YOUNG v. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al
DECISION AND ORDER granting in part and denying in part 37 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. By MAGISTRATE JUDGE JOHN C. NIVISON. (CWP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MAINE
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, )
DECISION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION
FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT
In this action, Plaintiff alleges Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a
substantial risk of serious harm to him when they failed to protect him from an assault by
The matter is before the Court on Defendants’ motion for partial summary
judgment. (ECF No. 37.) Through their motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not
experience more than a de minimis physical injury and, therefore, Plaintiff cannot recover
damages for mental or emotional pain and suffering. Defendants further argue that Plaintiff
cannot recover money damages from Defendant Maine Department of Corrections through
a civil action filed in this Court.
Following a review of the summary judgment record and after consideration of the
parties’ arguments, the Court grants in part Defendant’s motion and dismisses Plaintiff’s
claim against the Maine Department of Corrections.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT RECORD 1
Plaintiff Jeremiah Young, a prisoner incarcerated at the Maine State prison, was
injured in an assault by another inmate on July 5, 2016. According to Plaintiff, as a result
of the assault, in addition to the physical injuries he suffered, he has “suffered a great deal”
and has nightmares all the time. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages. (Defendants’
Statement of Material Facts ¶ 1, ECF No. 38.)
Plaintiff was examined by the prison’s medical department immediately after the
assault. The medical record reflects Plaintiff suffered abrasions to the left ear, the left
corner of the left eye, the right temple, and the upper lip. In addition, Plaintiff sustained a
bite wound on two fingers. The wound on one finger was closed with three steri-strips and
the other wound only required cleaning. (Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff was seen in follow-up the next
day for a bandage change. At that time, a nurse noted swelling and bruising of a finger and
recommended ice. (Id. ¶ 3.)
Three days after the incident (July 8, 2016), although the bite wound appeared to be
healing well, because of a question regarding possible tendon damage to or a fracture of
one of the fingers, an x-ray was ordered. (Id. ¶ 4.) The x-ray showed a “transverse,
minimally displaced fracture” to one of Plaintiff’s fingers. (Id. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff was provided
a splint and the finger was taped to an adjacent finger. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff’s finger was still
swollen and painful one month later, though it retained sensation and circulation. (Id.)
Plaintiff did not file a proper opposing statement of material facts, nor did he file a statement of additional
material facts or an affidavit. The record includes Plaintiff’s medical records related to the incident, which
records Defendants filed in support of their motion. (ECF No. 38-2.)
Summary Judgment Standard
“The 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.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “After the moving party has presented evidence in support
of its motion for summary judgment, ‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, with
respect to each issue on which he has the burden of proof, to demonstrate that a trier of fact
reasonably could find in his favor.’” Woodward v. Emulex Corp., 714 F.3d 632, 637 (1st
Cir. 2013) (quoting Hodgens v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 144 F.3d 151, 158 (1st Cir. 1998)).
A court reviews the factual record in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, resolving evidentiary conflicts and drawing reasonable inferences in the nonmovant’s favor. Hannon v. Beard, 645 F.3d 45, 47 – 48 (1st Cir. 2011). If the court’s
review of the record reveals evidence sufficient to support findings in favor of the nonmoving party on one or more of her claims, a trial-worthy controversy exists and summary
judgment must be denied to the extent there are supported claims. Unsupported claims are
properly dismissed. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986) (“One of the
principal purposes of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually
unsupported claims or defenses.”).
Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment to the extent Plaintiff seeks
to recover for mental or emotional injury and to the extent Plaintiff attempts to recover
from Defendant Maine Department of Corrections.
Mental or emotional injury
“No 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 or the commission of a sexual act ….” 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(e). “A number of circuit courts have interpreted ‘physical injury’ under § 1997e(e)
to require an injury to ‘be more than de minimis, but need not be significant.’” Badger v.
Correct Care Solutions, No. 1:15-CV-00517-JAW, 2016 WL 1430013, at *4 (D. Me. Apr.
11, 2016) (quoting Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997) (holding that
twisting an inmate’s arm behind his back and twisting his ear, causing the ear to bruise for
three days, was a de minimis injury), and citing Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F. 3d 523, 534 – 35
(3d Cir. 2003) (joining Fifth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits in adopting de minimis
analysis)). See also, e.g., Eason v. Frye, 972 F. Supp. 2d 935, 947 (S.D. Miss. 2013) (dog
bite on buttocks deemed de minimis); Flynn v. Baker, No. 1:10-CV-1209, 2013 WL
5013517, at *2 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 12, 2013) (rib injury and bite mark on wrist, with allegation
of excruciating pain, stated claim for more than de minimis physical injury); Reaux v.
Sibley, No. 3:09-CV-00407, 2011 WL 2455759, at *5 (M.D. La. May 25, 2011), report and
recommendation adopted, No. 3:09-CV-00407, 2011 WL 2447096 (M.D. La. June 14,
2011) (“[S]cratches and a small knot on the forehead are injuries that are so minor they are
In this case, Plaintiff alleges a number of injuries, including injuries to two fingers.
When the evidence is viewed most favorably to Plaintiff, which evidence includes medical
records that reflect that an x-ray taken three days after the alleged assault revealed that a
finger for which Plaintiff was treated immediately after the assault was fractured, a fact
finder could reasonably conclude the fracture was caused by the conduct about which
Plaintiff complains. On this record, the Court cannot conclude that the fracture to one of
Plaintiff’s fingers is a de minimis physical injury. Defendants are thus not entitled to
summary judgment on Plaintiff’s claim for emotional distress damages.
Department of Corrections
In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges “gross negligence” and a violation of his
constitutional right. (Complaint at 4, ECF No. 1.) Construed liberally, Plaintiff asserts
two claims: a state law negligence claim and a federal constitutional claim arising under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Absent consent or waiver, the State of Maine and its agencies are
immune under the Eleventh Amendment from money damage suits by private citizens
brought in federal court, which immunity applies both to federal claims and state claims.
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 – 100 (1984); Coggeshall v.
Mass. Bd. of Registration of Psychologists, 604 F.3d 658, 662 (1st Cir. 2010); Warren v.
Me. State Prison, 490 F. Supp. 2d 9, 12 n.1 (D. Me. 2007); 14 M.R.S. § 8118. 2
Furthermore, the State of Maine and its agencies are not amenable to suit on a claim for
violation of federal rights brought pursuant to § 1983 because they are not “persons” within
Pursuant to § 8118 of the Maine Tort Claims Act:
Nothing in this chapter or any other provision of state law shall be construed to waive the
rights and protections of the State under the Eleventh Amendment of the United States
Constitution, except where such waiver is explicitly stated by law and actions against the
State for damages shall only be brought in the courts of the State in accordance with this
14 M.R.S. § 8118.
the meaning of the statute.3 See Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989);
Wang v. N.H. Bd. of Registration in Med., 55 F.3d 698, 700 (1st Cir. 1995). Plaintiff,
therefore, cannot proceed on his claim against the Maine Department of Corrections.
Based on the foregoing analysis, the Court grants in part Defendants’ Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 37) and dismisses Plaintiff’s claims against the
Maine Department of Corrections. The Court otherwise denies Defendants’ Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment.
/s/ John C. Nivison
U.S. Magistrate Judge
Dated this 17th day of July, 2017.
Section 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of
any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any
citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation
of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable
to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress,
except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in
such officer’s judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory
decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. …
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
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