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King v. Anderson

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

June 2, 2014

ALBERT KING, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER REGINALD ANDERSON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

W. KEITH WATKINS, Chief District Judge.

Before the court are two motions for summary judgment: one filed by Defendants Reginald Anderson, Marian Ford Williams, Jasmine Scarver, and Henry Postell (collectively "the Officers") (Docs. # 96, 97, 98); and another filed by Dr. Jerry N. Gurley (Docs. # 99, 100). Plaintiff Albert King opposes the motions. (Docs. # 101, 102.) Defendants have filed reply briefs. (Docs. # 104, 105.) Upon consideration of the arguments, the evidence, and the relevant law, the court finds that Defendants' motions for summary judgment are due to be granted.[1]

I. JURISDICTION AND VENUE

The court has subject matter jurisdiction over this case based upon 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. Personal jurisdiction and venue are uncontested.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

To succeed on summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court must view the evidence and the inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Jean-Baptiste v. Gutierrez, 627 F.3d 816, 820 (11th Cir. 2010).

The party moving for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This responsibility includes identifying the portions of the record illustrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Id.; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). Or, the movant can assert, without citing the record, that the nonmoving party "cannot produce admissible evidence to support" a material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). If the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to establish - with evidence beyond the pleadings - that a genuine dispute material to each of its claims for relief exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. A genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving party produces evidence allowing a reasonable fact finder to return a verdict in its favor. Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001).

III. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

This suit arises from events that took place while Mr. King was a detainee at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility ("MCCF") in Montgomery, Alabama. Counts I and II of the Amended Complaint relate to an attack by two inmates on Mr. King. Count III relates to the medical care that Mr. King received for injuries sustained during the attack. The facts are divided accordingly between the details relating to the attack and the details relating to Mr. King's care.

1. Details of Attack

While he was incarcerated at MCCF, Mr. King and other inmates watched TV in their dorm area of Cellblock 4-B.[2] Changing the TV channel was customarily a task for officers, but Defendants deny that there was a written policy that only officers could control the TV. ( See Doc. # 102-11 at ¶ 21.) Because the TV is out of arm's reach, officers used the end of a broom handle to change the channel. On the morning of Saturday, September 17, 2011, Officer Anderson allowed an inmate to keep the broom for that purpose.[3]

For two hours or so, the inmates handled the entrustment of the broom with dignity, but around 11:00 a.m., an inmate, Rico Gibson, abused the privilege. Mr. King, who is apparently not an Auburn football fan, asked Mr. Gibson about looking for a different football game. Mr. Gibson, who was in possession of the broom, became upset and started calling Mr. King names. Officer Anderson was monitoring the situation from a control booth where he was on duty. He did not leave the booth to mediate the conflict, but he did pound on the window to try to encourage the inmates to stop. Eventually, Mr. King walked away from the verbal confrontation, but as he departed, Mr. Gibson attacked him with the broom handle. Another inmate also jumped in, beating Mr. King with his fists. According to Mr. King, Officers Anderson, Postell, and Scarver watched and failed to intervene. Their alleged deliberate indifference to Mr. King's safety during the attack was captured on video.

When Mr. Gibson attacked Mr. King, Officer Anderson used the intercom to order the inmates to lock down in their cells, but the inmates did not obey. Officer Anderson called the MCCF Central Control to report the fight and announced a "Code Blue" on his hand held radio. Code Blue indicates an inmate-on-inmate fight, and all available officers must report to the scene to help restore order. Officer Anderson remained in the control booth because it is MCCF protocol for the duty-officer not to leave the control booth until another officer can take his place.

Officer Scarver, who was roving the fourth floor and distributing juice to inmates in Cellblock 4-A, heard the commotion in 4-B, reported to the area, and witnessed Mr. Gibson hitting Mr. King with the broom. ( See Doc. # 102-10 (Incident Report).) She also called a "Code Blue" on her radio and waited for other officers to assist. Three officers arrived a little over one minute after Officer Anderson's alert, and they, along with Officer Scarver, entered the cell block to stop the fight. (Doc. # 98, at 4.) According to the Officers, the video of the incident shows that the fight began at 10:54:24, Officer Anderson called for backup four seconds later, and the four officers entered the cell block at 10:55:47. (Doc. # 98, at 4.)[4] During his deposition, Mr. King stated that he believed he was attacked for "at least three or four minutes." (Doc. # 97-1, at 14 (King Dep., at 49).)[5]

Mr. King claims that the Officers appreciated the substantial threat of danger that came with entrusting the broom to the inmates. He accuses Officers Anderson, Postell, and Scarver of failing to enforce MCCF anti-weapons policies and failing to take steps to prevent the harm that he has endured. He cites the MCCF Inmate Handbook's directive that "[w]hen staff enters a cell block for the purpose of [various tasks, including] to change television channels, etc., and you are not locked down, the officer will order you to refrain from talking and to fall-in behind the red line located behind the dayroom tables." (Doc. # 102-1, at Section 1.E.1.) This is a policy governing the conduct of inmates - not officers - when officers enter cellblocks to change a TV channel or perform other services for inmates. Mr. King also references MCCF's predictable policy against inmate possession of weapons and contraband, as well as a "Memorandum of Record" from Officer Ford Williams to Officer Anderson, after the incident at issue in this litigation, wherein she accounts that she "instructed Officer Anderson" and others "that at no time are the inmates to use the broom for any unintended purposes." (Doc. # 102-13.)

The Officers emphasize that inmates were allowed to clean their cells each day with brooms, mops, brushes, and cleaning chemicals. An officer brought the supplies to the cellblock and left them with the inmates for several hours before collecting them. This occurred routinely while Mr. King was incarcerated at MCCF.

2. Details of Medical Care

After Mr. King was attacked, Officer Ford Williams took pictures of Mr. King's injuries. Mr. King's head, face, back, and left hand were swollen, and he claims that his hand was "obviously broken." (Compl. at ¶ 44.) Mr. King requested hospital care, but Officer Ford Williams refused, telling him it was not within her authority to decide if he required hospital care. Nurses with MCCF's medical provider, Quality Correctional Health Care ("QCHC"), evaluated Mr. King at 11:15 a.m. Their notes say that they cleaned, measured, and dressed Mr. King's wounds, recorded his vital signs, checked his vision, and that Mr. King "denied any pain upon departure." (Doc. # 97-1, at 76.) Mr. King denies that his wounds were bandaged or that he told the nurses he was not in pain. Mr. King was placed in a cell in the medical unit for observation. The doctor on call, Dr. Bates, was informed about Mr. King, but Dr. Bates did not examine him. Nurses gave Mr. King Motrin and ice for pain and swelling. Their records for Sunday, September 18, 2011 indicate that Mr. King reported no pain.

On Monday, September 19, 2011, Mr. King was seen by QCHC's employee, Dr. Gurley. Dr. Gurley observed scratches on Mr. King's forehead and two black eyes. He performed a neurological examination. According to Mr. King, Dr. Gurley examined Mr. King's hand after Mr. King showed it to him. (Doc. # 97-6, at 19 (King Dep. at 71).) Dr. Gurley observed that the hand was swollen, but did not diagnose a fracture and returned Mr. King to the inmate population. Mr. King claims that he filled out several sick call requests about pain in his hand that went ignored.[6] Dr. Gurley says that Mr. King was seen by nurses on September 21, 23, and 24 when Mr. King complained of other issues like double vision and headaches. (Doc. #101-2, at 3 (Gurley Aff.).)

A week later on September 26, 2011, Dr. Gurley saw Mr. King a second time. At that point, Dr. Gurley acknowledged that Mr. King may have experienced a boxer's fracture to his hand and ordered x-rays. Otherwise, Dr. Gurley offered no medical treatment because he believed Mr. King was malingering about injuries to his head and sight and that Mr. King just wanted prescription drugs. According to Dr. Gurley, September 26, 2011 was the first time that Mr. King "complained of pain to his hand." (Doc. # 87, at ¶ 54 (Answer to Am. Compl.); see also Doc. # 101-2. at 3 (Gurley Aff.) ("This was the first time the hand had been mentioned to anyone.").) The x-ray, which was taken on September 27 and interpreted on October 2, revealed a fractured left fifth metacarpal. ( See Doc. # 101-2, at 3 (Gurley Aff.).)

On October 5, 2011, Mr. King received outside treatment from Dr. Tucker Mattox at Southern Orthopedic Surgeons, LLC. Dr. Mattox noted the age of the injury, that Mr. King was not being medicated for the injury, that he had prominence of the left fifth metacarpal, and that Mr. King still experienced soreness in his hand. Dr. Mattox decided to splint the finger and to let it heal. He noted that he could not perform open reduction and internal fixation ("ORIF") surgery because Mr. King's hand had begun to heal already.[7] By that time, it had been eighteen days since Mr. King was injured, eleven days since Dr. Gurley had ordered an x-ray, and three days since the x-ray had been interpreted as revealing a fracture.

Dr. Gurley examined Mr. King on October 10, 2011, for Mr. King's complaints of headaches and blurred vision.[8] Dr. Gurley again believed that Mr. King was malingering and drug seeking, but ordered an ophthalmology appointment and more Motrin. Mr. King was transported to Institute for Total Eye Care ("ITEC") on October 17, 2011, where he was seen by Dr. Charles Robbins. Dr. Robbins noted Mr. King's complaints of double or blurred vision but reassured Mr. King that he did not believe that any treatment was necessary.

When Mr. King saw Dr. Mattox again on October 26, 2011, three weeks after his first appointment, Dr. Mattox noted that Mr. King's range of motion was improving but that he did not have full flexion and still had prominence consistent with a fracture. Dr. Mattox noted that Mr. King was not wearing the splint he had furnished. In spite of Mr. King's abandonment of the splint, Dr. Mattox believed that the fifth metacarpal bone was properly positioned and that the fracture was healing well.

Three months after sustaining his injuries, Mr. King was examined for his head injuries. He complained of pain in his back, head, and eye, and of blurry and double vision. Mr. King was taken to Jackson Hospital on January 3, 2012, where he received a CT scan.

Defendants represent that from September 17, 2011, until March 22, 2012, medical staff at MCCF saw Mr. King at least 33 times, and Dr. Gurley saw him 7 times. He was also examined by a psychiatrist, an ophthalmologist, and an orthopedic surgeon, and he received several x-rays and a CT scan. Defendants contend that these actions show that there was no deliberate indifference to Mr. King's medical needs. In his complaint, Mr. King asserts that he should have received professional hospital care after he was attacked, and that an orthopedic specialist should have been consulted much sooner so that his hand could have healed properly. He claims that he continues to suffer from pain and diminished mobility in his hand because the fractured bone did not heal properly. He argues that a lay person can observe that the finger is "not attached ...


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