Brock v. Wright et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER Signed by Chief Judge Joseph H. McKinley, Jr. on 3/6/2018: The motion for summary judgment by defendant Samuel Wright 62 is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff Dominique Brock must submit evidence of his damages on his claims against defendant David Hicks by 5/31/2018. cc: Counsel, Plaintiff (pro se), Defendant David Anthony Hicks (JM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:15-CV-00065-JHM
DOMINIQUE J. BROCK
SAMUEL WRIGHT, et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court upon a motion for summary judgment by defendant
Samuel Wright. (DN 62.) This matter is ripe for decision.
According to the complaint, Brock was an inmate at Green River Correctional Complex.
In May 2014, he was involved in an altercation with an inmate named Timothy Delahanty, who
Brock alleges has ties to a white supremacist group. Following the altercation, Brock was placed
on “rec alone,” meaning he could not be placed in a recreation cage with other inmates.
However, on June 4, 2014, Brock was placed in a recreation cage with defendant David Hicks,
who Brock alleges was another white supremacist in the prison. Hicks and another unknown
individual assaulted Brock in the recreation cage. Brock alleges that prison staff conspired with
Hicks to have Brock assaulted in retaliation for his prior altercation with Delahanty and a
previous lawsuit Brock filed while being housed at the Crittenden County Jail.
Brock originally brought various constitutional and state-law claims against three guards
who were at the scene of the recreation cage fight, Karen Stammers, Samuel Wright, and
Stephen Embry; the prison official who handled his appeal, Stephen Wright; and Hicks.
Following this Court’s pro se screening process (DN 11), a motion for summary judgment by the
defendants employed by the prison (DN 33), and the entry of default judgment against Hicks
(DN 52), the only claims that remain are § 1983 claims against Samuel Wright for (1) failure to
protect and (2) deliberate indifference. The Court vacated the jury trial that was set to allow for
additional discovery and further dispositive motions. (DN 52.) Wright has now moved for
summary judgment as to both claims that remain against him. (DN 62.)
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the
basis for its motion and identifying the portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a
genuine issue of fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party
satisfies this burden, the non-moving party must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine
issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).
Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some
“metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the nonmoving party to show that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials
in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a
genuine dispute[.]” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in
support of the [non-moving party’s] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on
which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
Wright argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on both claims that remain against
him, as Brock has failed to establish that he has a cognizable physical injury for which he could
recover damages. The Prison Litigation Reform Act states that “[n]o Federal civil action may be
brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or
emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(e). Brock has asserted § 1983 claims against Wright for violations of his Eighth
Amendment rights. (Pl.’s Compl. [DN 1] at 4; Mem. Op. and Order [DN 11] at 13 (construing
allegations as Eighth Amendment claims for failure to protect and deliberate indifference).)
Thus, the statute applies to Brock’s claims. See Jarriett v. Wilson, 162 F. App’x 394, 400 (6th
Cir. 2005) (42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) applies to § 1983 claims for violations of Eighth Amendment
In this circuit, § 1997e(e) requires that a physical injury “be more than de minimis for an
Eighth Amendment claim to go forward.” Id. The line between serious and de minimis injuries is
typically drawn at whether the injury would require “a free world person to visit an emergency
room, or have a doctor attend to, give an opinion, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment for the
injury.” Id. at 401 (citing Luong v. Hatt, 979 F. Supp. 481, 485–86 (N.D. Tex. 1997)). Wright
argues that Brock suffered no serious injury for which he could recover damages under §
1997e(e), as prison records and photographs indicate that he only suffered a scratch across his
neck during the altercation with Hicks.
The prison’s “Accident/Extraordinary Occurrence
Report” indicates that Brock had an abrasion under his right ear lobe that was one centimeter
round and extended to his neckline. (DN 62-2, at 1.) The Report also indicates that Brock had
two “healing burns” on his right elbow, although it is unclear if these burns were the result of the
altercation, the use of pepper spray to end the altercation, or some other event. (Id.) Photos
taken two hours after the incident confirm the details in the written report. (Id. at 2–3.) In
response, Brock only argues that the photos “support [the] allegations raised in [the] original
complaint[.]” (Pl.’s Resp. [DN 66] at 3.)
The Court finds that Brock suffered nothing more than a de minimis injury during the
altercation that gave rise to his claims against Wright. Even taking into account the two burn
marks of questionable origin, Brock’s scratch on the neck and burn marks are not the type of
serious injury that would allow him to recover for an Eighth Amendment violation. See Corsetti
v. Tessmer, 41 F. App’x 753, 755 (6th Cir. 2002) (two small bruises and minor cuts that did not
require medical attention were de minimis injuries); Ratliff v. De Baun, 2017 WL 4365802, at *8
(W.D. Ky. Sep. 29, 2017) (two burn marks on arm were de minimis injury). Brock has not
presented proof that he required medical attention for his injuries or that the prison’s records
understate the extent of his injuries. As such, his injuries are de minimis, and they do not give
rise to an actionable claim under § 1997e(e). Therefore, the motion for summary judgment by
Wright is GRANTED as to all remaining claims against him, and he is DISMISSED from the
action as a party.
With the dismissal of Wright, there remain no outstanding claims against any defendant.
However, the Court entered a default judgment as to liability against Hicks on September 1,
2017, and indicated that Brock would have the opportunity to prove his damages as to his claims
against Hicks at trial. (DN 52, at 2.) No claims remain to be tried, but Brock will still be
permitted to present evidence of his damages. By May 31, 2018, Brock must submit to the
Court evidence of his damages, either through affidavit or other written evidence. The Court
will consider this evidence in awarding damages on his claims against Hicks.
Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion for
summary judgment by defendant Samuel Wright (DN 62) is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER
ORDERED that plaintiff Dominique Brock must submit evidence of his damages on his claims
against defendant David Hicks by May 31, 2018.
March 6, 2018
cc: Counsel of record
Plaintiff Dominique J. Brock, pro se
Defendant David Anthony Hicks
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