United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DANIEL B. CLARK, Plaintiff,
CODY PRICE, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
magistrate judge filed a report on November 13, 2017,
recommending the defendants' motion for summary judgment
be granted in part and denied in part. (Doc. 38).
Specifically, the magistrate judge recommended that the
defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted on the
plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive force claims
against them in their official capacities for monetary
relief. (Id.). The magistrate judge further
recommended that the defendants' motion for summary
judgment on the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment excessive
force claims against them in their individual capacities be
denied. (Id.). The defendants filed objections to
the report and recommendation on November 27, 2017. (Doc.
Scott v. Harris
defendants first argue that the magistrate judge did not
apply Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372 (2007), to the
summary judgment facts. (Doc. 40 at 2-12). The defendants
contend that the evidence blatantly contradicts the
plaintiff's version of events and the court should not
credit the plaintiff's version of events under
Scott, a video recorded a high speed chase between a
police officer and a §1983 plaintiff and contradicted
the plaintiff's version of events. Id. at
374-75, 378-81. The Supreme Court held that the
plaintiff's version of events was “so utterly
discredited by the record, " it would view the
“facts in the light depicted by the videotape."
Id. at 380-81. The Court explained that
“[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories,
one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that
no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt
that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion
for summary judgment." Id. at 380.
contrast to Scott, the record here does not contain
a video of the encounter between Mr. Clark and defendants on
April 13, 2016. The Eleventh Circuit has since analyzed the
holding in Scott in cases that do not involve video
evidence. See Morton v. Kirkwood, 707 F.3d 1276,
1284-85 (11th Cir. 2013); Joassin v. Murphy, 661
Fed.App'x 558, 559-60 (11th Cir. 2016).
Clark alleges that on April 13, 2016, he was handcuffed
behind his back during a medical examination in the Health
Care Unit. (Doc. 33 at 19, Clark Aff.). He claims that during
the examination, Officer Nathan Johnson accused the plaintiff
of looking at him. (Id.). Mr. Clark states that he
looked away from Officer Nathan Johnson, but Johnson walked
into his view and accused the plaintiff of Aeyeballing"
him. (Id.). Mr. Clark responded that no rule
prevented the plaintiff from looking at Nathan Johnson.
Clark alleges that Sergeant Cody Price placed his right hand
on the plaintiff's left shoulder and told him to Astop
smarting off at his [o]fficers." (Doc. 33 at 20, Clark
Aff.). Thereafter, he claims Sergeant Price Aeased his thumb
over my windpipe and was pressing them together." (Doc.
33 at 20, Clark Aff.). Mr. Clark alleges he could not move
his head or neck and that Price pressed on his windpipe until
he started Apassing out." (Id.). He states that
Sergeant Clint Johnson threw him head first onto the floor.
(Doc. 33 at 20, Clark Aff.). He contends Sergeant Clint
Johnson, Sergeant Price, and Correctional Officer Nathan
Johnson began to assault him while he was still handcuffed
behind his back. (Doc. 7 at 4; Doc. 33 at 3). Specifically,
Mr. Clark alleges Nathan Johnson Acame down" on his back
and twisted his arm while Clint Johnson kneed him in the back
and hit him on his thighs. (Doc. 33 at 20, Clark Aff.). He
claims Sergeant Price had his left hand pressed on the right
side of the plaintiff's face, pushing the plaintiff's
face against the floor. (Id.). Mr. Clark alleges
Sergeant Price took his right hand and continued to squeeze
the plaintiff's windpipe, stating, “'Bitch[, ]
I will kill you! Bitch[, ] this [is] how you choke a
mutherfucker [sic]!'" (Id.).
Clark contends that when the officers saw that he was not
fighting back, they stopped assaulting him and told him to
get into a seated position. (Doc. 33 at 20, Clark Aff.). He
argues that he posed no threat to himself, security staff, or
medical staff and did not exhibit any aggressive behavior
before officers assaulted him. (Doc. 33 at 11, 15-16).
Peoples conducted a “Post Use of Force"
examination of the plaintiff. (Doc. 24-8 at 9-10). She noted
that the plaintiff's eyes were red, but that he had no
head or other injuries A[at] this time." (Id.
at 9). Peoples advised the plaintiff that if he had any
changes in his medical condition to notify medical staff as
soon as possible. (Id. at 10).
April 19, 2016, Mr. Clark submitted a sick call request in
which he stated that he sustained a severe concussion three
to four weeks prior and that he was experiencing similar
symptoms as a result of Sergeant Price, Sergeant Clint
Johnson, and Officer Nathan Johnson “slamm[ing]"
him on his head on April 13, 2016. (Doc. 24-8 at 11). On
April 20, 2016, medical staff examined the plaintiff for
complaints of headache, blurred vision, and dizziness and
prescribed him pain medication. (Doc. 24-8 at 12-13). Mr.
Clark states he was already prescribed medication for
dizziness and “there was nothing more [medical staff]
could do." (Doc. 33 at 12).
plaintiff and the defendants have submitted the photographs
taken of him shortly after the use of force on April 13,
2016. (Doc. 24-1 at 4; Doc. 34 at 18). Both the plaintiff and
the defendants argue that the photographs support their
version of events. Mr. Clark contends the photographs show
swelling to the left side of his face as a result of the
defendants throwing him to the ground and Sergeant Price
holding his head down on the floor. (Doc. 34 at 18). The
defendants argue the photographs do not show any injury to
the plaintiff and contradict his claims. (Doc. 40 at 6).
However, the court cannot tell definitively from the black
and white photographs whether Mr. Clark's face is
swollen, the condition of his neck, or whether he incurred
any bruising as a result of the defendants allegedly throwing
him down, choking him, kneeing him in the back, and hitting
him on his thighs. (Doc. 24-1 at 4; Doc. 34 at 18). Thus,
viewing the photographs in a light most favorable to the
plaintiff, they do not rule out his claims.
defendants also note that Mr. Clark was involved in an
altercation at Staton Correctional Facility on May 9, 2016,
and beaten severely. (Doc. 40 at 9; Doc. 24-1 at 10; Doc.
24-8 at 15-21). They argue that Mr. Clark made no mention of
the injuries he sustained after the April 13, 2016 assault in
the medical records compiled after his May 9, 2016 assault.
(Doc. 40 at 9-12). However, Mr. Clark's failure to
reference an injury he sustained nearly a month before in an
unrelated incident at a different facility does not, by
itself, discredit his claims in the present action.
on the foregoing, this situation is not one where the record
contains evidence that so blatantly contradicts the
plaintiffs testimony as to render it utterly discredited and
to preclude the existence of a genuine dispute of material
fact. See Joassin v. Murphy, 661 Fed.App'x 558,
559-60 (11th Cir. 2016) (finding prison investigator and
prison nurse's declarations and records of the
inmate's medical treatment did not blatantly contradict
and utterly discredit the plaintiffs testimony under
Scott where the prison investigator and prison nurse
were merely interested witnesses) (citing Jackson v.
West,787 F.3d 1345, 1357 n.6 (11th Cir. 2015)
(“One cannot >refute' a witness's statements
using another witness's statements at summary judgment;
such a swearing contest is one for the jury to
resolve.")); Pearson v. Taylor, 665
Fed.App'x 858, 865 (11th Cir. 2016) (finding that the
medical records refuted the inmate's allegations only as
to the severity or existence of his injuries and noting that
“our inquiry is not whether [the plaintiff] met a
certain arbitrary injury requirement, " but whether
force was applied to maintain or restore discipline or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm) (citation
omitted). Moreover, Mr. ...