Nix v. Carter et al
ORDER adopting 71 Report and Recommendations; granting in part and denying in part 59 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 61 Motion for Summary Judgment. Ordered by Judge C. Ashley Royal on 3/26/12. (lap)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
CHARLES LENWOOD NIX,
Civil Action No. 5:10‐cv‐256
42 U.S.C. § 1983
ALAN CARTER, et al.,
ORDER ON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S RECOMMENDATION
Before the Court is the United States Magistrate Judge’s Recommendation [Doc.
71] that Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 61] be denied, and Defendants
Charlie Harrell, Charles Register, and Jermaine Rockwell’s Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 59] be granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, the Magistrate
Judge recommends that summary judgment be granted as to Defendants Register and
Harrell, but denied as to Defendant Rockwell. Defendant Rockwell has filed an
Objection [Doc. 72] to the Recommendation. Having considered Defendant Rockwell’s
Objection and having investigated those matters de novo, this Court agrees with the
findings and conclusions of the United States Magistrate Judge. Thus, the
Recommendation [Doc. 71] is HEREBY ADOPTED AND MADE THE ORDER OF
This Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that there are genuine issues of
material fact regarding Plaintiff’s excessive force claim as to Defendant Rockwell.
Contrary to Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff suffered no injury, the evidence, both
from Plaintiff’s testimony and the testimony from fellow inmate Calvin Belt, creates a
genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff suffered any injury from Defendant
Rockwell’s alleged blow to Plaintiff’s face. This Court recognizes that even taking
Plaintiff’s version of the facts as true the alleged injury he suffered was minor.
However, as the Magistrate Judge thoroughly explained, this Court must focus on the
nature of the force applied, not the resulting injury. See Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. ___,
130 S.Ct. 1175, 1778 (2010) (per curiam) (“The core judicial inquiry . . . [is] not whether a
certain quantum of injury was sustained, but rather whether force was applied in a
good‐faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to
cause harm.”) (internal quotations and citation omitted). The evidence presented by
Plaintiff is sufficient to support a finding that Defendant Rockwell acted sadistically and
maliciously to cause harm.
This Court is not persuaded by Defendant’s argument that he is entitled to
summary judgment because Plaintiff’s medical records fail to document that Plaintiff
suffered any visible injury. In a recent 8th Amendment excessive force case with similar
facts to this case, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s decision to grant
summary judgment for the defendant where the plaintiff claimed he suffered physical
injury, but the plaintiff’s medical records failed to note any obvious injury. Hall v.
Bennett, 447 Fed. Appx. 921, 2011 WL 5903541 (2011). The Court stated that “while
[plaintiff’s] medical reports did not note any obvious injuries, we are mindful of the fact
that the focus of the inquiry is on the nature of the force applied, not the extent of the
injury.” Id. at 923‐24 (citing Wilkins, 130 S.Ct. at 1778). Like in Hall, this case presents
“two competing, contradictory stories of what happened,” and this Court cannot
“improperly weigh the witnesses’ credibility by favoring [the defendant’s] account
over [the plaintiff’s].” Id. at 924. Thus, summary judgment for Defendant Rockwell is
Defendant Rockwell also argues that because Plaintiff suffered no injury, any
recovery must be limited to nominal damages, and he cannot recover compensatory or
punitive damages. As this Court has already stated, there are genuine issues of material
fact as to whether Plaintiff suffered any physical injury; thus, this Court certainly
cannot limit Plaintiff’s damages on summary judgment based on the theory he suffered
no injury. This Court, however, can envision an argument that if the jury found in
favor of Plaintiff, the injury he suffered would be de minimis, and therefore the Prison
Litigation and Reform Act would bar recovery for any emotional or mental injury
suffered. See Harris v. Garner, 190 F.3d 1279, 1286‐87 (11th Cir.1999), rehʹg granted,
opinion vacated, 197 F.3d 1059 (11th Cir.1999), opinion reinstated in pertinent part on rehʹg,
216 F.3d 970 (11th Cir.2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 1065)) (“We therefore join the Fifth
Circuit in fusing the physical injury analysis under section 1997e(e) with the framework
set out by the Supreme Court in Hudson [v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1 (1992)] for analyzing
claims brought under the Eighth Amendment for cruel and unusual punishment, and
hold that in order to satisfy section 1997e(e) the physical injury must be more than de
minimis, but need not be significant.”). The Court will entertain any further arguments
on limitation of damages at the pretrial conference of this case.
For the foregoing reasons, the Recommendation [Doc. 71] is HEREBY
ADOPTED AND MADE THE ORDER OF THE COURT. Plaintiff’s Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. 61] is hereby denied, and Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. 59] is hereby granted as to Defendants Harrell and
Register, and denied as to Defendant Rockwell.
SO ORDERED, this 26th day of March, 2012.
S/ C. Ashley Royal
C. ASHLEY ROYAL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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