the Court finds and orders as follows: 1. Plaintiff Chester S. Vaughn ("Vaughn") brought suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs arising out of a chemical exposure when floor-mopping chemicals were splashed into his eye. Defendants moved for summary Judgment, and the United States Magistrate Judge promulgated a questionnaire to assist Vaughn in responding to that motion. Vaughn completed this questionnaire, and when the motion was fully briefed, the Magistate Judge issued the R&R now under consideration. 2. The R&R recommends that Vaughn's Complaint be construed as asserting both official and individual capacity claims, based on Vaughn's response to the questionnaire. It further recommends granting the Motion For Summary Judgment as to claims against defendants Sheriff Keith Ferguson ("Ferguson") and Captain Robert Holly ("Holly") in their individual capacities, there being nothing in the record to suggest they knew about the chemical exposure or that they made any decisions about Vaughn's medical care, and denied in all other respects. 3. Vaughn objects to the recommendation that his claim against Holly in his individual capacity be dismissed, pointing out that the record contains several grievances in which Vaughn asked for the Material Data Safety Sheet ("MSDS") for the chemical that was splashed in his eye. When Holly responded that Vaughn would need to identify the chemical, Vaughn submitted another grievance stating that the chemical was in an unmarked container and asking that his jailers determine which chemical was in use. Holly responded "I can't help you." To a third request, Holly responded "Denied." A different officer responded to Vaughn's fourth request for the MSDS, stating that it was "available to the medical staff in your file." However, Vaughn's jail medical file is also part of -2- the record, and there is no MSDS in it. The Court finds Vaughn's objection on this point well taken. Holly, as a jail officer, was clearly in a much better position to determine which chemical was used to mop the floors than Vaughn, an inmate. Moreover, because the MSDS is a document setting out the hazards inherent in a chemical substance, including health hazards related to exposure and emergency and first aid procedures, 42 U.S.C. § 11049(6); 29 C.F.R. 1910.1200(g), Holly's failure to investigate and learn the identity of the chemical, and produce its MSDS, may be viewed by the trier of fact as evidence of deliberate indifference on the part of Holly to serious medical needs on Vaughn's part. For these reasons, Vaughn's first Objection will be sustained, and summary judgment as to Holly in his individual capacity will be denied. 4. Vaughn also objects that summary judgment should not be granted in favor of Ferguson in his individual capacity, because he is "the man in charge." This is basically an argument that Ferguson should be held liable on a respondeat superior theory, which is not available to a plaintiff in a § 1983 action. Liability under section 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the deprivation of rights. To establish personal liability of the supervisory defendants, [the plaintiff] must allege specific facts of personal involvement in, or direct responsibility for, a deprivation of his constitutional rights. . . . [A] warden's general responsibility for supervising the operations of a prison is insufficient -3- to establish personal involvement. Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 967 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). This second objection of Vaughn will, therefore, be overruled. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff's Objections to the R&R (document #53) are sustained in part and overruled in part. The Objections are sustained insofar as they object to granting summary judgment to Captain Robert Holly in his individual capacity, and overruled insofar as they object to granting summary judgment to Sheriff Keith Ferguson in his individual capacity. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Report And Recommendation Of The Magistrate Judge (document #52) is adopted in part and not adopted in part. It is not adopted with regard to the recommendation that summary judgment be granted in favor of Captain Robert Holly in his individual capacity, and adopted in all other respects. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment (document #42) is granted in part and denied in part. The motion is granted as to Sheriff Keith Ferguson in his individual capacity, and Vaughn's claims against him in that capacity are dismissed with prejudice. The motion is denied in all other respects. -4- IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this matter is remanded to the Magistrate Judge for further proceedings. IT IS SO ORDERED. /s/ Jimm Larry Hendren JIMM LARRY HENDREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE -5-

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