Williams v. White et al
ORDER 40 Motion for Summary Judgment, is DENIED IN PART as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claim and deliberate indifference claim based on the application of restraints and GRANTED IN PART as to Plain tiff's post-incident medical care deliberate indifference claim. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim is DISMISSED. The Clerk is instructed to substitute the true full name of Defendant FNU Siciak as Arthur Siciak in the docket in this matter. Signed by Chief Judge Martin Reidinger on 6/7/2021. (Pro se litigant served by US Mail.)(hms)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
EDWARD WILLIAMS, III,
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment. [Doc. 40].
Pro se Plaintiff Edward Williams, III (“Plaintiff”), is a North Carolina
inmate currently incarcerated at Pender Correctional Institution in Burgaw,
North Carolina. Plaintiff filed this action on April 18, 2019, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, against Defendants Susan White, identified as the
Superintendent of Alexander Correctional Institution (“Alexander”); FNU
Siciak,1 identified as the Blue Unit Manager at Alexander; Thomas M. Moore,
identified as a correctional officer at Alexander; and “John Doe,” identified as
Documents filed by Defendant Siciak reflect that his true full name is Arthur Siciak. [Doc.
42-1]. The Court will instruct the Clerk to update the docket accordingly.
a correctional officer at Alexander. [Doc. 1 at 2-3]. Plaintiff claimed that
Defendants used excessive force and were deliberately indifferent to his
serious medical needs in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment
in forcing Plaintiff to be handcuffed behind his back despite Plaintiff’s preexisting medical condition that rendered him physically unable to do so and
by denying Plaintiff medical care after the incident.2 [Id. at 3]. Plaintiff’s
claims survived initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.
Defendant Siciak, who was sued in his individual capacity only, timely
filed an executed waiver of service. [Doc. 13; Doc. 1 at 2]. On September
8, 2020, after proper notice, the Court dismissed Defendants White, Moore,
and Doe without prejudice for Plaintiff’s failure to timely serve these
Defendants. [Doc. 35]. On November 16, 2020, Defendant Siciak moved
for summary judgment. [Doc. 40]. In support of his motion, Defendant
submitted a memorandum, an affidavit, Plaintiff’s offender information sheet,
Alexander’s Restraint Procedures Policy, and Plaintiff’s Medical Duty Status
form. [Docs. 41, 42, 42-1 to 42-4]. On November 17, 2020, the Court
Plaintiff also purported to bring a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, which passed
initial review but was not specifically addressed in the Court’s Order. [See Doc. 10 at 67 n. 1]. Plaintiff, however, has abandoned this claim on summary judgment and the Court
will dismiss it.
entered an order in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309
(4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to
the summary judgment motion and of the manner in which evidence could
be submitted to the Court.
Plaintiff timely responded to
Defendant’s motion. [Docs. 44, 45]. Plaintiff submitted multiple affidavits; a
brief; Plaintiff’s physical therapy treatment notes; other medical records; the
Incident Report, which included witness statements; Alexander’s Use of
Force Policy; what appears to be a portion of the N.C. Department of Public
Safety’s (NCDPS) Use of Force Policy, and Defendant’s discovery
responses. [Docs. 44, 44-1, 44-2, 45].
This matter is now ripe for adjudication.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment shall be granted “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). A factual dispute is
genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A fact is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under
governing law. Id.
The movant has the “initial responsibility of informing the district court
of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)
(internal citations omitted).
Once this initial burden is met, the burden shifts to the nonmoving
party. The nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there
is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 322 n.3. The nonmoving party may not
rely upon mere allegations or denials of allegations in his pleadings to defeat
a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 324. Rather, the nonmoving party
must oppose a proper summary judgment motion with citation to
“depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or
declarations, stipulations …, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
materials” in the record. See id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(a). Namely, the
nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence from which “a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248; accord Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert County, Md., 48 F.3d 810, 818 (4th
When ruling on a summary judgment motion, a court must view the
evidence and any inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “‘Where the record taken
as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving
party, there is no genuine issue for trial.’” Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct.
2658, 2677 (2009) (quoting Matsushita v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
The forecast of evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant
is as follows:
Plaintiff was transferred to Alexander from Marion Correctional
Institution in or around February 2016 for physical therapy. [Doc. 44-2 at ¶
1: Williams Dec.]. Plaintiff had broken his arm in 2014 and it his right elbow
healed at a 90-degree angle. [Id.]. Plaintiff wore a sling with metal inserts
at all times to protect his elbow. He took the sling off only to shower, to sleep,
and for physical therapy. [Doc. 44-2 at ¶ 2]. Plaintiff had 10 visits with the
physical therapist at Alexander between March 14, 2016 and April 13, 2016.
Plaintiff had approval for his sling that expired on March 5, 2016.
Plaintiff’s first visit with the physical therapist at Alexander on March 14,
2016, Plaintiff asked to renew the approval for the sling and for a second
pillow. [Doc. 45 at 2]. On April 14, 2016, after ten visits, Plaintiff “met
potential” with physical therapy. The physical therapist ordered that he be
discharged from care and referred Plaintiff to an orthopedist. [Doc. 45 at 1213]. In the referral order to the orthopedist, the physical therapist noted, “Pt.
has been Compliant [with] all [physical therapy] sessions & attempted all
asked of him. He has very limited [range of motion] in elbow & [range of
motion] causes extreme pain.” [Doc. 45 at 13].
On April 27, 2016, Plaintiff remained at Alexander waiting to be
transferred back to Marion after having completed physical therapy. [Doc.
45 at ¶ 4]. Defendant Siciak was employed by the NCDPS as a Correctional
Officer at Alexander at the relevant times and had been employed by the
NCDPS since 2007. [Doc. 42-1 at ¶ 1: Siciak Dec.]. Siciak was overseeing
the operations of the Blue Unit at Alexander that day. [Id. at ¶ 4].
At approximately 10:00 a.m., a fight started in the dayroom. Inmates
were told to go to their assigned cells and lockdown. [Doc. 45 at ¶¶ 4-5].
Siciak was told by floor staff that Plaintiff was involved in the fight. [Doc. 421 at ¶ 5]. All inmates suspected of misconduct are to be placed in restrictive
housing pending an investigation. After the fight, Siciak, therefore, went to
Plaintiff’s cell with other correctional officers at approximately 10:05 a.m. to
escort Plaintiff to restrictive housing. [Id. at ¶ 6].
Alexander’s Custody and Operations: Restraint Procedures Policy,
Section .0427 (“Restraint Policy”), governs the method of handcuffing an
inmate when he needs to be let out of his cell for some reason. [Doc. 42-1
at ¶ 7]. The Restraint Policy provides that any general population inmate
who must be placed in hand restraints is required to be handcuffed behind
his back through the trapdoor of that inmate’s cell unless there are medical
restrictions that require an inmate to be handcuffed in front. [Id. at ¶ 8]. Any
such medical restrictions would be noted on an inmate’s HS51 medical
restrictions screen in the NCDPS computer system. [Id. at ¶ 8]. If an inmate
is wearing a sling, Siciak “would not order that inmate to be handcuffed
behind his back.” [Id. at ¶ 9]. In that case, Siciak would order the inmate to
be handcuffed in front. [Id.].
When Siciak approached Plaintiff’s cell, Plaintiff was sitting in a chair
with his right arm in a sling. [Doc. 45 at ¶ 6]. Defendant Siciak and former
Defendants Moore and Doe stood outside Plaintiff’s door and asked Plaintiff
to submit to handcuffs through the trapdoor, which was unlocked. [Id. at ¶¶
6-7]. Plaintiff stood up from his chair and explained that he was not involved
in the fight. Plaintiff also explained that his arm was in a sling because it
“was stuck in a 90[-]degree angle and couldn’t flex in a position to handcuff
[Plaintiff] from the back.” [Doc. 44-2 at ¶ 7]. Defendant Siciak again ordered
Plaintiff to turn around and submit to handcuffs.
At that time, Plaintiff
removed his sling and politely asked to be handcuffed in the front because
his arm could not flex in a position for Plaintiff to be handcuffed from behind.
[Id. at ¶ 9]. Plaintiff has presented evidence that Siciak refused. Siciak has
presented evidence to the contrary, that he would not order an inmate in a
sling to be handcuffed from behind. [Id.; see Doc. 42-1 at ¶ 9]. Siciak knew
that Plaintiff has a serious medical condition and that he would be hurt if he
was handcuffed behind his back, but Siciak ordered the officers to do it
anyways. [Id. at ¶ 15]. Moore and Doe then “snatched up and twisted”
Plaintiff’s arms “yanking them through the high trap door” and cuffed Plaintiff.
[Id.]. Plaintiff was standing on his toes “hollering in pain, as [his] right
shoulder dislocated and [his] elbow popped.”3 [Id.]. Plaintiff was taken to
segregation by Moore and Doe. [Id.]. Plaintiff was made to painfully strip
out of his clothes. [Id.]. He noticed that his arm was swollen and asked for
medical assistance, which he did not receive. [See id.]. Siciak was not
involved in and did not deny Plaintiff medical care in segregation or otherwise
Defendant has presented a forecast of evidence that “no force was required to handcuff
Plaintiff behind his back through the trapdoor” and that Plaintiff showed no signs of
distress and made no complaints of pain after he was cuffed. [Doc. 42-1 at ¶¶ 15-16].
and did not consciously or intentionally disregard an excessive risk to
Plaintiff’s medical treatment.4 [See Doc. 42-1 at ¶¶ 17-18].
After an investigation of the dayroom fight was conducted, including
review of the video footage, Plaintiff was released from segregation. [Doc.
44-2 at ¶ 10]. Plaintiff again complained of “extreme pain.” He was taken to
medical and seen by Nurse Christina Fox. [Id. at ¶ 10]. Nurse Fox became
alarmed by Plaintiff’s injuries, which appeared consistent with Plaintiff’s
elbow having been refractured, and sent Plaintiff to main medical. [Id. at ¶
10]. At main medical, Plaintiff was seen by Dr. Marta Kalinski. [Id. at ¶ 11].
In the record for this visit, Dr. Kalinski noted Plaintiff’s subjective complaints:
Patient sustained trauma to his right upper extremity
during placement of handcuffs. Patient came to
Alexander for R-elbow [physical therapy]. In 01/2014
patient sustained fracture to his R-elbow. After
fracture, he did not have cast or surgical repair.
Patient developed R-elbow [range of motion]
limitation and progressive arthritis. His R-elbow
became permanently locked at 130 degrees. Patient
did not benefit from [physical therapy] and his current
plan was to be evaluated for corrective surgery at
According to NCDPS Use of Force Policy, the Officer-in-Charge, which was Captain
Hamilton at the time of the subject incident, has each inmate involved in a use of force
incident medically screened and determines whether imminent immediate medical
attention is required. [Doc. 45 at 36-37, 57]. Here, however, Defendant maintains that
this was not a Use of Force incident and Use of Force procedures, therefore, were not
followed. [Id. at 58, 61; see id. at 59].
[Doc. 45 at 30]. Dr. Kalinski noted that Plaintiff had “diffuse swelling around
elbow joint,” “tenderness to even light palpation,” and “totally restricted
[range of motion] active and passive.” [Id.]. She administered a shot of pain
medication and ordered that Plaintiff be seen at an outside hospital. [Doc.
44-2 at ¶ 11; Doc. 45 at 30-32].
Plaintiff was taken to Catawba Valley Medical Center (CVMC) for
examination. [See Doc. 45 at 33-35]. At the CVMC emergency room,
Plaintiff reported to the provider that when he was being handcuffed “he felt
like his shoulder popped out of place [and] his left arm was being twisted and
he felt pain in his right elbow.”
[Id. at 33].
Examination showed mild
discomfort surrounding Plaintiff’s right shoulder and some discomfort over
the posterolateral aspect on his right elbow. [Id. at 34]. While X-rays of
Plaintiff’s right shoulder were unremarkable, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a
shoulder sprain and the provider suggested that Plaintiff “certainly could
have dislocated [his] shoulder and this reduced.” [Id. at 34-35; see Doc. 442 at ¶ 12]. X-rays of Plaintiff’s right elbow showed “[s]mall joint effusion with
elevation of anterior fat pad.” [Id. at 34]. The radiologist noted that, “[a]
fracture is not confidently visualized, however, a joint effusion raise[s]
suspicion for radiographically occult fracture.” [Id.]. Plaintiff was provided a
sling and directed to use ice compresses and take Motrin for pain. [Doc. 45
at 35]. Plaintiff was returned to Alexander the same day. [See Doc. 44-2 at
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual
punishments,” U.S. CONST. amend. VIII, and protects prisoners from the
“unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,” Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312,
319 (1986). To establish an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate must
satisfy both an objective component – that the harm inflicted was sufficiently
serious – and a subjective component – that the prison official acted with a
sufficiently culpable state of mind. Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761
(4th Cir. 1996).
This subjective standard requires proof of malicious or sadistic action
by a prison official to make out an excessive force claim. This is because
prison “[o]fficials are entitled to use appropriate force to quell prison
disturbances.” Williams, 77 F.3d at 761. “Because officials must act ‘in
haste, under pressure, and frequently without the luxury of a second chance,’
deliberate indifference is not a sufficiently rigorous standard.” Id. (citing
Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320). “Rather, in these circumstances, in order to make
out an Eighth Amendment claim, a prisoner must demonstrate that officials
applied force maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing
harm.” Id. (internal quotations and citation omitted).
Here, the relevant forecast of evidence shows Defendant Siciak
directed two correctional officers to handcuff Plaintiff in a manner that was
contrary to policy and which caused Plaintiff significant pain and physical
injury in the face of knowledge of Plaintiff’s medical condition and with
Plaintiff’s arm in a sling. The forecast of evidence also shows that Plaintiff
was calm, composed, and of no threat to Defendant or the other officers. As
such, the manner of the use of force under the circumstances suggests that
it was applied “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing
harm” and not in a haste to “quell prison disturbance.” Williams, 77 F.3d at
761. Moreover, while serious injury is not required to support an excessive
force claim, Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 38 (2010), Plaintiff’s injuries were
sufficiently serious to call into question Defendant’s evidence that Plaintiff
was not in distress and did not complain of being in pain after the handcuffs
As such, the Court will deny Defendant’s motion for summary judgment
on Plaintiff’s claim based on the use of excessive force in violation of the
A violation of the Eighth Amendment based on the deliberate
indifference to a serious medical “requires a showing that the defendants
actually knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious injury to the
detainee or that they actually knew of and ignored a detainee’s serious need
for medical care.” Young v. City of Mt. Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 575-76 (4th
Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). “To establish that a health care provider’s
actions constitute deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, the
treatment must be so grossly incompetent, inadequate, or excessive as to
shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental fairness.” Miltier v.
Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990).
To be found liable under the Eighth Amendment, a prison official,
however, must know of and consciously or intentionally disregard “an
excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
837 (1994); Johnson v. Quinones, 145 F.3d 164, 167 (4th Cir. 1998).
Farmer, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). A prison official, however, is not liable if
he knew the underlying facts but believed, even if unsoundly, that the risk to
which the facts gave rise was insubstantial or nonexistent. Farmer, 511 U.S.
Plaintiff claims that Siciak was deliberately indifferent in forcing Plaintiff
to submit to handcuffs behind his back and in the delay in medical care
provided to Plaintiff after the incident. [Doc. 1 at 8-10]. As to the claim
involving post-incident medical care, Plaintiff has failed to forecast sufficient
evidence to survive summary judgment. The forecast of evidence shows
that Siciak was not involved in the transfer of Plaintiff to segregation or in the
denial of immediate medical care there. Plaintiff, however, has forecast
sufficient evidence showing that Siciak “knew of and disregarded a
substantial risk of serious injury” to Plaintiff in ordering that Plaintiff be
handcuffed from behind given Plaintiff’s medical condition. See Bane v.
Virginia Dep’t of Corrections, 267 F.Supp.2d 514 (W.D. Va. June 6, 2003)
(finding fact issues remained on inmate’s deliberate indifference claim that
prison official defendant ordered inmate to be handcuffed from behind
despite medical waiver requiring that inmate be cuffed in front). As such,
summary judgment will be granted on Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim
based on the post-incident medical care, but not as to Siciak’s order to apply
restraints behind Plaintiff’s back.
Defendant argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity. [Doc. 41 at
Qualified immunity shields “government officials performing
discretionary functions … from liability for civil damages insofar as their
conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights
of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 818 (1982). “To determine whether an officer is entitled to qualified
immunity, the court must examine (1) whether the plaintiff has demonstrated
that the officer violated a constitutional right and (2) whether that right was
clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.” E.W. ex rel. T.W. v.
Dolgos, 884 F.3d 172, 178 (4th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The doctrine of qualified immunity “gives government officials breathing
room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments and protects all but the
plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Smith v. Ray,
781 F.3d 95, 100 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted).
A prisoner’s right to be free from the use of excessive force by a prison
guard, whether resulting in serious injury or not, was clearly established well
before the subject incident. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5-10, 112
S. Ct. 995 (1992). And “[a] prisoner’s right to adequate medical care and
freedom from deliberate indifference to medical needs has been clearly
established by the Supreme Court and this Circuit since at least 1976.”
Scinto v. Stansberry, 841 F.3d 219, 236 (4th Cir. 2016).
As to Plaintiff’s post-incident medical care deliberate indifference
claim, he has not forecasted evidence that Defendant Siciak violated a
constitutional right in the first place. As such, Siciak is entitled to qualified
immunity on this claim and the Court grants summary judgment for
Defendant Siciak on this ground as well.
As to Plaintiff’s excessive force claim and the remaining deliberate
indifference claim, Plaintiff has forecasted evidence of violations of
constitutional rights. Moreover, these rights were clearly established at the
time of the incident. Siciak, therefore, is not entitled to qualified immunity on
these claims. Because genuine issues of material fact remain for trial in this
matter, summary judgment for Siciak on Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim
based on the use of excessive force and deliberate indifference in applying
restraints is inappropriate. Summary judgment, however, will be granted on
Plaintiff’s Eight Amendment claim based on the alleged delay in post-incident
In sum, for the reasons stated herein, the Court denies summary
judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff’s excessive force and deliberate
indifference claims based on the application of restraints in accordance with
this Order. The Court grants Defendant’s motion as to Plaintiff’s remaining
deliberate indifference claim.
The Court also dismisses Plaintiff’s claim
under the Fourteenth Amendment because it has been abandoned by
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 40] is DENIED IN PART as to Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment
excessive force claim and deliberate indifference claim based on the
application of restraints and GRANTED IN PART as to Plaintiff’s postincident medical care deliberate indifference claim.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment
claim is DISMISSED.
The Clerk is instructed to substitute the true full name of Defendant
FNU Siciak as Arthur Siciak in the docket in this matter.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Signed: June 7, 2021
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