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Johnson v. Conner

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

February 17, 2015

SHERRIE JOHNSON, as administratrix of the Estate of ALQUWON JOHNSON, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
RYAN CONNER; SONYA MAYO; BARBOUR COUNTY; GEORGE PARHAM; BARBOUR COUNTY COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

W. HAROLD ALBRITTON, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This cause is before the court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Barbour County and the Barbour County Commission (Doc. #88), and a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Ryan Conner, Sonya Mayo, and George Parham (collectively Athe Defendants@) (Doc. #90).

The Plaintiff filed a Complaint and two amended Complaints in the Circuit Court of Barbour County, Alabama, Clayton Division. After the Second Amended Complaint was filed, the Defendants filed a Notice of Removal on April 30, 2012. The court has federal question jurisdiction over the federal claims, and supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims. The Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint bringing claims for negligence (Count One); negligent hiring, training, and supervision (Count Two); violation of state statutory law (Count Three and Seven); violation of state statutory law (Count Four); supervisory liability (Count Five); violation of the fourteenth amendment (Count Six); violation of the fourteenth amendment (Count Eight); and fictitious defendants (Count Nine).

After the court ruled on Motions to Dismiss the Third Amended Complaint, the case proceeded against Barbour County and the Barbour County Commission on federal and state law claims in Counts Four through Eight, state law claims against Defendants Parham, Conner, and Mayo in Counts One and Two, and federal claims of deliberate indifference against Mayo in Counts Six and Seven. Part of the court's ruling on the Motions to Dismiss included denying state sovereign immunity, finding that the amended state statute did not apply.

The Defendants appealed the state sovereign immunity denial to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, finding that the Defendants could not claim immunity under amended Alabama Code § 14-6-1. (Doc. #72).

The case is now before the court on motions for summary judgment. For reasons to be discussed, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Barbour County and the Barbour County Commission is due to be GRANTED, and the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Ryan Conner, Sonya Mayo, and George Parham is due to be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper "if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party asking for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, @ relying on submissions Awhich it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must Ago beyond the pleadings@ and show that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

Both the party Aasserting that a fact cannot be, @ and a party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed, must support their assertions by Aciting to particular parts of materials in the record, @ or by Ashowing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.@ Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1)(A), (B). Acceptable materials under Rule 56(c)(1)(A) include Adepositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.@

To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must do more than show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). On the other hand, the evidence of the nonmovant must be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in its favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary judgment, the court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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).

III. FACTS

On January 31, 2011, Alquwon Johnson, an eighteen-year-old man, was detained in the Barbour County Jail pending trial on charges of first degree robbery.

Defendant Sonya Mayo ("Mayo") is a corrections officer at the jail. Defendant Ryan Conner ("Conner") is the jail administrator. Defendant George Parham ("Parham") is a captain at the jail, and reports to Conner.

On May 5, 2011, Johnson threw a television against a window within the Barbour County Jail. He was moved to a private holding cell. While in the cell, Johnson attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet. Parham discovered Johnson, who survived the attempt. Parham then placed Johnson on suicide watch. In his deposition, Parham states that suicide watch means that officers checked on Johnson and logged their observations. (Doc. #103-3 at p.65:5-8). Parham also removed sheets, towels, and all of Johnson's property from the cell. (Doc. #103-3 at p. 64:14-22).

Barbour County Jail policy 11.15 states that if an inmate is a suicide risk, proper mental health authorities should be notified and asked to do an evaluation. No mental health authority was notified about Johnson's suicide attempt. (Doc. #92-5 at p.196:15-17).

On May 8, 2011, Johnson was moved out of the holding cell to the Special Needs Unit within the jail. This decision was made by Conner at Parham's recommendation. Parham has testified that Johnson was removed from suicide watch. Jail officials have testified that Johnson was placed in Special Needs both because of his suicide attempt and to prevent other jail detainees from harming him. Conner stated in his deposition that after Johnson "tried to harm himself, we put him in special needs to where there's a closer watch." (Doc. #92-4 at p. 48:12-14).

The Special Needs Unit is a small block of four cells which has greater visibility than the general population units.

During the time in question, Mayo was working on the second shift at the jail, from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. Part of her duties included supervision of the Special Needs Unit. Mayo states in an affidavit that she understands that Johnson was placed in the Special Needs Unit because of his suicide attempt and for his safety from other inmates. (Doc. #92-2 at ¶6). The Plaintiff contends that Mayo was in charge of dispensing Johnson's medications. Mayo's deposition indicates that she dispensed medications while she was working, but that a prescription medication was dispensed daily at a time before her shift began.

On June 3, 2011, while he was in the Special Needs Unit, Mayo placed Johnson on lockdown for less than 24 hours for passing a cigarette under the door, which was a rules violation. Lockdown meant that he was placed in a cell, his cell mate was removed, and his door was kept shut. Mayo did not remove bedding from ...


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