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Phillips v. Singleton

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

July 30, 2019

JAMES SINGLETON, Sheriff, Hempstead County; JOHNNY GODBOLT, Captain, Hempstead County Jail; and HEMPSTEAD COUNTY DEFENDANTS


          Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge

         Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment.[1] (ECF Nos. 28, 30). The parties have each filed responses in opposition. (ECF Nos. 34, 36). Defendants filed a reply. (ECF No. 40). The Court finds this matter fully briefed and ripe for consideration.


         This is a civil rights action filed pro se by Plaintiff, Michael Phillips, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”), Ouachita River Unit. The incidents giving rise to Plaintiff's claims occurred between February and April 2018 while he was incarcerated in the Hempstead County Detention Center (“HCDC”). (ECF No. 2).

         Plaintiff was arrested and booked into the HCDC on February 17, 2018. (ECF No. 32-2, pp. 2-3). On March 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed a grievance stating that “something need to be done about the mold that's in the shower its makes me have chest pain and headaces.” (ECF No. 32-3, p. 2). Defendant Godbolt responded, stating that Plaintiff needed to speak with Lt. Powell regarding mold.[2]

         Representatives from the Arkansas Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee annually inspect the HCDC to ensure that the facility complies with state-mandated minimum standards. Black mold has not been found in the HCDC during any inspection by the Committee.[3](ECF No. 32, p. 1). Plaintiff contends that the Arkansas Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee does not find mold during inspections because “they don't walk inside the pods they just walk the halls without even seen how the inmates are doing.” (ECF No. 35, p. 2).

         On April 12, 2018, ATOKA, Inc., Professional Environmental Consulting Services, performed a visual assessment, sampling for airborne mold and checking for the presence of moisture at the HCDC. (ECF No. 32-4). Based upon ATOKA's visual surveillance, dry environmental conditions, and air sample results in the HCDC's structure, ATOKA, Inc.'s opined that there is no mold issue in the HCDC. Id. However, Plaintiff asserts that, “they never came to the back of the Jail where all the inmates is housed at they only did the mold assessment test in front of the jail where the sheriff office is located at.” (ECF No. 35, p. 2-3).

         On April 19, 2018, Plaintiff was released to the ADC. (ECF No. 32-2 p. 3). Plaintiff's medical records from the ADC show that he has a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure and that he has been treated for hypertension since 2011. (ECF No. 42-1, pp. 13, 25). The records also confirm that Plaintiff suffers from a skin condition on his scalp known as tinea (i.e. ringworm of the scalp) which developed sometime in 2017. Id. at pp. 38, 40. As of October 17, 2018, Plaintiff was still being treated with various medical creams and shampoo for the tinea, or as Plaintiff describes it, the “fungus and sores” on his head. (ECF No. 29, p. 9).

         Defendants provided the affidavit of Lieutenant James Wise, the acting jail administrator at the HCDC. who states that the 309 inmates[4] in the HCDC spray and clean the showers on Wednesdays and Saturday and that inmates are given mop buckets, mops, brooms, and cleaning solution that can be used every day. (ECF No. 32, p. 1). Plaintiff attempts to dispute this fact, stating:

Defendants can't show any record of the 309 inmates cleaning the showers from March 8 2018 [u]ntil April 19 2018…for one the inmates cannot leave there pods it should have a record of when and what time the inmates use the cleaning supple because they have to keep a log on every inspection that they say that they do.

(ECF No. 35, pp. 1-2). Lieutenant Wise also states that he has not located any “black mold” or rust during his inspections of the HCDC.[5] In response Plaintiff states, “Why [black mold] wasn't discovered is because they paint over the mold and bleach the mold when they knew they got a inspection.” (ECF No. 35, p. 2).

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on June 12, 2018. (ECF No. 2). Plaintiff alleges Defendants James Singleton, Johnny Godbolt, [6] and Hempstead County subjected him to unlawful conditions of confinement for two months while he was incarcerated in the HCDC. Specifically, Plaintiff claims:

While being housed in F-Pod, plaintiff began to experience headaches, high blood pressure, coughing up blood and developed fungus and sores on the top of his head. On or about April 19, 2018, plaintiff was transported to the Arkansas Department of Correction and at that time was treated for the sores and fungus in the top of his head. Plaintiff was exposed to black mold while being housed in the Hempstead County Jail which was the contributing factor of the sores and fungus on the top of his head. Plaintiff is still being treated by a physician for his actual injury.

Id. at p. 5. Plaintiff goes on to allege that, “Jail officials were aware of the black mold and the condition at the Hempstead County Detention Facility and did nothing more than paint over the problem, only for it to grow back through the paint.” Id. Plaintiff sues Defendants in their individual and official capacities. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at p. 5.

         On April 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, stating, “he still suffers from fungus and sores injuries and is under a doctor care . . . these factual disputes cannot be resolved without a trial.” (ECF No. 28). Plaintiff also submitted a brief in support of his motion, including four affidavits.[7] In addition, for the first time, Plaintiff claims in his brief that “[he] ask to be move to another pod do to Plaintiff blood pressure been high every time Plaintiff get out of the shower do to the mold that's in the showers[.]” (ECF No. 29, pp. 3-4). Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Mills refused to move him. Id. ...

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