Vega Sanchez v. McGilroy et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Adopting 59 Report and Recommendations and granting Tyranny Ray's 45 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part Benton County's 48 Motion for Summary Judgment. Individual claims against Defendants McElroy, Kelley, and Scott will be set for trial by separate order. Signed by Honorable Timothy L. Brooks on September 6, 2017. (src)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 5:16-CV-05037
SERGEANT MCELROY; DEPUTY KELLEY;
CORPORAL SCOTT; CAPTAIN JEREMY GUYLL;
TYRANNY RAY, Medical Supervisor; and
JOHN DOE DEPUTY
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Currently before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 59)
of the Honorable Erin L. Wiedemann , United States Magistrate Judge for the Western
District of Arkansas, submitted in this case on July 21 , 2017 , regarding a Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 45) filed by Defendant Tyranny Ray, who is a licensed practical
nurse employed by Southern Health Partners, an entity that contracts with the Benton
County Detention Center ("BCDC") to serve the medical needs of its inmates; and a Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48) filed by Defendants Sergeant McElroy, Deputy Kelley,
Corporal Scott, and Captain Jeremy Guyll. The Magistrate Judge recommends granting
Defendant Ray's Motion.
She also recommends granting the remaining Defendants'
Motion with respect to claims against Defendant Guyll and all official-capacity claims
against Defendants' employer, Benton County, Arkansas, but denying the Motion as to the
individual claims against Defendants McElroy, Kelley, and Scott. None of the Defendants
filed objections to the R&R, but on August 3, 2017 , Plaintiff Francisco Vega-Sanchez filed
objections (Doc. 60). 1
Mr. Vega-Sanchez also filed what he describes as an "exhibit" in support of his claims
(Doc. 61) on August 28, 2017 . The exhibit consists of two pages of doctor's notes from an
The Court has conducted a de nova review as to all specified proposed findings and
recommendations to which Mr. Vega-Sanchez has raised objections. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1 ). As is explained in further detail below, the objections are OVERRULED , and
the R&R is APPROVED AND ADOPTED .
The R&R recites the facts of the case in such detail that there is no need to restate
them all here. Suffice it to say that Mr. Vega-Sanchez makes two separate claims
regarding the alleged violation of his constitutional rights while he was an inmate at the
BCDC. First, he maintains that he was subjected to an excessive use of force by certain
BCDC officials while he was escorted from one pod to another, immediately following an
altercation with an inmate on December 31 , 2015. The Magistrate Judge recommends
denying summary judgment to Defendants McElroy, Kelley, and Scott, with regard to the
excessive-force claims. These Defendants did not object to this recommendation, and
these claims will be set for trial by separate order.
The second claim is that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated as a result of
the care he received at the BCDC after he returned from the hospital following the
December 31 incident. He was treated at the hospital for a broken rib and a cut over his
left eye. When he returned to jail, officials placed him in disciplinary segregation for a
period of 30 days, as punishment for his involvement in the fight with the other inmate. It
is the BCDC's policy to limit the number of hours that an inmate in disciplinary segregation
appointment on August 7, 2017. During the appointment, Mr. Vega-Sanchez was treated
for complaints about his right ear, and the doctor prescribed him a hearing aid .
may have a sleeping mat. The mat is available eight hours a day, but only during the
evening hours, and is otherwise removed from the inmate's cell.
Mr. Vega-Sanchez explains that he submitted multiple requests to be allowed to
keep his mat all day, every day, for the 30 days he was in disciplinary segregation , as he
believed that he needed to lie on his mat during the day to speed the healing of his broken
rib. He accuses Captain Guyll of wrongly referring his grievances to Nurse Ray, instead
of dealing with the grievances himself.
He accuses Nurse Ray of being deliberately
indifferent to his serious medical needs in denying his requests for an all-day mat. In his
deposition , Mr. Vega-Sanchez testified that he continues to experience pain in his ribcage
area when he works out, moves forcefully , or lies on his side , and he blames Nurse Ray
for these lasting injuries.
The Magistrate Judge in the R&R recommended granting summary judgment to
Nurse Ray, finding that nothing in the summary judgment record supported Mr. VegaSanchez's claim that he had a serious medical need that warranted having a mat during
the daytime hours. According to the Magistrate Judge, it was clear that Nurse Ray's
decision with regard to the all-day mat request did not deviate from the applicable standard
of care or indicate deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Mr. Vega-Sanchez
disagrees with the Magistrate Judge, and in his objections to the R&R argues that Nurse
Ray should stand trial for her decision to deny him the all-day mat while he was in
disciplinary segregation . As for Mr. Vega-Sanchez's claims against Captain Guyll, it
appears that he agrees Captain Guyll was not personally involved with any of the events
that occurred on December 31that comprise the excessive force claim . Instead, Mr. VegaSanchez alleges that Captain Guyll should remain in the lawsuit because he is "the
administrative taskmaster, supervisor and officer responsible for implementation of the
policies and customs of the jail. " (Doc. 60 , p. 6). Finally, Mr. Vega-Sanchez objects to the
dismissal of the official-capacity claims against Benton County, arguing that further
discovery is needed in order to determine whether the officers' use of excessive force was
pursuant to a County custom or policy. All of these objections to the R&R will be
II. LEGAL STANDARD
The standard of review for summary judgment is well established. Under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) , "[t]he 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." The Court must review the facts in the light most favorable
to the opposing party and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be
drawn from those facts. Canada v. Union Elec. Co. , 135 F.3d 1211 , 1212-13 (8th Cir.
1997). The moving party bears the burden of proving the absence of a genuine dispute
of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed . R. Civ. P.
56(c) ; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574 , 586-87 (1986) ;
Nat'/. Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602 (8th Cir.
1999). Once the moving party has met its burden , the non-moving party must "come
forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. "' Matsushita, 475
U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed . R. Civ. P. 56(c)) .
In order for there to be a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must
produce evidence "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)) . "The nonmoving party must do more
than rely on allegations or denials in the pleadings, and the court should grant summary
judgment if any essential element of the prim a facie case is not supported by specific facts
sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial." Registerv. Honeywell Fed. Mfg. & Techs., LLC,
397 F.3d 1130, 1136 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 , 324
A. Dismissal of Nurse Ray
Mr. Vega-Sanchez argues in his objections thatthe Magistrate Judge misunderstood
his claim against Nurse Ray. To the contrary, it appears to the Court that the relevant facts
set forth in the R&R exactly match those that Mr. Vega-Sanchez lists in his objections,
namely that: (1) he suffered a broken rib , and (2) Nurse Ray decided that his medical
condition did not warrant deviating from the routine housing policy of the disciplinary
segregation unit by providing him a mat to use in his cell during the daylight hours.
Mr. Vega-Sanchez does not dispute that he was provided a mat every evening, for
sleeping . Instead , he claims Nurse Ray's refusal to allow him an all-day mat displayed
deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and constituted cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Establishing "deliberate indifference"
requires a plaintiff to show that he suffered an objectively serious medical need, and that
prison officials knew of that need and deliberately disregarded it. See Farmerv. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994) ("[T]he official must both be aware of facts from which the
inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also
draw the inference."). The "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" that characterizes
a claim for deliberate indifference may be manifested by a prison official either intentionally
denying or delaying access to medical care, or intentionally interfering with prescribed
treatment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 , 104-05 (1976) . However, "[a] showing of
deliberate indifference is greater than gross negligence and requires more than mere
disagreement with treatment decisions." Gibson v. Weber, 433 F.3d 642 , 646 (8th Cir.
Here, Mr. Vega-Sanchez failed to show on summary judgment that his broken rib
was an objectively serious medical need that demanded bed rest during the daylight hours.
The medical records from the hospital do not indicate that Mr. Vega-Sanchez was
prescribed the use of an all-day mat, or that he was instructed to lie down during the day.
See Doc. 46-1, pp. 3-9. The only doctor's instruction regarding his injuries directs Nurse
Ray to administer Tylenol to Mr. Vega-Sanchez for a period of 40 days, beginning January
1, 2016. See id. at 6. It follows that, absent a prescription or doctor's recommendation ,
Nurse Ray's decision regarding Mr. Vega-Sanchez's access to an all-day mat was a
judgment call wh ich was , at worst, negligent. However, "[d]eliberate indifference is akin to
criminal recklessness, which demands more than negligent misconduct. " Popoalii v. Corr.
Med. Servs., 512 F.3d 488 , 499 (8th Cir. 2008).
Because Mr. Vega-Sanchez has failed to show a genuine, material dispute of fact
that Nurse Ray's decision regarding the all-day mat request was anyth ing more than a
mere disagreement about treatment, the claim fails on summary judgment. His objection
as to Nurse Ray is overruled, and the individual-capacity claims against her are
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
B. Claims Against Captain Guyll
Next, the Court addresses Mr. Vega-Sanchez's objection as to the dismissal of
Captain Guyll. In his deposition , Mr. Vega-Sanchez recounts the incidents of December
31 related to his excessive force claim , but fails to mention any personal involvement by
Captain Guyll. See also Vega-Sanchez's Response to Motion for Summary Judgment,
Doc. 57 , p. 2 (averring that Captain Guyll "was not involved with the assault," and that Mr.
Vega-Sanchez was only suing him with respect to the "separate claim along with Ray").
Mr. Vega-Sanchez believes that when he was in disciplinary segregation and began
submitting grievances in an attempt to obtain a daytime mat, Captain Guyll unhelpfully
referred his grievances to Nurse Ray-who denied them. See Doc. 51 , pp. 58-59. Further,
Mr. Vega-Sanchez argues that dismissing Captain Guyll at this point in the litigation is
premature, as more discovery is needed to find out the nature and extent of his individual
First, the Court finds that the dismissal of Captain Guyll on summary judgment is not
premature. The record reflects that the parties had a sufficient opportunity to develop the
record during discovery. Second , as the Magistrate Judge explained in the R&R , Captain
Guyll's alleged failure to give satisfactory responses to Mr. Vega-Sanchez's written
grievances, even if true, does not, in and of itself, implicate Mr. Vega-Sanchez's
constitutional rights and create an actionable claim under Section 1983. Third , if Mr.
Sanchez-Vega is purporting to hold Captain Guyll liable under Section 1983 simply
because he is a BCDC supervisor, the law is clear that liability cannot rest on a theory of
respondeat superior alone . See Ouzts v. Cummins, 825 F.2d 1276, 1277 (8th Cir. 1987)
("[A] warden's general responsibility for supervising the operations of a prison is insufficient
to establish personal involvement."). For all of these reasons , the Court finds that Mr.
Vega-Sanchez'e objection to the dismissal of Captain Guyll is overruled , and summary
judgment is GRANTED as to those claims.
C. Official-Capacity Claims
The R&R explains that Mr. Vega-Sanchez has failed to point to any policy or
procedure of Benton County that would implicate an official-capacity claim.
objections, Mr. Vega-Sanchez argues that summary judgment is premature, and that
further discovery is needed because it is possible that the individual actions of the BCDC
Defendants were taken pursuant to an "unofficial custom" of the County that endorsed
"officers beating plaintiff and others in a pattern of abuse ." (Doc. 60 , p. 7) .
The Court rejects Mr. Vega-Sanchez's contention that further discovery is needed
to uncover a policy or practice of Benton County that encourages officers to physically
abuse inmates without provocation . He had an adequate opportunity to discover evidence
of any such policy, and he failed to do so. His objection as to the dismissal of the officialcapacity claims is overruled , and summary judgment is GRANTED as to those claims.
For the reasons explained herein, Plaintiff's Objections (Doc. 60) are OVERRULED.
The Court hereby ADOPTS the R&R (Doc. 59) in its entirety and ORDERS that the Motion
for Summary Judgment (Doc. 45) filed by Defendant Tyranny Ray is GRANTED. All claims
against her are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48) filed
by Defendants Sergeant McElroy, Deputy Kelley, Corporal Scott, and Captain Jeremy Guyll
is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. The Motion is GRANTED as to the
individual claims against Captain Guyll and the official-capacity claims against Benton
County, Arkansas, and these claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE . The Motion is
DENIED as to the individual claims against Defendants McElroy, Kelley, and Scott, and
those claims will be set for trial by separ te order.
IT IS SO ORDERED on this
y of August, 2 17.
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