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Jacoby v. Keers

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

July 12, 2017

BRENT JACOBY, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICERS JOSHUA KEERS AND JOHN ROWELL, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, Defendants.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

          CALLIE V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Officers Joshua Keers and John Rowell's renewed motion for summary judgment (Docs. 102, 103), Plaintiff's response in opposition (Doc. 108), and Defendants' reply thereto (Doc. 111). For the reasons stated below, the Court finds the Defendants' motion for summary judgment is due to be granted.

         I. Background Facts

         Plaintiff Brent Jacoby, at the time relevant to the instant action, was a pretrial detainee at the Baldwin County Sheriff's Corrections Center (BCSCC). By April 2012, Plaintiff had developed a reputation for being “a difficult inmate who sought to be the center of attention and would regularly disrupt the orderly running of the BCSCC.” (Doc. 103-1, p. 2). Based on his disciplinary report and his volatile, problematic behavior, BCSCC officers and officials used “extra caution when handling Jacoby.”[1] Id. at p. 3; see also Doc. 45-1.

         On April 13, 2012, BSCSS officials removed Plaintiff from his cell to administrative segregation pending a disciplinary hearing. (Doc. 103-2, p. 4). Upon realizing that some of his personal possessions, including a legal book from the facility's library, had not been transferred to the segregation cell, Plaintiff became angry and began “yelling, kicking the door of his cell, and becoming generally disruptive.” Id. Defendant Rowell instructed Plaintiff to cease these actions, but Plaintiff continued his behavior. Id. Defendant Rowell then informed his supervisor, Staff Sergeant (now Lieutenant) Mark Wilson, of the incident and received authorization to “use pepper spray to gain [Plaintiff's] compliance.” (Doc. 103-1, p. 3). Defendants recorded the incident on video. (Doc. 103-5).

         The video shows Defendants, along with a third corrections officer, [2]standing outside of Plaintiff's cell door for approximately ten seconds, in which they gave verbal commands for Plaintiff to lie on the floor. (Doc. 103-5). Plaintiff failed to comply with the command, and the video shows he had wrapped his head in a some fabric and was holding a sheet in front of his body as a protective shield. Id. at 0:10. After the cell door opened, Defendants deployed one burst of pepper spray and commanded Plaintiff to “get on the floor” multiple times. Id. at 0:12-0:15. Plaintiff failed to comply with these orders, and Defendant Rowell diffused the pepper spray a second time. Id. at 0:21. Thereafter, Plaintiff is seen on his knees and leaning his head against the sheet, which is on the ground. Id. at 0:28. Defendants placed him in a supine position and handcuffed his hands behind his back. Id. at 0:28-0:45. The Defendants led Plaintiff out of the cell approximately one minute and four seconds after the recording begins. Id.

         While being escorted to be decontaminated, Plaintiff began complaining about his transfer to segregation using foul language and threatening another lawsuit. (Doc. 103-5 at 1:45). He continued in an aggravated manner and spoke directly to the camera to report his grievance of being put in segregation. Id. at 2:17-2:24. During this time, he made no mention of any pain, discomfort, or other symptom from the pepper spray. Id. A few seconds later, Defendants began decontaminating Plaintiff by washing his head and face with potable water from a sink for approximately thirty seconds. Id. at 2:35-3:05. Plaintiff requested water to rinse his mouth, and Defendants allowed him to take multiple sips from the sink. Id. at 2:47-2:55. The video shows Defendants rinsed Plaintiff's face, with particular attention to the eye area. Id. After washing Plaintiff's head and face, Defendants continued the decontamination by gently wiping Plaintiff's face with a paper towel. Id. at 3:05. More than three minutes after first being sprayed, Plaintiff had yet to make any complaints about pain or discomfort. Id. Instead, after being decontaminated, he resumed his caustic remarks about being “locked up” in segregation. Id. at 3:10.

         Once Plaintiff was seated in the restraint chair, he lodged two complaints about his discomfort. He leaned down to wipe his eyes on his pants leg and then asked to remove his shirt because it was “soaked from mace.” (Doc. 103-5 at 4:14, 4:33). Over the next thirty or so seconds, he directly addressed the camera and made the following remarks: “Leave me like this eight hours. Maced up. Can't open my eyes.” See Id. at 4:44, 4:55, 5:15. Throughout this exchange, he yelled, used foul language, and threatened to sue the officers. Id. at 5:15-5:37. The video then shows Defendants placing Plaintiff in the restraints and captures Plaintiff's incoherent yells. Id. (continuing through the end of the video).

         After placing Plaintiff in the restraint chair, Defendants ordered him to be on general observation with fifteen-minute checks. (Doc. 103-2, p. 5). These checks require an officer on duty to check on Plaintiff approximately every fifteen minutes to “document the inmate's condition.” (Doc. 103-1, p. 4). Photographs from these checks indicate Plaintiff was allowed to remove his “soaked” shirt and pants after about fifteen or twenty minutes. (Doc. 103-7, pp. 2-5). The photographs and accompanying Close Observation Forms indicate Plaintiff had access to his meal, had his contaminated clothing removed, and had the restraints loosed over time as his demeanor became “calm [and] compliant[.]” (Docs. 103-6, 103-7, 103-1, p. 4).

         II. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initially filed this suit with a verified complaint on May 31, 2012. (Doc. 1). This Court dismissed Defendants Baldwin County and Sergeant Scott before service of process (Docs. 18, 19) and ordered the remaining defendants to file a Special Report and Answer (Doc. 20). Thereafter, the Court converted the Special Report to a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 69). This Court then entered summary judgment in favor of all Defendants on all counts after a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 76; see also Doc. 71).

         Plaintiff appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim against Defendants Officers Rowell and Keers and remanded to this Court for further proceedings. Jacoby v. Baldwin Cnty., 666 F. App'x 759, 766 (11th Cir. 2016); see also Doc. 85. Thereafter, this Court entered a Rule 16(b) Scheduling Order (Doc. 97), allowing both parties to submit dispositive motions (Docs. 97, 101).

         III. Summary Judgment Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted “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.” The trial court's function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “There mere existence of some evidence to support the nonmoving party is not sufficient for a denial of summary judgment; there must be ‘sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.'” Bailey v. Allgas, Inc., 284 F.3d 1237, 1243 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted).

         The basic issue before the Court on a motion for summary judgment is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52. The moving party bears the burden of proving no genuine issue of material fact exists. O'Ferrell v. United States, 253 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2001). In evaluating the argument of the moving party, the Court must view all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and resolve all reasonable doubts about the facts in its favor. Burton v. City of Belle Glade, 178 F.3d 1175, 1187 (11th Cir. 1999). “If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment.” Miranda v. B & B Cash Grocery Store, Inc., 975 F.2d 1518, 1534 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Mercantile Bank & Trust v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 750 F.2d 838, 841 (11th Cir. 1985)).

         Once the movants satisfies their initial burden under Rule 56(c), the nonmoving party “must make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of each essential element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Howard v. BP Oil Co., 32 F.3d 520, 524 (11th Cir. 1994) (citing Celotext Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). Otherwise stated, the nonmovant must “demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment.” See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). The nonmoving party “may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must . . . set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” Vega v. Invsco Group, Ltd., 432 F. A'ppx 867, 870 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)). “A mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the [nonmoving] party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the jury could reasonable find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). “[T]he nonmoving party may avail itself of all facts and justifiable inferences in the record taken as a whole.” Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. V. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         IV. ...


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