Jones v. Lombardi et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 72 MOTION for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Brian Hoskins, Defendant Buddy McClane, Defendant Steve Atchinson motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART..IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Bryan Hoskins, Buddy McClaine, and Terry Atchison's motion for summary judgment (#72) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Signed by District Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr on 11/21/12. (MRS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
RODNEY D. JONES,
GEORGE A. LOMBARDI, et al.,
Case No. 1:10-CV-00162-SNLJ
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff Rodney D. Jones has filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging a violation of
his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment during his detention at the
Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”) in Charleston, Missouri. Defendants Bryan Hoskins,
Buddy McClaine, and Terry Atchison have filed a motion for summary judgment (#72). The
matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition.
Plaintiff, who remains incarcerated at SECC, asserts that defendants TerryAtchinson,
Brian Hoskins, and Buddy McClaine — all employed by SECC as correctional officers — failed
to protect him from an assault by another inmate. The following facts are undisputed except
On November 5, 2008, plaintiff was assigned to a cell with Morris Williams. Plaintiff
asserts that Williams told defendant Hoskins that he did not want a “cellie” when Hoskins
escorted plaintiff to the cell. On November 9, 2008, Williams was uncuffed in the cell and
plaintiff was in the process of having his handcuffs removed by defendant McClaine (who was
outside the cell) when Williams grabbed plaintiff and began to attack him with a makeshift
weapon. According to the affidavits submitted by the defendants, McClaine called for Hoskins
(who was nearby) to assist him. Atchison joined them at some point, as well. Hoskins ordered
the inmates to stop. When they did not stop, Hoskins sprayed pepper spray into the cell, entered
the cell, and escorted plaintiff from the cell. Hoskins remained with plaintiff while a nurse
assessed plaintiff and washed pepper spray from his eyes. Plaintiff’s injuries, according to
medical records, consisted of a 1.5" to 2" scratch on one side of his cheek.
Plaintiff’s version adds that the three defendant officers (and another officer who is not a
defendant) stood outside the cell and watched the attack for three minutes while Williams
assaulted plaintiff (who, again, was handcuffed from behind). Plaintiff states that the officers did
not open the door and intervene until Williams had grown tired and stopped the attack on his
own. The defendants do not address plaintiff’s sworn statement that they watched the assault
until Williams tired himself out. Plaintiff acknowledges that he was seen by a nurse after the
attack but that he did not realize he had suffered cuts to his body or injury to his shoulder until
after he was returned to his cell.
Additionally, plaintiff claims that the defendants placed him back into a cell where
pepper spray chemicals were still lingering without first cleaning the cell or providing plaintiff
with products to clean it himself.
II. Legal Standard
Courts have repeatedly recognized that summary judgment is a harsh remedy that should
be granted only when the moving party has established his right to judgment with such clarity as
not to give rise to controversy. New England Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Null, 554 F.2d 896, 901 (8th
Cir. 1977). Pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 56(c), a district court may grant a motion
for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no
genuine issue as to material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962). The burden is on the
moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Assoc. Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir.
1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than
show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth
specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in its favor to allow a jury to return a
verdict for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light
most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences
that logically can be drawn from those facts. Buller v. Buechler, 706 F.2d 844, 846 8th Cir.
1983). The court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party.
Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chem. Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976). With
these principles in mind, the Court turns to the discussion.
Defendants contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff’s Eighth
Amendment claims based on failure to protect, harmful condition of confinement, and denial of
medical attention and mental therapy. “A prisoner alleging an Eighth Amendment violation must
prove both an objective and subjective element.” Revels v. Vincent, 382 F.3d 870, 875 (8th Cir.
2004) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). “First, the deprivation alleged must be,
objectively, “sufficiently serious,” and result in the “denial of “the minimal civilized measure of
life’s necessities,” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). With regard to the objective
element, the Supreme Court has held that extreme deprivations are required to establish
conditions of confinement claim. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). Second, a prison
official must have a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 843. “In
prison-conditions cases that state of mind is one of ‘deliberate indifference’ to inmate health or
safety.” Id. This requisite deliberate indifference is established only when the plaintiff shows
that “the defendant was substantially aware of but disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health
or safety.” Revels, 382 F.3d at 875.
Failure to Protect
With respect to plaintiff’s failure to protect claim, “prison officials have a duty . . . to
protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832.
Prisons, however, are inherently dangerous places, and not every “injury suffered by one prisoner
at the hands of another...translates into constitutional liability for prison officials.” Id. at 834.
Prison officials responsible for an inmate’s safety violate the Eighth Amendment when two
requirements are met: First, “the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions
posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. Second, the inmate must show that the prison
official “knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by
failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Id. at 847. “[T]he official must both be aware of
facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and
he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837. Simple negligence does not suffice. Id. at 835.
As to the first prong, “a single episode of violence, without warning or suspicion, is
insufficient to establish a pervasive risk of harm, particularly when the injured inmate views the
attack as an isolated incident.” Falls v. Nesbit, 966 F.2d 375, 379 (8th Cir. 1992). Furthermore,
the Eighth Circuit has repeatedly held that prison officials are not deliberately indifferent if the
assailant’s attack was a surprise. Schoelch v. Mitchell, 625 F.3d1041, 1048 (8th Cir. 2010);
Tucker v. Evans, 276 F.3d 999, 1001 (8th Cir. 2002); Curry v. Crist, 226 F.3d 974, 978-79 (8th
Cir. 2000). “This is true even if the official knows (as [plaintiff] alleges) that the attacking
inmate may be dangerous or violent.” Prosser v. Ross, 70 F.3d 1005, 1007 (8th Cir. 1995)
(citing Falls, 966 F.2d at 379).
Defendants state that they are entitled to summary judgment because there is no dispute
that the attack on plaintiff was a surprise. Even taking plaintiff’s allegation as true — that
Williams told the guards he did not want a cellmate — the plaintiff and Williams peacefully
coexisted for four days before the attack. Plaintiff did not know Williams. Williams was not on
Jones’s enemies list. Williams had, according to the record, celled successful with other
offenders in the past. The defendants therefore argue that plaintiff fails to establish that he faced
a substantial risk of serious harm.
However, although it may be true that the attack was a surprise, that does not excuse the
officers from failing to protect plaintiff after the attack began and was ongoing in their presence.
The defendants’ statement of facts indicates that Hoskins saw the attack in progress, that he
ordered the offenders to stop, that he sprayed pepper spray into the cell, the cell door opened,
Hoskins entered the cell, and the “fighting ceased.” However, defendants do not address
plaintiff’s sworn statement that four officers stood outside his cell, deployed pepper spray, and
watched as Williams continued to attack a still-handcuffed Jones with a makeshift weapon until
Williams tired and stopped the attack on his own.1 The defendants are not entitled to summary
judgment on these disputed facts.
As for plaintiff’s claim regarding prison conditions, the conditions of a prisoner’s
confinement in a state facility implicate the Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and
unusual punishment only if the prisoner is “depriv[ed] of the minimal civilized measure of life’s
necessities.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). “[T]he Constitution does not
mandate comfortable prisons” and “persons convicted of serious crimes, cannot be free of
discomfort.” Id. at 349.
“A prisoner alleging an Eighth Amendment violation must prove both an objective and
subjective element.” Revels v. Vincent, 382 F.3d 870, 875 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). First, the defendants’ conduct must be proven, objectively,
sufficiently serious to rise to the level of a constitutional violation by depriving the plaintiff of
the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities. See Aswegan v. Henry, 49 F.3d 461, 464 (8th
Cir. 1995). With regard to the objective element, the Supreme Court has held that “extreme
deprivations” are required to establish a conditions of confinement claim. Hudson v. McMillian,
The Court notes that plaintiff did not respond the defendants’ statement of undisputed
facts in accordance with Local Rule 7-4.01(E), which requires that all “matters set forth in the
statement of movant shall be deemed admitted for purposes of summary judgment unless
specifically controverted by the opposing party.” However, even if all of the defendants’
statements of fact are admitted, they do not by themselves require that summary judgment be
granted to defendants given the uncontested fact that plaintiff was handcuffed when the assault
503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). Second, the defendant’s conduct must also reflect a subjective state of
mind, evincing deliberate indifference to the “prisoner’s health or safety.” Aswegan, 49 F.3d at
464 (quoting Beyerbach v. Sears, 49 F.3d 1324, 1325-26 (8th Cir. 1995)). This requisite
deliberate indifference is established only when the plaintiff shows that “the defendant was
substantially aware of but disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Revels, 382
F.3d at 875.
Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to breathe in toxic fumes for several days, his body
was covered in pepper spray, and he was refused a shower. However, medical personnel
evaluated and treated plaintiff within 15-20 minutes of the incident, and his face and eyes were
washed. The medical records state that plaintiff refused further medical treatment, and other
prison records demonstrate that he refused a shower.
Plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that he was not offered a shower and that his bed
was soaked with pepper spray. Even assuming both of those facts are true, such conditions
would be uncomfortable, but they fall short of the “extreme deprivation” required to establish a
conditions of confinement claim. The Eighth Circuit has held that conditions far worse than
those alleged by plaintiff failed to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation. See, e.g.,
O’Leary v. Iowa State Men’s Reformatory, 79 F.3d 82, 83–84 (8th Cir.1996) (four days without
underwear, blankets, mattress, exercise, and visits not a constitutional violation); Williams v.
Delo, 49 F.3d 442, 444 (8th Cir. 1995) (four days without clothes, mattress, running water,
bedding, mail, hot food, and hygienic supplies not a constitutional violation); White v. Nix, 7 F.3d
120, 121 (8th Cir. 1993) (eleven days in an unsanitary cell did not amount to a constitutional
violation). As a result, summary judgment will be granted to defendants on plaintiff’s condition
of confinement claim fails.
The Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment extends to protect
prisoners from “deliberate indifference” to serious medical needs. Vaughn v. Gray, 557 F.3d
904, 908 (8th Cir. 2009). As discussed above, “deliberate indifference has both an objective and
a subjective component.” Butler v. Fletcher, 465 F.3d 340, 345 (8th Cir. 2006). The objective
component requires a plaintiff to demonstrate an objectively serious medical need. Grayson v.
Ross, 454 F.3d 802, 808-09 (8th Cir. 2006). A “serious medical need” is one “that has been
diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person
would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.” Coleman v. Rahija, 114 F.3d. 778,
784 (quoting Camberos v. Branstad, 73 F.3d. 174, 176 (8th Cir. 1995)); see also Simmons v.
Cook, 154 F.3d. 805, 807-08 (8th Cir. 1997) (quoting Moore v. Jackson, 123 F.3d. 1082, 1086
(8th Cir. 1997)(“A medical need is serious if it is obvious to the layperson or supported by
In order to satisfy the subjective component of an Eighth Amendment medical claim, a
plaintiff inmate must show that the prison officials knew of, yet deliberately disregarded, an
excessive risk to the inmate’s health. Keeper v. King, 130 F.3d 1309, 1314 (8th Cir. 1997)
(quoting Logan v. Clarke, 119 F.3d. 647, 649 (8th Cir. 1997)). A prison official may be liable
under the Eighth Amendment if he knows that an inmate faces a substantial risk of serious harm
and fails “to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Coleman, 114 F.3d. at 785 (citing Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 847 (1994)). The plaintiff must establish a “mental state akin to criminal
recklessness.” Vaughn, 557 F.3d at 908 (quoting Gordon v. Frank, 454 F.3d 858, 862 (8th Cir.
2006). “Neither differences of opinion nor medical malpractice state an actionable
Constitutional violation.” Jones v. Norris, 310 F.3d 610, 612 (8th Cir. 2002).
The medical records indicate that plaintiff suffered exposure to pepper spray and a 1.5" to
2" scratch on one side of his cheek. Plaintiff states in his response that he suffered from multiple
stab wounds, that he has sinus trouble from his exposure to pepper spray, and that his arm shrunk
to half its normal size as a consequence of the attack. He avers that he declared “medical
emergencies” several times and “asked all the defendants” to allow him to be seen by medical
professionals, but he says that his complaints were ignored.
Plaintiff was seen (and cleaned of pepper spray) within 15-20 minutes of the incident, and
he was also was seen by medical personnel several times in the months that followed. Medical
records indicate that plaintiff left the infirmary in anger after being told that the condition of his
cell was not a medical issue over which the medical staff had control. Medical records also
support that his limited wounds were healing, that he was not in respiratory distress, and that his
arms had normal range of motion. However, the plaintiff’s affidavit conflicts with the
information contained in the medical records, and the defendants have not responded other than
to say that they were not responsible for plaintiff’s medical care. They do not respond to
plaintiff’s allegations that the defendants knew about and prevented him from obtaining medical
treatment for stab wounds and an injured arm — injuries which plaintiff alleges that they saw
him receive during a prolonged attack while handcuffed from behind. Summary judgment will
be denied on this claim.
“Qualified immunity is a defense available to government officials if they have not
violated ‘clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would
have known.’” Amrine v. Brooks, 522 F.3d 823, 831 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Young v. Selk, 508
F.3d 868, 871 (8th Cir.2007); see Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). It “allows
officers to make reasonable errors so that they do not always ‘err on the side of caution’ ” for fear
of being sued. Habiger v. City of Fargo, 80 F.3d 289, 295 (8th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted); see
Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183, 196 (1984). “This defense provides ‘ample room for mistaken
judgments’ by protecting ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the
law.’” Amrine, 522 F.3d at 831 (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 343, 341 (1986)).
Qualified immunity determinations are based on a two-part inquiry. First, the court
determines whether the alleged facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the injured party,
demonstrate that the official’s conduct violated a constitutional right. Amrine, 522 F.3d at 831;
see also Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). Second, if the answer to that inquiry is yes,
the court asks whether the constitutional right was clearly established at the time so that a
reasonable officer would have understood that his conduct violated that right. Amrine, 522 F.3d
As already discussed, the Court is granting summary judgment to defendants on
plaintiff’s condition of confinement claim. However, plaintiff’s rights to have his serious
medical conditions treated without intentional delay, and to be aided during physical assaults by
other inmates, are clearly established. As a result, qualified immunity is not warranted for the
Summary judgment will be granted to the defendants on plaintiff’s condition of
confinement claim. However, summary judgment is denied on plaintiff’s claims regarding
failure to protect and access to medical care. Because plaintiff is entitled to a trial regarding his
surviving claims, the Court will appoint counsel to represent the plaintiff in a separate order.
Counsel for the plaintiff may seek to reopen discovery for a limited period of time in order to
prepare for trial. The plaintiff should await further order of the Court on those matters.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants Bryan Hoskins, Buddy McClaine, and
Terry Atchison’s motion for summary judgment (#72) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
Dated this 21st day of November, 2012.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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