United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fort Smith Division
MARK E. FORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff, Jerry Wayne Mills,
pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma
pauperis and is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas
Department of Corrections (“ADC”), Varner Unit.
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. (Doc.
13) Pursuant to this authority, the Court held a bench trial
on April 26, 2016, and it now issues the following findings
of fact and conclusions of law.
filed his original Complaint on February 5, 2014. (Doc. 1) He
alleges he was injured by a loose bunk in his jail cell on
January 26, 2014 and February 11, 2014. The events that are
the subject of this lawsuit occurred while Plaintiff was
incarcerated in the Logan County Detention Center
(“LCDC”) in Paris, Arkansas. Plaintiff was
permitted to file two Complaint Supplements on March 4, 2014.
(Docs. 19, 20)
seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He also seeks to
have the jail brought up to code and a credible grievance
system implemented. (Doc. 1, p. 7)
summary judgment proceedings, the issues remaining for bench
trial include: (1) whether overcrowding in the cell meant the
loose bunk posed a substantial risk of serious harm to
inmates in the cell; (2) whether the bunk fell on Plaintiff
or whether he was injured trying to make it fall; and, (3) if
the bunk did constitute a serious risk of harm, whether
Defendants' actions constituted deliberate indifference.
(Doc. 35, p. 12)
bench trial, the testimony of the following witnesses was
heard on behalf of Plaintiff: (1) Colton Lovelace, by
videoconference from the Federal Bureau of Prisons Oklahoma
City Transfer Center; and, (2) Plaintiff. The testimony of
the following witnesses was heard on behalf of Defendants:
(1) Defendant Sheriff Steven Smith; (2) Defendant Jail
Administrator David Spicer; and, (3) former LCDC Correctional
Officer Dustin Stark. (Doc. 50)
summary judgment hearing, Plaintiff testified that on
approximately January 20, 2014, there was an inmate riot in
the LCDC. A bunk was ripped off the wall in cell seven and
used to break down a cell door. A small fire was lit, but
quickly put out with fire extinguishers. Lights and the air
conditioning were broken. (Tr. 22-23)
six, where Plaintiff was eventually injured, a large inmate
(weighing approximately 300 pounds) had jumped on the upper
bunk in an attempt to rip it from the wall during the riot.
(Tr. 13) The large inmate was removed from the cell, and
Plaintiff was moved into it. (Tr. 17) Plaintiff testified
that the bunk was sagging and tipping down at a forty-five
degree angle when he was put into the cell.
Spicer testified the inmates caused considerable damage to
the LCDC during the riot. Over several months, there was
“a lot of unruliness.” Cameras were vandalized.
There were some leaks in the toilets due to age, but the
inmates also stuffed their uniforms down the toilets. The
“beanholes” constantly had problems due to having
things stuffed into them to prevent them from being closed.
The inmates used the beanholes to pass things to other cells
and to turn the lights on and off. Defendant Spicer believed
it was in cell seven that inmates ripped a bunk off the wall
and used it to knock the cell door off the hinges.
Stark testified it was “rough” for about three
weeks. Inmates were breaking things, flooding toilets,
breaking the plastic windows in cells, throwing plates in the
hallways, etc. He testified he was almost stabbed by an
on this testimony, I find that the LCDC had sustained
considerable and ongoing facilities damage from inmates just
prior to Plaintiff's two bunk-related injuries.
testified the cell is about eight feet by ten feet (8' x
10') in dimension. Colton Lovelace could not recall the
dimensions of the cell. Defendant Smith testified this was
intended to be a two person cell.
there is no dispute that cell six was intended to be a two
person cell, and was approximately eight feet by ten feet
(8' x 10') in size.
of the Bunks
is also no dispute that there were two bunks in cell six. The
bottom bunk is concrete and the upper bunk is metal. The
concrete bunk is placed in the wall about two feet above the
floor. The upper metal bunk is anchored into the wall above
the concrete bunk. According to Defendant Smith, the metal
bunks are attached at four points to the wall, with bolts
both above and below the horizontal section of the bunk.
testified there was also a metal “schedule 40”
support pole for the top bunk, which was loose. Defendant
Smith did not remember any posts or poles missing, and he
noted all of the bunks in the LCDC had been repaired and
modified in some way - some more than once. No one other than