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Harrison v. Oliver

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

February 10, 2015

RAYMOND HARRISON, (AIS # 186090) Plaintiff,
NOAH PRICE OLIVER, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM E. CASSADY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff, an Alabama prison inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This action was referred to the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.2(c)(4), and is now before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docs. 13, 18). For the reasons stated below, it is recommended that summary judgment be granted in favor of Defendants Mobile County Metro Jail Warden Noah Price Oliver, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran, the Mobile County Sheriff's Department, Mobile County Metro Jail Personnel, and two Transportation Officers, and the claims presented by Plaintiff Raymond Harrison be dismissed with prejudice.

I. Summary of Alleged Facts[1]

This action arises from the over-detention of Plaintiff Harrison. Harrison was imprisoned at Limestone Correctional Facility ("Limestone") with an estimated release date of October 30, 2013. (Doc. 1 at 3). While housed at Limestone, Harrison participated in and completed courses at Calhoun Community Junior College and secured employment for himself with Dunn Construction Company in Birmingham, Alabama. (Id.). Upon his release from prison, Harrison was expected to attend orientation with Dunn Construction Company on October 31, 2013, and then begin employment on November 1, 2013. (Id.; Doc. 29 at 1). However, Harrison's plans were fortuitously altered on October 30, 2013, when he was not released from Limestone as a free man; rather, he was detained and transferred to Mobile County Metro Jail ("Mobile Metro") for an alleged pending charge against him. (Doc. 1 at 7).

Transportation officers arrived at approximately 11:10 a.m. on October 31, 2013, to transport Harrison to Mobile Metro. (Doc. 13-1 at 24). Harrison attempted to explain that the alleged outstanding charge was in fact a mistake, as he had paid a bond on the charge two years earlier. (Doc. 1 at 7). Despite his verbal attempts to persuade the officials and his presentation of legal documents evidencing the executed bond from August 2011, he was restrained in hand and leg cuffs and transported from Limestone to Mobile Metro, without being secured in a seat-belt and without being provided any food or water for the duration of the transport, notwithstanding notifying the transportation officers that he suffered from Type II diabetes. (Id. at 7-8). Upon arrival at Mobile Metro, after approximately 10 hours of traveling, Harrison was booked into the jail, received a medical screening, and was provided food. (Doc. 17 at 2). He spent less than eight hours in a cell before being released from Mobile Metro on November 1, 2013. (Id.).

Respondents do not contest Harrison's version of events; however, their submitted special report clarifies and explains the inadvertent over-detention of Harrison. (Doc. 13). The Alabama Department of Corrections notified Mobile Metro in early October 2013 that Harrison was due to be released from Limestone at the end of October but that outstanding charges remained for him in Mobile County. (Doc. 13 at 1). Mobile Metro staff consulted two different electronic filing systems to review the status of charges pending against Harrison. AlaCourt, the state electronic filing system, as well as JMS, the Mobile Metro Jail's internal filing system, both revealed that Harrison had an outstanding charge from 2011 of receipt of stolen property in the second degree, for which he had not made bond. (Doc. 13-1 at 8). Based on the database information, transportation officers were sent to retrieve Harrison from Limestone and bring him to Mobile Metro. (Doc. 13 at 1; Doc. 13-1 at 5).

Upon Harrison's return to Mobile Metro, it was determined that he signed bond for the charge on August 4, 2011, however the bond release information was never entered into the AlaCourt system. (Doc. 13 at 1; Doc. 13-1 at 8-9). The investigation into Harrison's 2011 bond did not expose why the AlaCourt database was not updated with the bond information nor whose responsibility it had been to input the bond information. (Doc. 13 at 1-2). Consequent to uncovering that Harrison had in fact made bond on his 2011 charge, he was immediately released from Mobile Metro, and the AlaCourt database was updated with the correct information. (Doc. 13 at 2; Doc. 13-1 at 2, 8).

Harrison brought suit against Mobile County Metro Jail Warden Noah Price Oliver, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran, the Mobile County Sheriff's Department, Mobile County Metro Jail Personnel, and the Transportation Officers who transported him from Limestone to Mobile Metro on October 31, 2013, for wrongful detention for over-detaining him, neglectful supervision that resulted in over-detention, and reckless endangerment during his transportation from Limestone to Mobile Metro.[2] (Doc. 1). He seeks monetary relief in the amount of $250, 000.00 for damages suffered.

Defendants, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran and Noah Price Oliver, III, Warden of Mobile County Metro Jail, answered the suit (docs. 13, 18), [3] and the Court converted Defendants' answer and special report to a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 14). Plaintiff Harrison filed numerous responses to the motion for summary judgment. (Docs. 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 29, 30). After a thorough review of the record, the motion for summary judgment is now ripe for consideration.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ("The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment."); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1165 (11th Cir. 2009) ("[S]ummary judgment is appropriate even if some alleged factual dispute' between the parties remains, so long as there is no genuine issue of material fact.'").

The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of establishing, based upon the discovery instruments outlined in Rule 56(c), that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); see also Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007) ("The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial."). Once this initial demonstration is made, the "responsibility then devolves upon the non-movant to show the existence of a genuine issue... [of] material fact." Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993); see also Allen, supra, at 1314 ("When a moving party has discharged its burden, the non-moving party must then "go beyond the pleadings, " and show by its own affidavits, or by "depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, " designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'") internal citations omitted); see Comer v. City of Palm Bay, Fla., 265 F.3d 1186, 1192 (11th Cir. 2001) ("Once the moving party discharges its initial burden of showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the non-moving party must specify facts proving the existence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial confirmed by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file.'") (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Forbidding reliance upon pleadings precludes a party from "choos[ing] to wait until trial to develop claims or defenses relevant to the summary judgment motion."... This effectuates the purpose of summary judgment which "is to pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'"... Thus, "mere general allegations which do not reveal detailed and precise facts" will not prevent the award of summary judgment upon a court's determination that no genuine issue for trial exists.

Resolution Trust Corp. v. Dunmar Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 592 (11th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. Jones v. Resolution Trust Corp., 516 U.S. 817, 116 S.Ct. 74, 133 L.Ed.2d 33 (1995); see also LaChance v. Duffy's Draft House, Inc., 146 F.3d 832, 835 (11th Cir. 1998) ("[The nonmoving party] must raise significant probative evidence' that would be sufficient for a jury to find for that party."). In other words, there is no genuine issue for trial "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party[.]" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); see Comer, supra, 265 F.3d at 1192 ("Summary judgment is required where the non-moving party's response to a motion is merely a repetition of his conclusional allegations' and is unsupported by evidence showing an issue for trial.").

In considering whether Defendants are entitled to summary judgment in this action, the Court has viewed the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Comer, supra, 265 F.3d at 1192 ("We view the evidence and all factual inferences raised by it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in favor of the non-moving party.").

The requirement to view the facts in the nonmoving party's favor extends only to "genuine" disputes over material facts. A genuine dispute requires more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." A "mere scintilla" of evidence is insufficient; the non-moving party must produce substantial evidence in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment.

Garczynski, supra, 573 F.3d at 1165 (internal citations omitted). In addition, "[t]here is no burden upon the district court to distill every potential argument that could be made based upon the materials before it on summary judgment." Resolution Trust Corp., supra, 43 F.3d at 599.

III. Analysis.

A. Fictitious Parties and Defendants Immune from Suit.

1. Fictitious Party Pleading.

In authoring his suit, Harrison named two "Transportation Officers assigned to pick me up from Limestone Co. Jail on 10-31-013 [sic]" as defendants in this action. (Doc. 1 at 2). "As a general matter, fictitious-party pleading is not permitted in federal court." Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010); see also CSX Transp., Inc. v. United Transp. Union, 236 F.Appx. 562, 563 n.1 (11th Cir. 2007) ("the Federal Rules do not authorize suit against fictitious parties"), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1243, 128 S.Ct. 1475, 170 L.Ed.2d 297 (2008); Featherstone v. Home Oil Co., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139102, 2011 WL 5978774, at *1 n.4 (S.D. Ala. Nov. 8, 2011) (subject to a limited exception, "fictitious party practice is not permitted in federal court"). The limited exception to this rule is when the plaintiff's description of the defendant is so specific as to be "at the very worst, surplusage." Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1215-16 (11th Cir. 1992).

Generally, Harrison's attempt to file suit against "two Transportation Officers" would be an inadequate identification of persons necessary to file a § 1983 action against them. However, the Court finds Harrison sufficiently described the unnamed defendants to overcome the bar to pleading a fictitious party. Harrison specified the date, times, geographic location of his transport, as well as the race and sex of the officers. (Id. at 4). Therefore, the Court contends that necessary ...

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