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Ricks v. Hutton

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division

March 26, 2015

RUFUS RICKS, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
CAPTAIN JOHN HUTTON, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES H. HANCOCK, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Rufus Ricks, Jr., filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he had been deprived of rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States of America during his incarceration at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama. Named as defendants in the amended complaint are Captain John Hutton; Lieutenant Felicia Ford; and Sergeant Robert Rutledge. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

I. CASE HISTORY

Because the initial complaint in this matter named fictitious defendants, the plaintiff was ordered on June 28, 2013, to amend his complaint by naming defendants who are subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, identifying all defendants by name and/or other identifying information, and showing specifically how each named defendant acted under color of state law to violate his federal rights. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint on July 19, 2013. (Doc. 8). On November 25, 2013, the court entered an Order for Special Report directing that copies of the initial and amended complaints be forwarded to the defendants and requesting they file a special report addressing the plaintiff's factual allegations therein. The parties were advised that the special report, if appropriate, might be construed as a motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The defendants filed their special report on January 24, 2014, accompanied by affidavits and copies of certain administrative and medical records pertaining to the plaintiff and another inmate, Patrick Crenshaw. (Doc. 13). On August 22, 2014, the parties were notified that the court would construe the defendants' special report as a motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff was notified that he would have twenty days to respond to the motion by filing affidavits or other material if he so chose. The plaintiff was advised of the consequences of any default or failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. See Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985).

When the plaintiff failed to respond, the court entered an order on December 30, 2014, notifying the parties that the matter would be deemed submitted on January 12, 2015. (Doc. 16). The plaintiff responded by seeking appointment of counsel and advising the court that he wished to proceed with this matter. (Doc. 17). Although his motion for appointment of counsel was denied, the plaintiff was afforded an additional ten days to respond to summary judgment on January 15, 2015. (Doc. 18). The plaintiff submitted a response on January 29, 2015. (Doc. 19). The plaintiff was afforded an additional ten days on February 4, 2015, to submit a further response. (Doc. 21). However, he has failed to file anything further. Accordingly, this matter is now before the court on the defendants' special report (doc. 13) which is being construed as a motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff's response thereto. (Doc. 19).

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Because the special report of the defendants is being construed as a motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine whether the moving parties, the defendants, are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment may be granted only if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. In making that assessment, the Court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The burden of proof is upon the moving party to establish his prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by showing the absence of genuine issues and that he is due to prevail as a matter of law. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604 (11th Cir. 1991). Once that initial burden has been carried, however, the non-moving party may not merely rest upon his pleading, but must come forward with evidence supporting each essential element of his claim. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923 (11th Cir. 1989). Unless the plaintiff, who carries the ultimate burden of proving his action, is able to show some evidence with respect to each element of his claim, all other issues of fact become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986); Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530 (11th Cir. 1990). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained:

Facts in dispute cease to be "material" facts when the plaintiff fails to establish a prima facie case. "In such a situation, there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." [citations omitted]. Thus, under such circumstances, the public official is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, because the plaintiff has failed to carry the burden of proof. This rule facilitates the dismissal of factually unsupported claims prior to trial.

898 F.2d at 1532.

III. PLAINTIFF'S FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

The following facts are undisputed or, if disputed, taken in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, who is a state prisoner currently confined at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama. His complaint deals with events occurring at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama, at which John Hutton is a Correctional Captain, Felicia Ford is a Correctional Lieutenant, and Robert Rutledge is a Correctional Sergeant.

After a series of disciplinary infractions, all but one of which was resolved by a guilty plea (doc. 13-2), the plaintiff was placed in the disciplinary segregation unit on April 23, 2013, where he was placed in cell E2-3A with inmate Patrick Crenshaw.[1] (Doc. 1 at 3-4).[2] In the weeks leading up to this time, Crenshaw had been involved in several incidents at the prison, which the plaintiff contends put the defendants on notice that Crenshaw was too dangerous to have as a cellmate.[3]

On April 7, 2013, Crenshaw is reported to have stabbed two inmates. (Doc. 13-4 at 2). An investigation of the incident revealed that the stabbing "stemmed from Inmate Crenshaw being involved in a homosexual relationship with [the victims]." Id. [4] Two days later, an officer conducting a check in the segregation unit noticed blood on the floor of Crenshaw's cell and alerted a Sergeant who escorted Crenshaw to the medical unit. Id. at 6. The body chart prepared by a nurse indicated "several superficial abrasions and cuts to [Crenshaw's] left wrist." Id. at 6. According to the incident report, Crenshaw admitted to the Sergeant that he had cut himself "because he wanted to leave Bibb County." Id. at 6. On the advice of a nurse in the mental health unit, Crenshaw was placed in a "crisis cell with suicide mat and blanket smock." Id. at 6.

On April 13, 2013, Crenshaw was back in the E-dorm segregation unit, where he started a fire in his cell by lighting his blanket on fire. (Doc. 13-4 at 7). Crenshaw was again placed on suicide watch after he told a nurse in the medical unit that he "felt like hurting himself." Id. Two days later, a rover conducting a security check in the infirmary noticed that Crenshaw had flooded his cell, and was being "disruptive and combative." Id. at 9. Crenshaw was seen by a member of the mental health unit and reassigned living quarters "pending disciplinary action." Id. at 9. At that point he was placed back in the segregation unit in cell E2-3A, where the plaintiff would be placed a few days later. Id. at 9. Captain Hutton testifies that "an inmate that is on Mental Health must be housed in ...


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