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Miller v. Callahan

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

October 24, 2016

STEVEN MILLER PLAINTIFF
v.
AUSTIN CALLAHAN, LARRY BARBEE, CHARLES “DOC” HOLLADAY, and RANDY MORGAN DEFENDANTS

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

         INSTRUCTIONS

         The following proposed Findings and Recommendation have been sent to United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection, and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of this Recommendation. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

         INTRODUCTION.

         The defendants have filed the pending motion for summary judgment. See Document 56.[1] For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that the motion be granted, judgment be entered for all of the defendants, and this case be dismissed with prejudice.

         PLEADINGS.

         Plaintiff Steven Miller (“Miller”) commenced the case at bar by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 and joining Austin Callahan (“Callahan”), Larry Barbee (“Barbee”), Charles “Doc” Holladay, and Randy Morgan of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office (“Sheriff's Office”). In the complaint and a later filed amended complaint, Miller alleged that he was being transported in a Sheriff's Office van when it was struck from behind by another vehicle on Interstate 530. He was injured in the accident and attributed his injuries to a lack of seatbelts in the van. He maintained that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his health and safety when they allowed him to be transported in a van without seatbelts.

         The defendants responded to the complaints by filing a motion for summary judgment. In the motion and an accompanying brief, they acknowledged that Sheriff's Office vans are not equipped with seatbelts for inmates. The defendants nevertheless maintained that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because they “did not know of and disregard an excessive risk to Miller's health and safety.” See Document 56 at CM/ECF 1. With specific regard to Miller's official capacity claims, they maintained that he failed to show an underlying constitutional violation. With specific regard to his individual capacity claims, they maintained that they enjoy qualified immunity.

         Miller filed a response to the motion for summary judgment in which he offered several reasons why the defendants are not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. As a part of his response, he submitted a document that contains the following provision: “Agents secure inmate in transport van and properly place seat belt on inmate.” See Document 60 at CM/ECF 7.[2]

         FACTS.

         The defendants filed a statement of material facts as required by Local Rule 56.1(a). Miller filed a response to the defendants' statement, but the response did not conform to the requirements of Local Rule 56.1(b). The undersigned has nevertheless considered Miller's response, as well as the other pleadings and exhibits in the record. Those submissions establish that the material facts are not in dispute. The facts are as follows:

         1. On April 15, 2015, Miller was booked into the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility as a “convicted penitentiary returnee” from the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”). See Document 57 at CM/ECF 1.

         2. On July 16, 2015, Miller and six other inmates entered a Sheriff's Office van for transport to the “respective ADC units to which they were designated.” See Document 57 at CM/ECF 1.

         3. The van could carry up to thirteen inmates and was staffed, in accordance with the Sheriff's Office policy and practice, by two officers, in this instance Callahan and Barbee. See Document 57 at CM/ECF 1, 4.

         4. Callahan and Barbee sat in the front seats and were separated from the inmates by steel fencing. See Document 57 at CM/ECF 4.

         5. Four rows of benches were behind the steel fencing; the first three rows of benches could seat three inmates, and the back bench could seat four inmates. See Document 57 at CM/ECF 4.

         6. The Sheriff's Office procedure for transporting inmates requires “the inmates to be handcuffed with their cuffs secured to a ‘belly chain' around their waist. The locks of the handcuffs are covered by a ‘black box, ' which protects the key holes of the cuffs ...


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