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Black v. Dodson

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

July 15, 2019



         I. Procedure for Filing Objections

         This Recommended Disposition (Recommendation) has been sent to Chief Judge Brian S. Miller. Any party may file written objections to this Recommendation. If objections are filed, they should be specific and should include the factual or legal basis for the objection.

         To be considered, objections must be received in the office of the Court Clerk within 14 days of this Recommendation. And, if no objections are filed, Judge Miller can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing the record. By not objecting, parties may also waive any right to appeal questions of fact.

         II. Background

         Tylor Shane Black, an Arkansas Department of Correction inmate, filed this civil rights lawsuit without the help of a lawyer under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket entry #1) He alleges, that, on February 8, 2018, he was held at the Van Buren County Jail (Jail) so that he could attend a court proceeding. On that date, Defendant Dodson, a jailer, conducted an inmate count around 11:00 p.m. Mr. Black explains that Defendant Dodson “went to slam the door and my foot got hung under it.” (#1 at p.1) As a result of the incident, a toe on Mr. Black's right foot was broken. (#37-4 at p.8)

         Defendant Dodson has moved for summary judgment on Mr. Black's claim against him. (#35) Mr. Black has responded to the motion, and it is ripe for decision. (#42)

         III. Discussion

         A. Standard

         Summary judgment in favor of Defendant Dodson can be granted only if evidence in the record, viewed in a light most favorable to Mr. Black, shows that there is no real dispute about any fact that is important to the outcome of the case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 246 (1986).

         B. Deliberate Indifference - Individual Capacity[1]

         According to the incident report in the record, on the date and time of the injury to Mr. Black's toe, Defendant Dodson was conducting a head count at the Jail. When he and other officers approached C-pod, they noticed several inmates standing at the door. Defendant Dodson instructed the inmates to move away from the door, but they refused. Mr. Black was standing in front of the door when Defendant Dodson attempted to shut it. Several other inmates grabbed the door to keep officers from shutting it. According to Defendant Dodson, “T. Black got his foot caught in the door and hurt his toe.” (#37-5 at p.2)

         Defendant Dodson attaches Mr. Black's deposition transcript to his motion. (#37-7) In that testimony, Mr. Black states that his foot was caught under the door when Defendant Dodson tried to “slam the door.” (#37-7 at p.23) At that point, other inmates “tried to hold the door back to get [his] foot out.” (Id.) According to Mr. Black, however, Defendant Dodson “still kept trying to shut the door.” (Id.) He stated that he believed that Defendant Dodson was irritated with another inmate when the incident occurred. (Id. at pp.56-62, 85, 90-91) Mr. Black also testified that he “wouldn't even [have] filed the lawsuit if dude would have apologized to [him].” (Id. at p.73) Based on Defendant Dodson's failure to apologize, Mr. Black concluded that Defendant Dodson purposely slammed the door on his foot. (Id. at pp.74, 80, 96)

         “Deliberate indifference” is evidenced when “the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837, 114 S.Ct. 1970. “[N]egligence or inadvertence does not rise to the level of deliberate indifference.” Kulkay v. Roy, 847 F.3d 637, 643 (8th Cir. 2017). “In contrast to negligence, ‘deliberate indifference requires a highly culpable state of mind approaching actual intent.'” (Id.) (citing Choate v. Lockhart, 7 F.3d 1370, 1374 (8th Cir. 1993)). “The defendant-official's state of mind must be measured by the official's knowledge at the time in question, not by hindsight's perfect vision.” (Id.) (internal citation omitted).

         For purposes of reviewing the motion, the Court will assume that Mr. Black's version of the event is true. Even so, there is no evidence to suggest that Defendant Dodson's conduct was intentional or criminally reckless. Mr. Black's subjective belief that Defendant Dodson's failure to apologize proves that his conduct was intentional is unfounded. Based on the evidence presented, the Court must conclude that Defendant Dodson accidentally slammed the door on Mr. ...

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