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Rooks v. Bradley

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

January 29, 2015


Wayne Rooks, Jr, Plaintiff, Pro se, Fairfield Bay, AR.

For David Bradley, Main elected Deputy Sheriff, Van Buren County, Randy Murry, head detention Jailer and Jail Supervisor, Kenny Dunham, second level head Jailer Supervisor, Brandon Ragland, Jailer (originally named as John Doe), Andy Hensley, Defendants: Colin P. Wall, Rainwater, Holt & Sexton P.A., Little Rock, AR.




The following partial recommended disposition has been sent to United States District Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. Any party may serve and file written objections to this recommendation. Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection. If the objection is to a factual finding, specifically identify that finding and the evidence that supports your objection. An original and one copy of your objections must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later than fourteen (14) days from the date of the findings and recommendations. The copy will be furnished to the opposing party. Failure to file timely objections may result in waiver of the right to appeal questions of fact.

If you are objecting to the recommendation and also desire to submit new, different, or additional evidence, and to have a hearing for this purpose before the District Judge, you must, at the same time that you file your written objections, include the following:

1. Why the record made before the Magistrate Judge is inadequate.

2. Why the evidence proffered at the hearing before the District Judge (if such a hearing is granted) was not offered at the hearing before the Magistrate Judge.

3. The detail of any testimony desired to be introduced at the hearing before the District Judge in the form of an offer of proof, and a copy, or the original, of any documentary or other non-testimonial evidence desired to be introduced at the hearing before the District Judge.

From this submission, the District Judge will determine the necessity for an additional evidentiary hearing, either before the Magistrate Judge or before the District Judge.

Mail your objections and " Statement of Necessity" to:

Clerk, United States District Court
Eastern District of Arkansas
600 West Capitol Avenue, Suite A149
Little Rock, AR 72201-3325


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Wayne Rooks filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while incarcerated at the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) (Doc. No. 1). He alleges excessive force, denial of adequate medical care and treatment, and unconstitutional conditions of confinement while he was incarcerated at the Van Buren County Detention Center (Jail) from June 3, 2013, until his transfer to the ADC on January 4, 2014. Plaintiff asks for damages from Defendants.

This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for partial Summary Judgment, Brief in Support and Statement of Facts (Doc. Nos. 48-50). Plaintiff has filed responses to the Motion (Doc. Nos. 53-57).

II. Plaintiff's Complaint

In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that on June 4, 2013, Defendant Brandon shot him with a taser, despite knowing that Plaintiff suffered from a brain injury and other mental conditions.[1] On June 7, 2013, after Plaintiff cut his wrist with a shard from a bowl he broke in his cell, Defendant Dunham bandaged his wrists and put him in a restraint chair for hours, unmonitored. Although Dunham told him that the Jail contacted Plaintiff's mom to bring his medications and was trying to get him placed in the state hospital, Plaintiff was never taken to the hospital. Plaintiff claims he was denied medical treatment for days, despite requests to Defendants Bradley, Murry, and Dunham. He also was deprived of a shower and water in the toilet for several days. Finally, Plaintiff complains the jailers are not certified to distribute medications, and that Defendants denied him medical and mental health treatment.

III. Summary Judgment Motion

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate if the record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1237 (8th Cir. 1997). " The moving party bears the initial burden of 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.'" Webb v. Lawrence County, 144 F.3d 1131, 1134-5 (8th Cir. 1998) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (other citations omitted)). " Once the moving party has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on mere denials or allegations in the pleadings; rather, the non-movant 'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 1135. Although the facts are viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, " in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant cannot simply create a factual dispute; rather, there must be a genuine dispute over those facts that could actually affect the outcome of the lawsuit." Id.

A. Official Capacity Liability

Plaintiff does not dispute Defendants' argument that a suit against them in their official capacities is a suit against their County employer, Van Buren County. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-6 (1985). Nor does he dispute that in order to establish liability by the County, the law requires a showing of an unconstitutional policy or procedure, or a widespread pattern of unconstitutional conduct. Doe v. Washington County, 150 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 1998); Jane Doe A v. Special School District of St. Louis County, 901 F.2d 642, 646 (8th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff does not offer proof of an unconstitutional policy or practice and appears to claim that the Jail did not abide by its policies in failing to obtain timely and adequate medical treatment for him, and with respect to the use of excessive force.

B. Individual Capacity Liability

Defendants state they are protected from liability in their individual capacities by qualified immunity, on all claims except the excessive force/taser claim against Defendant Ragland. Qualified immunity protects officials who act in an objectively reasonable manner, and may shield a government official from liability when his or her 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). Qualified immunity is a question of law, not a question of fact. McClendon v. Story County Sheriff's Office, 403 F.3d 510, 515 (8th Cir. 2005). Thus, issues concerning qualified immunity are appropriately resolved on summary judgment. See Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985) (the privilege is " an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability; and like an absolute immunity, it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to trial.").

To determine whether defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, the courts generally consider two questions: (1) whether the facts alleged or shown, construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, establish a violation of a constitutional or statutory right; and (2) whether that right was so clearly established that a reasonable official would have known that his or her actions were unlawful. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009).[2] Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity only if no reasonable fact finder could answer both questions in the affirmative. Nelson v. Correctional Medical Services, 583 F.3d 522, 528 (8th Cir. 2009).

Since Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time of his incarceration, the due process standard of the Fourteenth Amendment applies to determine the constitutionality of his conditions of confinement. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). In the Eighth Circuit, however, the standards applied to such claims are the same as those applied to Eighth Amendment claims. Whitnack v. Douglas County, 16 F.3d 954, 957 (8th Cir. 1994).

In order to support a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation, Plaintiff must prove that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). However, even negligence in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not constitute a claim of deliberate indifference. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976). Rather, the " prisoner must show more than negligence, more even than gross negligence, and mere disagreement with treatment decisions does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation, " Estate of Rosenberg v. Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir. 1995). See also Smith v. Marcantonio, 910 F.2d 500, 502 (8th Cir. 1990) (holding that a mere disagreement with a course of medical treatment is insufficient to state a claim for relief under the Eighth Amendment). Furthermore, prison physicians are entitled to exercise their medical judgment, and " do not violate the Eighth Amendment when, in the exercise of their professional judgment, they refuse to implement a prisoner's requested course of treatment." Long v. Nix, 86 F.3d 761, 765 (8th Cir. 1996). In addition, an inmate who complains that a delay in medical treatment constitutes a constitutional violation must provide " verifying medical evidence" in the record to establish the detrimental effect of the delay, in order to succeed on his claim. Beyerbach v. Sears, 49 F.3d 1324, 1326 (8th Cir. 1995) (overruled in part on other grounds). Finally, " [i]n the face of medical records indicating that treatment was provided and physician affidavits indicating that the care provided was adequate, an inmate cannot create a question of fact by merely stating that [he] did not feel [he] received adequate treatment." Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d at 1240.

1) Restraint Chair

According to the affidavit of Jail Administrator Randy Murray, Plaintiff was arrested on June 3, 2013, on charges of criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and terroristic threats. (Doc. No. 50-1, p. 2; Doc. No. 50-2) On June 4, 2013, Plaintiff threw water under the door of his cell, threatened officers, and ripped the video camera from the ceiling. (Doc. No. 50-1, p. 3) Plaintiff was then temporarily placed into the restraint chair at 8:45 a.m. and released at 9:30 a.m. (Id., Doc. No. 50-2, p. 2) During that time, jailers checked on Plaintiff twice, at 9:00 a.m. and 9:12 a.m., and recorded in the restraint chair log that Plaintiff was screaming on both those occasions. (Doc. No. 50-2, p.2) Jailers returned Plaintiff to the chair at 1:45 p.m. for beating his head against the wall. (Id.) According to the log, Plaintiff was ...

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