Reddin v. Fronte
ORDER adopting 42 Report and Recommendations in toto. Further, granting in part and denying in part 34 Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff's claims against Defendant in his official capacity are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, Claims against his individual capacity remain for further consideration. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on February 9, 2018. (hnc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
HOT SPRINGS DIVISION
Case No. 6:16-cv-6072
TRENT A. FRONTE (Correctional Officer,
Ouachita River Unit, ADC)
Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation filed July 28, 2017, by the Honorable
Mark E. Ford, United States Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. ECF No. 42.
Defendant has responded with timely objections. ECF No. 45. The Court finds the matter ripe for
On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this matter pro se. ECF No. 2. At the
time of the incident, Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Ouachita
River Unit. Plaintiff alleges that he was standing in a doorway when Defendant, a correctional
officer, approached him and was playing with a can of pepper spray. Plaintiff further alleges that
he asked Defendant what he planned to do with the spray, and Defendant responded that he planned
to spray Plaintiff. Then, Defendant sprayed Plaintiff with the pepper spray.
In his deposition, Plaintiff elaborated on these allegations and stated that he was joking
when he asked Defendant who he planned to spray. Defendant replied that he would spray Plaintiff
if he did not mind his own business. Plaintiff then taunted Defendant to “give him a taste,” and
Plaintiff pointed to his finger. Defendant then sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray, which covered
his face and clothes. Plaintiff stated in his deposition that Defendant sprayed him on purpose and
pointed out the safety mechanism on the can of pepper spray that must be lifted before a finger can
be inserted to depress the spray button. After he was sprayed, Plaintiff claims that Defendant shut
the barracks door in his face.
Pursuant to § 1983, Plaintiff alleges Eighth Amendment excessive force and deliberate
indifference claims against Defendant in his official and individual capacities. Defendant filed a
summary judgment motion arguing that the official capacity claims are barred by the doctrine of
sovereign immunity. ECF No. 34. Defendant further argued that he is entitled to summary
judgment on the individual capacity excessive force claim because his actions amounted to
negligence, and he was not motivated to act maliciously. 1 ECF No. 34. The magistrate judge
recommends that Defendant’s summary judgment motion be granted as to Plaintiff’s claims
against Defendant in his official capacity and denied as to Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant in
his individual capacity.
Defendant objects to the magistrate judge’s recommendation that summary judgment be
denied as to the individual capacity excessive force claim. The Eighth Amendment protects
inmates from unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain by correctional officers “regardless of
whether an inmate suffers serious injury as a result.” Treats v. Morgan, 308 F.3d 868, 872 (8th
Cir. 2002). Prison official may “use force reasonably in a good faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline, but force is not to be used maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Id. (quotations
omitted). In determining whether excessive force was used, the Court should consider: (1)
whether there was an objective need for force; (2) the relationship between any such need and the
amount of force used; (3) the threat reasonably perceived by the correctional officers; (4) any
efforts by the officers to temper the severity of their forceful purpose; and (5) the extent of the
inmate’s injury. “A basis for an Eighth Amendment claim exists when . . . an officer uses pepper
Defendant did not address the deliberate indifference claim in his summary judgment motion.
spray without warning on an inmate who may have questioned his actions but who otherwise poses
no threat.” Id. at 873.
Defendant argues that the only evidence Plaintiff presented to support his claim was his
self-serving deposition testimony that he believes Defendant purposefully sprayed Plaintiff with
pepper spray. Defendant further argues that he accidentally sprayed Plaintiff, his actions amount
to negligence, and there is no evidence other than Plaintiff’s self-serving testimony that Defendant
acted out of spite. Defendant is essentially asking the Court to make a credibility determination
and credit his version of facts over Plaintiff’s. The Court, however, at the summary judgment
stage, must view all evidence in a light most favorable to Plaintiff, the non-moving party. The
evidence of record, viewed in Plaintiff’s favor, shows that Plaintiff asked Defendant who he
planned to spray, told Defendant to “give him a taste,” and pointed a finger, and then Defendant
sprayed him with pepper spray without warning. The evidence also shows that there is a safety
mechanism on the can of pepper spray that must be lifted before a finger can be inserted to depress
the spray button. Thus, the Court agrees with the magistrate judge that a genuine issue of material
fact exists as to whether Defendant purposefully sprayed Plaintiff with pepper spray and acted
maliciously to cause harm. The Court also agrees with the magistrate judge’s recommendation
that Defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity.
Based on its own de novo review, the Court overrules Defendant’s objections and adopts
the Report and Recommendation in toto. ECF No. 42. Accordingly, the Court finds that
Defendant’s summary judgment motion (ECF No. 34) should be and hereby is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART. Defendant’s motion is GRANTED as to Plaintiff’s claims
against Defendant in his official capacity, and these claims are DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE. Defendant’s motion is DENIED as to Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims
against Defendant in his individual capacity, and these claims remain for further consideration.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 9th day of February, 2018.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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