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McRae v. Owens

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division

March 19, 2019

CAMERON OWENS, Administrator Ouachita County Detention Center DEFENDANT



         This is a civil rights action filed pro se by Plaintiff, Torger McRae, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge to conduct all proceedings in this case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings. (ECF No. 28). Currently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Cameron Owens. (ECF No. 39). Plaintiff has filed a response. (ECF No. 45). The Court finds this matter ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently being held in the Ouachita County Detention Center (“OCDC”) awaiting trial on pending criminal charges. (ECF No. 9, p. 3). Plaintiff filed his Complaint on March 6, 2018, in the Eastern District of Arkansas. (ECF No. 2). On March 8, 2018, the case was transferred to the Western District of Arkansas, El Dorado Division. (ECF No. 4). That same day, the Court directed Plaintiff to submit a completed IFP application and file an Amended Complaint to clarify his claims against the defendants. (ECF Nos. 6, 7). On March 22, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint naming Cameron Owens and others as defendants. (ECF No. 9). Plaintiff's IFP application was approved that same day. (ECF No. 11).

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims against Defendant Owens for retaliation, denial of medical care, unlawful conditions of confinement at the OCDC, and denial of access to legal materials.[1] Specifically Plaintiff alleges:

Despite numerous complaints, request, and grievances over living conditions in the OCDC I was put I in the hole for my complaints and I eventually got a bacterial infection in which it took over 14 days to get me to the hospital where I was hospitalized the infection was so severe. The jail also refused to pay my hospital bill or take any corrective measures to prevent any further illnesses due to inhumane living conditions. As of today there is still black mold growing in my pod, wastewater covering the bathroom floor at all times, cracked dinner trays being put on the floor during chow, no rags & bottles to sanitize the bathroom, hot prepared food being served cold, and disrespectful and threatening comments by staff threatening administrative segregation for utilizing the grievance procedure over above living conditions….
I have a active civil case and have utilized the request & grievance procedure here at the jail trying to visit the law library and I have been told several times, by email by defendant [Owens], that there is no law library or law material here at the jail. I have incurred numerous postage cost and possible missed deadlines in not being able to access legal materials…

(ECF No. 9, pp. 7-8).

         Plaintiff sued Defendant Owens in his individual and official capacities. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiff also requests “disciplinary actions/sanctions against defendants, policy & procedure review by outside agency, compliance check in jail to ensure ACA standards.” (ECF No. 9, p. 10). On April 17, 2018, the Court entered a screening order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A dismissing the official capacity claims against Defendant Owens.[2] (ECF No. 14, p. 9). Taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the relevant facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff was booked into the custody of the OCDC on August 29, 2017. At intake, Plaintiff completed an Inmate Medical Form informing OCDC personnel of his past and present medical conditions. (ECF No. 41-4, pp. 1-2). Plaintiff stated he was taking Tramadol, a muscle relaxer, and ibuprofen. He also stated his left elbow was dislocated, he had pins in his back and hip, glass in his forehead, and was partially blind in his right eye. Id. Prior to being booked into the OCDC, Plaintiff's dislocated elbow was evaluated by Dawn Hopper, APRN, on August 16, 2017. Nurse Hopper noted Plaintiff had failed to properly utilize the therapy recommended to him to treat his dislocated elbow.[3] (ECF No. 41-4, pp. 4-6).

         On August 31, 2017, Plaintiff's family brought his tramadol medication to the OCDC. (ECF No. 41-5, p. 15). That same day, Plaintiff submitted a grievance stating, “Your jailers threatened me slam door on me and pull taser. Request to talk to jail administrator.” James Bolton responded stating in part, “Mr. McRae…I am unable to find any video evidence that anyone has mistreated you in any way.” (ECF No. 41-3, p. 7). Plaintiff also filed a medical request that day stating, “I need my meds my arm swole jailer hit me with door and hip rewind camera.” In response, Nurse Mendenhall requested to see Plaintiff at pill call. (ECF No. 41-5, p. 15).

         On September 1, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a medical request stating, “I'm sorry I'm just now checking it I'm in pain I need my meds but can you call for me thank you.” Nurse Mendenhall responded as follows:

Pill call is at 9:30 in the morning and again at 9:30 at night. Your medication has been approved by the doctor for you to have at those times if you need it, and it can only be dispensed at the times that it is in the system for. You did not come to pill call this morning so be sure you do not miss pill call tonight.

(ECF No. 41-5, p. 15). Two days later, Plaintiff submitted another medical request stating, “My arm and elbow swole its numb I think its repop can't sleep or bend it and its still broke I need help.” In response, Nurse Mendenhall requested to see Plaintiff at pill call. Id. On September 6, 2017, Plaintiff submitted a medical request stating “I done told them I'm hurting bad” to which Nurse Mendenhall responded, “You received your medication at pill pass and can receive another dose at evening pill pass. If that is not working for you then you can request to see the doctor.” (ECF No. 41-5, p. 13).

On September 13, 2017, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with another inmate, as documented by OCDC Officer Zach Craig:
On September 13, 2017 at approximately 1030 hours, Captain Cameron Owens, Jail Supervisor James Smith, and myself (Detention Officer Zach Craig) were called by the tower operator Cody Bright that there was two Inmates in a altercation in B-pod.
Upon our arrival, I observed inmate Torger Mcrae and inmate James Jones arguing with each other. I immediately instructed all inmates to line up on the wall and separated Jones and Mcrae. Bright then informed us that Mcrae was the agresser in the altercation. We removed Mcrae from B-pod searched him and his belongings and placed him in Ad-Seg in cell D-2 for being disorderly.
Additional Notes: the incident was recorded on camera 2 and 8. Mcrae was informed that he would remain in Ad-Seg until further instruction from Administration.
End of Report Detention Officer Zach Craig
OCDC 126

(ECF No. 41-7, p. 2). Later that same day, Nurse Mendenhall submitted the following Inmate Incident Report involving Plaintiff:

At 15:30 I was notified by the tower that this inmate was asking for the nurse due to chest pains. I requested that Correctional Officers Craig and Bright accompany me to D Pod to assess this inmate. Upon arrival his skin was warm and dry to touch, PERLA, respirations were 60 and unlabored, pulse was 84 and regular, Blood pressure was 130/90. The inmate did not appear to be in any distress at that time.
He stated he was having a hard time breathing and was force to sit on the floor by his door flap to get any air flow. He did not seem to have any trouble breathing and stated he did not know why he was placed in the AD Seg unit. He requested to see the doctor for SOB and chest pain. I told him I would place him on the list.

(ECF No. 41-4, p. 3).

On September 14, 2017, Plaintiff submitted five requests. In the first one Plaintiff states:
being ecuse of things I anit did every body and b pod no charging me for a mat and blanket everybody gt 4thats messed up put me and whole for aruing bt lertft other person ova thur he evevn told thm I dididnt do nuttin james jones we both tod thm they lock me up and leave him then they took all money of books im beening pick with they denyig me medical stteoin im been cuss out cause I askig for help…Request im scared for my life

(ECF No. 41-3, p. 5). Defendant Owens responded stating:

According to the Officers involved you were the aggressor in the argument also you were charged for a mat because when you were moved to lockdown your [mat] was damaged to point that it cannot be re-issued to anyone else. And it was not that way when it was issued to you. No. one is denying you medical treatment or threatening you. Use the proper channels at the Kiosk and you can request to see a doctor.

Id. Plaintiff's second request states, “Problem I'm scared for my life and need help. Been threating by zack, brice, owens, bolton. Request to speak to head person norwood im scared for my life in here.” In response, Defendant Owens stated he would speak with Sheriff Norwood about his concerns. (ECF No. 41-3, p. 6). In the third request Plaintiff states:

Problem bright, zack, and owens Request they picking with me charging me for stuff I anit did cussing me out denying meds and attention they gt me in hole for no reason they done sent two people to fight me I have broken elbow hip replacement bad heart they gt 24 hour camara rewind im speaking out and the truth we all can sit down and look at it I never gt and trouble hur never been to hole im in hole for arguing bt they left james jones in thur the man I was arguing with they didt lock him up jst me ...

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