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Adams v. Singleton

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Texarkana Division

May 10, 2016

STEVEN PAUL ADAMS PLAINTIFF
v.
SHERIFF JAMES SINGLETON; OFFICER MAX FIELD; and OFFICER CODY AARON DEFENDANTS

MEMORANDUM OPINION

HON. BARRY A. BRYANT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. ECF No. 17. Pursuant to this authority, I held a bench trial on April 14, 2016 and now issue the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

1. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”) Varner Unit. The events at issue here occurred while Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee incarcerated at the Hempstead County Detention Center (“HCDC”). On June 27, 2014 Plaintiff was attacked by another inmate in his cell. As a result he suffered injuries to his face including a broken nose. After the attack Plaintiff claims other inmates prevented him from using the call button to request medical assistance. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Max Field was in the control room and saw Plaintiff’s bloody and swollen nose through the cameras in C pod but did nothing to help him. Plaintiff claims Defendant Cody Aaron came into the pod and witnessed Plaintiff’s injuries but refused to do anything to help him. Plaintiff also alleges Defendant Singleton is responsible because the HCDC was understaffed at the time Plaintiff was attacked which contributed in part to his injuries. ECF No. 1. According to Plaintiff, he did not receive proper medical attention for his injuries.

Defendants assert HCDC was not understaffed on June 27, 2014 and no one could have anticipated or prevented the attack on Plaintiff. In addition, Defendants claim as soon as they were notified of the incident they moved Plaintiff to another pod to ensure his safety. Defendants claim they provided adequate medical care to Plaintiff as soon as he requested assistance.

At the bench trial, the testimony of the following witnesses was heard: (1) Plaintiff Steven Paul Adams; (2) Cecilia Bland; (3) Defendant Cody Aaron; (4) Heath Ross; and (5) Marsha Hardeman.

Plaintiff offered Exhibits 1 - 3, including: (1) Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel (ECF No. 5); (2) Defendant’s Response to Plaintiff’s Request For production of Documents; and (3) Defendant’s Response to Plaintiff’s Motion to Discover. Exhibits 2 and 3 were admitted without objection. Defendants objected to Exhibit 1. Exhibit 1 was excluded based on the fact the document is part of the Court’s record and is not a proper Exhibit for trial.

Defendants offered Exhibits 1 - 5, including: (1) June 27, 2014 Incident Report DF14-0113 prepared Marcia Hardeman; (2) Inmate Medical Requests from July 1, 2014 - January 23, 2015; (3) Inmate Request Forms dated July 9, 2014 and July 15, 2014; (4) Wadley Regional Medical Center X-Ray Interpretation dated July 7, 2014; and (5) August 21, 2014 Prescription for Tylenol #3 from Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons. Defendant’s Exhibits 1 - 4 were admitted without objection. Plaintiff objected to Defendant’s Exhibit 5 as not being relevant. Exhibit 5 was admitted over Plaintiff’s objection.

At the conclusion of Plaintiff’s case in chief, Defense counsel made a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims. I granted the motion to dismiss all claims against Defendants James Singleton and Max Field for lack of evidence leaving only claims against Defendant Cody Aaron.

2. FINDINGS OF FACT

The following is a summary of the witnesses’ testimony and my findings of fact:

Plaintiff Steven Paul Adams

Plaintiff was incarcerated at HCDC on June 27, 2014. He remembers eating between 10:30 and 11:00am and then going to sleep in his cell. He was awakened when his cell mate Chase Powell began punching him in the face. Another inmate pulled Powell off of Plaintiff. According to Plaintiff the other inmates would not allow him to push the intercom button to call for help when he left his cell. Plaintiff testified he sat out in C pod in view of two cameras hoping someone from HCDC would take notice of his injuries and remove him from the area. Usually the HCDC officers make hourly rounds to check on inmates. However, Plaintiff testified on the day he was attacked from 11:30am until 4:30 or 5:00pm he did not see any officers making rounds in C pod. Plaintiff testified Defendant Cody Aaron came down to serve dinner between 4:30 and 5:00pm and saw Plaintiff’s bloody face and said “You are having a rough day” but did nothing to assist him. Sometime later around 6:30pm another inmate wrote a note to tell the officer on duty about the attack on Plaintiff and to let the officer know Plaintiff was scared and needed help. Plaintiff testified Officer Camacho helped him out of C pod. He was then taken to see Ms. Hardeman who asked him what had happened. She took Plaintiff back to B pod for the night. Plaintiff testified he requested the video tape from C pod on June 27, 2014 but was told the tape had not been saved because there was no reason to do so.

A few days went by and Plaintiff was moved to H pod. Plaintiff was not certain how many days passed - probably 3 to 4. When he asked about receiving medical care he was told he needed to fill out a medical request form. Plaintiff states he did not see any medical person until July 2, 2014 when the jail nurse came by and put Plaintiff on medicine to help the swelling of his face go down. He does not believe he received any medication until July 4, 2014. About a week after the attack Plaintiff went to the hospital for X-rays which indicated Plaintiff’s nose was broken. He returned to HCDC and never heard anything more about it. He had trouble breathing through his nose and the nurse provided him with nasal spray. This was all the treatment Plaintiff received for his injuries.

Plaintiff testified Defendant Aaron was a good officer but he didn’t make his regular rounds on June 27, 2014 because the jail was understaffed. When Defendant Aaron did finally see Plaintiff was injured between 4:30 and 5:00pm he did not remove him from C pod or do anything to assist him. Plaintiff stated Defendant Max Field was in control of the cameras covering C pod on June 27, 2014 and he failed to act to assist Plaintiff with his injuries. Plaintiff testified Defendant Sheriff Singleton failed to adequately staff the jail, failed to protect Plaintiff and failed to provide Plaintiff with adequate medical care.

Plaintiff admitted during cross-examination the guards at HCDC would not have any reason to know or believe his cell mate Chase Powell would attack him. He said the attack took between two to three minutes in his cell where there were no video cameras. Plaintiff stated he was afraid to “snitch” about the attack because the other inmates would be subjected to a lock down situation which would make them angry. He admitted as soon as the guards received the note from another inmate informing them of the attack he was removed from C pod.

For the most part I find Plaintiff to be credible.

Cecilia Bland

Ms. Bland works at HCDC. She testified she was on vacation the week the attack on Plaintiff occurred. She testified the day Plaintiff was attacked Defendants Field and Aaron were working along with Officer Mercado. She denied talking to Plaintiff about what had happened to him and testified she ...


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