Belden v. Jordan et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER signed by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell on 3/8/18; granting 38 Motion for Summary Judgment: Defendant Ryan Ramey's Motion for Summary Judgment, DN 38 , is GRANTED. Also, Plaintiff John Belden has until Friday, 3 /30/2018 to file a brief addressing whether summary judgment in the unidentified responding officers favor is appropriate and showing good cause for his failure to serve the defendants listed as unidentified officers. cc: Counsel, John Belden (pro se) (DJT)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-CV-511-TBR
SCOTT JORDAN, et al.,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Ryan Ramey’s Motion for Summary
Judgment. [R. 38.] Plaintiff John Belden responded, [R. 41], and Ramey replied, [R. 58]. The
Court granted Belden an extension to file an Amended Response by January 26, 2018 after
viewing video footage of the incident that is the subject of this case. [R. 53.] On January 11,
2018, Belden viewed the video footage, [R. 58-1], but he has not filed an Amended Response.
This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, Ramey’s Motion for
Summary Judgment, [R. 38], is GRANTED.
The general facts of this case are described in the Court’s prior opinion, Belden v. Jordan
et al., NO. 3:16-CV-P511, 2017 WL 119477 (W.D. Ky. January 11, 2017). Particularly
important to the issue at hand is the altercation between Belden and Ramey. At the time of the
incident, April 28, 2016, Belden was an inmate at Luther Lockett Correctional Complex and
Ramey was a corrections officer. Belden stated in his verified Complaint that on that day, he was
upset after discussing some bad news at the legal office, and Ramey overheard him venting to
some friends. [R. 1 at 9-10, ¶ 13, 18 (Verified Complaint).] Belden told his friends that he
wished he would have stayed at Kentucky State Penitentiary, (“KSP”), to which Ramey
allegedly stated “Good! Go back to Eddyville . . . Go back, Go back, we’re [tired] of you ‘all’
comming [sic] here, Go back! I can make it happen!” [Id. at 11, ¶ 18, 21.] Ramey disputed
Belden’s account of this interaction. Ramey stated in his Affidavit that after Belden stated
“‘F**k this institution, I want to go back to KSP,’ [he] told Inmate Belden that ‘we can make
that happen.’” [R. 38-2 at 1 (Ramey Affidavit).]
Belden recalled that after this comment, he became angry and distressed, so he hurried
back to his dorm to collect himself. [R. 1 at 12, ¶ 25.] After realizing he left his ID card at the
legal office, Belden left his dorm and saw Belden talking to Lt. Sarah Crawford. [Id., ¶ 27.]
Belden stated that he saw this as an opportunity for Crawford to mediate his issue with Ramey.
[Id. at 12, ¶ 27.] Belden stated that he asked Crawford, “Maam’ [sic], can you please…help me
medate [sic] between me and him” to which Ramey allegedly responded by saying “Oh really!
Oh really! What a bitch!” [Id.] Ramey’s account is different. He stated that Belden asked to
speak to Crawford, but not in front of Ramey, and Ramey responded by saying “something to the
effect off—‘are you serious, whatever.’” [R. 38-2 at 1.]
Belden stated that as Ramey was walking away, he said “now thats [sic] some rat . . .
shit.” [R. 1 at 13, ¶ 28.] Ramey denied this narrative. [R. 38-2 at 2.] Belden stated that he reacted
by responding “This is fucked up, you been doing this all day.” [R. 1 at 13, ¶ 30.] This caused
Crawford to order Belden to allow her to restrain him with handcuffs, to which Belden averred
that he complied. [Id.] Belden recalled that he then saw Ramey “sneering a sinister smile and
quickly getting closer.” [Id.] Belden stated that he “reacted under the intention [sic] infliction of
emotional distress caused by and created ultimately by Defendant c/o Ramey the known ‘Yard
Bully’” and “[a] physical altercation insued [sic]” between them. [Id. at 14, ¶ 36-37.] Belden
stated that the altercation ended in a “matter of seconds” with Ramey in a “top mounted
position” on Belden and striking Belden in the face with his forearm. [Id. at ¶ 38.] Belden
averred that he stopped resisting but multiple unidentified officers rushed the scene and struck
him in the face with their knees and fists, as well as pulled and kicked his arms. [Id., ¶ 39-40.]
Belden added that the unidentified responding officers “used knees to push [his] face into [the]
ground and [his] upper body was push and pulled and weighted down” even though he was not
resisting and he was “pinned down” by Ramey at the time. [Id. at 15, ¶ 42.]
Ramey remembered this incident differently. Ramey stated that he saw Belden jerk his
shoulder “as if trying to get away from Lt. Crawford” when she tried to handcuff him, and he
started to respond to help her when “Belden broke free of her grasp and charged toward [him].”
[R. 38-2 at 2.] Ramey described the physical altercation as follows:
Belden threw two quick punches that contacted me on the right side of my face.
We struggled for a few seconds on our feet. I was then able to throw Inmate
Belden to the ground, but in doing so I went down as well. We both struggled to
gain control of the other by getting on top. Inmate Belden was able to get on top
of me. While he was on top of me, I rolled Belden to the right and I gained top
mounted position and pinned him to the ground. When I got on top of Inmate
Belden, he wrapped his legs around me to hold me in position. Inmate Belden
continued to struggle while I was on top of him. Finally, Inmate Belden stopped
struggling when responding officers arrived and pinned his arms down.
[Id.] Crawford’s account of the incident in her affidavit provides little detail to support
the account of either party:
Inmate Belden stated to me that Officer Ramey had been getting smart with him
all day. Officer Ramey responded by saying something along the lines of “really
man?” I told Officer Ramey to step back and I walked inmate Belden in the other
direction to deescalate the situation. As I walked Inmate Belden away, he started
to yell at Officer Ramey and said, “this is f**ked up, you know you have been
taunting me.” When Inmate Belden yelled at Officer Ramey I told Inmate Belden
to cuff up. As I was about to place restraints on him he charged toward Officer
Ramey hitting him multiple times. As Officer Ramey and Inmate Belden
struggled I tried to help pull Inmate Belden off of Ramey. I was not successful.
Other officers arrived. I secured one of Inmate Belden’s ankles to the ground in
an attempt to keep him from causing any further injury. Inmate Belden was finally
secured in handcuffs.
[R. 38-3 at 1 (Crawford Affidavit).]
The video footage of the incident depicts Belden initially talking to Crawford and Ramey.
At one point, Ramey walks away. As he walks away, Belden says something to him that causes
Crawford to begin the process of putting handcuffs on Belden. At that point, Ramey walks back
toward Crawford and Belden. As he approaches, Belden breaks away from Crawford, proceeding
toward Ramey, and punches Ramey three times in the face. After that, the two struggle on their
feet, with several more punches from Belden, until Ramey throws him to the ground. Although
Belden is on top at first, two other officers help Crawford roll Belden onto his back. While on his
back, Belden wraps his legs around the waist of Ramey, and the other three officers attempt to
gain control of his arms. Two more officers come to help after that. At this point in the footage,
officers come and go within the frame of the camera but most seem to simply stand and watch
the three to four officers kneeling on the ground with Belden as they handcuff him and
eventually raise him to his feet. At no point in the footage does it appear that any officer punched
or kicked Belden while he was on the ground.
After Belden was successfully handcuffed and brought to his feet, Belden stated that he
was “crying in distress and fear.” [R. 1 at 15, ¶ 45.] Furthermore, he stated that he experienced
extreme pain in his left arm and he could not see due to his eyes being swollen. [Id., ¶ 46.] After
inspecting Belden on May 25, 2016, Dr. Eugene Jacob diagnosed Belden with a grade 3
separation of his left shoulder. [R. 1-3 at 39 (Doctor Notes from Visit).]
On August 9, 2016, Belden filed a pro-se Complaint against several defendants, including
Ramey and the responding officers who remain unidentified. [R. 1.] On July 31, 2017, Ramey
filed the Motion for Summary Judgment that is currently before the Court. [R. 38.]
Summary judgment is proper where “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When
examining whether a motion for summary judgment should be granted, the court is required to
resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant. See Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, “not every issue of
fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford &
Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). Rather, the question is whether the party who bears the
burden of proof in the case has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel
v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). This means that the plaintiff must present to the court
more than a mere scintilla of evidence supporting her position. Id. Indeed, the plaintiff must
present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for the plaintiff. Id.
It is not enough for a plaintiff to present speculation as to elements of the case, because
“the mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for
summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist
to render summary judgment inappropriate.” Monette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173,
1177 (6th Cir. 1996).
Finally, it should be noted that “‘a verified complaint . . . satisfies the burden of the
nonmovant to respond’ to a motion for summary judgment, unlike ‘mere allegations or denials'
in unverified pleadings.” King v. Harwood, 852 F.3d 568, 578 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 385 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc)).
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Belden alleges two claims against Ramey: (1) excessive
force under the Eighth Amendment and (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress. [R. 1 at
27.] The Court will address each claim in turn.
Excessive Force Under the Eighth Amendment
Belden stated that Ramey engaged in excessive force when he brought Belden to the
ground and held him there while multiple unidentified officers rushed the scene and struck him
in the face with their knees and fists, as well as pulled and kicked his arms. [R.1 at 14-15.]
Ramey disputed this account. [R. 38-2 at 2.]
“The Supreme Court . . . has held that a court may properly consider videotape evidence
at the summary-judgment stage. ‘When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which
is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should
not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.’”
Griffin v. Hardrick, 604 F.3d 949, 954 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
380 (2007)). The video footage of the incident does not depict officers kicking and punching
Belden while Ramey held him to the ground. Thus, the Court will not adopt Belden’s version of
events for that portion of the altercation for purposes of ruling on Ramey’s Motion for Summary
Eighth Amendment claims by prisoners alleging excessive force must satisfy a two-prong
standard. Initially, prisoners must show that the guard's actions were objectively harmful enough
to create a constitutional claim. Second, the prison official's act must have been committed with
the requisite state of mind. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). The first, “objective,”
component to the standard requires that the pain inflicted be “sufficiently serious.” Wilson v.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). “This is a ‘contextual’ inquiry that is ‘responsive to
contemporary standards of decency.’ The seriousness of the injuries are not dispositive; as the
Supreme Court has held, ‘[w]hen prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause
harm, contemporary standards of decency always are violated . . . whether or not significant
injury is evident.’” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hudson, 503
U.S. at 8–9) (internal citation omitted). While the second, “subjective,” component does not have
a fixed meaning, ultimately it is an analysis into the motivation of the action taken against the
prisoner and if it was an “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Moore v. Holbrook, 2 F.3d
697, 700 (6th Cir.1993) (quoting Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977)). “[T]he
question whether the measure taken inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering
ultimately turns on ‘whether the force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.’” Whitley v.
Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320–21 (1986) (quoting Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir.),
cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1033 (1973)).
In measuring if the force used violates the protections of the Eighth Amendment, a court
may consult a number of different factors. For instance, a court might use the gravity of the
injury suffered by the inmate. Id. Other factors a court may consider include “the need for
application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat
‘reasonably perceived by the responsible officials,’ and ‘any efforts made to temper the severity
of a forceful response.’” Id. Finally, in reviewing a guard's actions during a prison disturbance,
great deference should be paid to the “execution of policies and practices that in their judgment
are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.”
Combs v. Wilkinson, 315 F.3d 548, 557 (6th Cir.2002) (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6).
Irrespective of whether the pain resulting from Belden’s dislocated shoulder was
“sufficiently serious” to satisfy the objective component,1 the Court finds that the video footage
reveals that Ramey applied force in a “good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline” under
the subjective component of the excessive force analysis. See Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320–21; see
also Griffin, 604 F.3d at 954. Similar to the situation at hand, the Sixth Circuit found in Griffin
that a correctional officer had a reasonable basis to believe that force was necessary to control a
pretrial detainee when video footage of the incident depicted the detainee resisting and struggling
with officers. See 604 F.3d at 955. Specifically, the court found that the detainee did not create a
genuine issue of material fact concerning her Eighth Amendment excessive force claim even
though the correctional officer used a leg sweep maneuver that resulted in her breaking her tibia.
See id. at 954-55. Here, video footage shows that Belden broke away from Crawford, punched
Ramey several times, and then struggled with Raney on the ground. Eventually, other officers
came to the scene and helped subdue Belden. In contrast with Belden’s verified Complaint, the
video does not depict any officers kicking or punching Belden while he was held down by
Ramey. The Court finds that Ramey had a reasonable basis to believe that force was necessary to
subdue Belden when he resisted Crawford’s attempt to handcuff him and began punching
Ramey. Furthermore, the amount of force used in throwing Belden to the ground and subduing
him was not unreasonable considering that Belden was resisting and fighting Ramey at the time.
Therefore, the Court holds that Belden has not established a dispute of material fact as to
whether the force applied by Ramey was in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.
The Court notes that Ramey disputes that he was responsible for dislocating Belden’s shoulder and causing
Belden’s black eyes. [R. 38-1 at 10.] In support, he quotes a passage from one of Belden’s grievance forms in which
Belden requested video footage and findings of fact regarding the incident at hand in order to determine “which
correction officer vindictively hurt [his] arm and self.” [R. 1-2 at 18.] Furthermore, Belden stated that his
disciplinary hearing with Ramey was “unrelated” to determining the identities of these responding officers, possibly
implying that Ramey did not cause his injuries. [Id.]
Ramey’s Motion for Summary Judgement as it pertains to Belden’s excessive force claim is
The Court notes that Belden implies in his Response that Ramey could be liable for
failing to prevent the other unidentified officers from harming him. [R. 41 at 7.] As the Court has
already found that the video footage of the event does not depict any officers hitting or kicking
Belden while Ramey held him down, the Court denies this implied claim.
The Unidentified Officers
In his verified Compliant, Belden also makes an Eighth Amendment excessive force
claim against the officers that responded to the altercation and helped Crawford and Ramey
subdue and handcuff him. [R. 1 at 27.] For the same reasons explained in relation to Belden’s
claim against Ramey, the Court finds that Belden has not established a dispute of material fact as
to whether the force applied by the responding officers was in a good faith effort to maintain or
restore discipline. Even if Belden was able to identify the officers at question, the video footage
depicts a scene in which the responding officers had a reasonable basis to believe that force was
necessary to subdue Belden as he continued to wrestle with Ramey on the ground.
As a result, it appears to the Court that judgment in the responding officers’ favor would
be appropriate. Before deciding that question sua sponte, however, the Court must afford Belden
an opportunity to respond if he so chooses. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(f)(3); Yashon v. Gregory, 737
F.2d 547, 552 (6th Cir. 1984) (holding that district court must “afford the party against whom
sua sponte summary judgment is to be entered ten-days notice and an adequate opportunity to
respond”). Additionally, the Court notes that Belden has not served the unidentified officers
listed in his Complaint within ninety days of filing the Complaint, as required by Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 4(m). Belden viewed video footage of the incident on January 11, 2018, [R. 58-
1], but did not attempt to identify or serve the officers depicted therein. Under Rule 4(m), when
a defendant has not been served within ninety days of the filing of the complaint, the Court
“must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made
within a specified time” unless “the plaintiff shows good cause for the failure.” FED. R. CIV. P.
4(m). The Court now gives Belden such notice as required by both Rule 56(f)(3) and 4(m). IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff John Belden has until Friday, March 30, 2018 to file a brief
addressing whether summary judgment in the unidentified, responding officers’ favor is
appropriate and showing good cause for his failure to serve the defendants listed as unidentified
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Finally, Ramey moves the Court to grant summary judgment on Belden’s claim of
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”). [R. 38-1 at 13-14.] In his verified
Complaint, Belden averred that Ramey caused him to feel emotional distress by taunting Belden
when he was upset with statements like, “Go back to Eddyville,” “What a bitch,” and “now thats
[sic] some rat . . . shit.” [R. 1 at 11, ¶ 21; 12-13, ¶ 28.]
“One who by extreme and outrageous conduct intentionally or recklessly causes severe
emotional distress to another is subject to liability for such emotional distress, and if bodily harm
to the other results from it, for such bodily harm.” Childers v. Geile, 367 S.W.3d 576, 579 (Ky.
2012). A claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, also known as outrage, has four
elements: “1. The wrongdoer's conduct must be intentional or reckless; 2. The conduct must be
outrageous and intolerable in that it offends against the generally accepted standards of decency
and morality; 3. There must be a causal connection between the wrongdoer's conduct and the
emotional distress; and 4. The emotional distress must be severe.” Kroger Co. v. Willgruber, 920
S.W.2d 61, 65 (Ky. 1996). In the case at hand, Ramey argues that Belden failed to establish both
the second and fourth elements of an IIED claim. The Court agrees.
Pursuant to the second element, Ramey argues that even if he actually made the
comments alleged by Belden, they are not sufficiently “outrageous and intolerable” to warrant a
cause of action for IIED. [R. 38-1 at 13.] As Ramey cites in his Motion, the Supreme Court of
Kentucky has stated: “Citizens in our society are expected to withstand petty insults, unkind
words and minor indignities. Such irritations are a part of normal, every day [sic] life and
constitute no legal cause of action.” Willgruber, 920 S.W.2d at 65. The insulting comments
Belden alleges Ramey made toward him are inappropriate. However, they do not rise to the level
of conduct required for an IIED cause of action.
Ramey also argues that Belden has not established the fourth element because he has not
established that he suffered severe emotional distress. [R. 38-1 at 13.] In fact, Belden provides
little detail of the emotional distress he suffered. In his verified Complaint, Belden stated that he
“reacted under the intention [sic] infliction of emotional distress caused by and created
ultimately by Defendant,” [R. 1 at 14, ¶ 36], but offers no other support for the distress he
suffered from Ramey’s alleged comments. Although Belden later stated in his verified
Complaint that “[p]laintiff was crying in distress and fear” after the alleged attack by Ramey and
the unidentified officers, [Id. at 15, ¶ 46], this does not appear to be in support of his IIED claim,
which concerns Ramey’s alleged comments toward Belden. Similar to the situation at hand, the
Kentucky Court of Appeals held in Kenney v. Arnold that an inmate alleging “emotional and
mental harm and pain and suffering” from inmates calling him a “rat” and “collaborator” after a
correctional officer accused him of sexual harassment was not equivalent to the “extreme type of
distress that creates liability for IIED.” Kenney, No. 2006-CA-000302-MR, 2007 WL 779437, at
*3 (Ky. Ct. App. Mar. 16, 2007). Here, Belden provided even less of a description of the distress
he experienced than the plaintiff in Kenney. Although the Court agrees with Belden that inmates
should be treated with dignity and professionalism by correctional officers, he simply has not
alleged the type of extreme distress required for an IIED claim.2
In summary, Belden has not established the second or fourth element required for an
IIED claim. Thus, Ramey’s Motion for Summary Judgment on Belden’s IIED claim is
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:
Defendant Ryan Ramey’s Motion for Summary Judgment, [R. 38], is GRANTED. Also,
Plaintiff John Belden has until Friday, March 30, 2018 to file a brief addressing whether
summary judgment in the unidentified responding officers’ favor is appropriate and showing
good cause for his failure to serve the defendants listed as unidentified officers.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
March 8, 2018
cc: Counsel of Record
John Belden, pro se
Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex
200 Road to Justice
West Liberty, KY 41472
In acknowledgement of Belden’s argument in his Response, [R. 41 at 4], the Court notes that deliberate
indifference is not required as a part of the elements of an IIED claim.
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