United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. BIVINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
De' Angelo Arnez Jones, 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(a)(2)(R), and is now before
the undersigned on Defendants' Motion For Summary
Judgment. After careful review of the pleadings, and for the
reasons set out below, it is recommended that Defendants'
motion be granted in part and denied in part, as set out in
Summary of Allegations.
De'Angelo Arnez Jones brings this action against Walter
Myers, William DeSpain, Gary Scarbrough, John Wiley, and
Michael Everette for acts of negligence and deliberate
indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 1).
its review of the record, the Court summarizes the material
factual allegations in this case in the light most favorable
to Jones . On June 29, 2014, while housed in Dorm
C, at Holman Correctional Facility, Plaintiff Jones claims
that inmate Shakil Gamble attacked him with a knife, causing
injuries to his back, arms, and chest. (Doc. 1 at 4).
According to Jones, Officer John Wiley was assigned to
monitor Dorm C at the time of the attack, but Wiley left his
post unattended and was “chatting with another officer
outside the dorm when the assault occurred.”
(Id.). Inmates Santonio Hicks and Bobby Shamburger
assisted in stopping the attack by temporarily restraining
inmate Gamble and allowing Jones the opportunity to seek help
from an officer. (Id.). Jones alleges that while
inmate Gamble was restrained, he ran to the front of the
dormitory, shook on the bars and yelled to the cadet officer
in the cubicle to let him out of the dorm, but Officer Wiley
would not authorize or order the door to be opened.
(Id.). Jones further alleges that Inmate Gamble
broke loose from the inmates' hold and proceeded to chase
Jones in circles around the dormitory with the knife, while
Officers Gary Scarbrough and Wiley, “stared” and
“pointed” at Jones from inside the cubical, and
watched as inmate Gamble chased him with a
weapon. (Id. at 4, 8, 11; Doc. 31-1 at
to Jones, the officers never intervened to assist him.
Instead, inmate Gamble eventually “tired out” and
voluntarily stopped chasing him. (Doc. 1 at 4, 8).
Additionally, Jones claims he did not receive medical
attention for his stabbing injuries until the next shift
change,  approximately three hours later, when the
evening shift supervisor, Sergeant Bettis, received a tip,
questioned him (and inmate Gamble) about the attack, obtained
medical attention for him (and inmate Gamble), and
transferred both Jones and Gamble to administrative
segregation pending an investigation of the
incident. (Id. at 8).
alleges that in the days following the incident, Warden Myers
and Classification Specialist DeSpain spoke with him and
assured him that “[his] attacker would not go
unpunished” and that Jones would be returned to general
population once his wounds healed. (Id.). The
Segregation Board, which included Defendants Myers and
DeSpain, released Jones to general population on August 5,
2014, and subsequently released Inmate Gamble to general
population (unbeknownst to Jones) on August 12, 2014.
asserts that on August 12, 2014, within an hour of Inmate
Gamble's release to general population, Gamble attacked
Jones with a knife in “the Masjid” near the S-4
gate, and caused injuries to Jones' left eye, arms,
shoulders, and neck. (Id. at 9; Doc. 23-4 at 10).
Jones also claims that while stabbing him in the chest, arms,
shoulders, and back, Inmate Gamble shouted, “I told you
I was coming”; “I bet you Die this time!”
and “Shut up, ain't nobody here!” (Doc. 1 at
9; Doc. 31-1 at 4). According to Jones, no officers were
posted in the area where the attack occurred, and although
the attack was observable from the “Population Shift
Office, ” no officers intervened in the fight.
(Id. at 8-9). Jones asserts that inmate Antonio
Nichols helped to restrain inmate Gamble, and while he was
doing so, Jones was able to remove the knife from
Gamble's hand. (Id. at 9). Jones further
contends that he and inmate Nichols “wrestled with
Inmate Gamble to hold him down on the floor” until the
correctional officers arrived. (Id. at 9).
Everette, Lieutenant Watson, and Sergeant Kidd arrived to the
scene of the altercation (after unnamed inmates informed the
officers of the assault). According to Jones, the responding
officers remained approximately four to five feet away from
the fighting inmates. (Id.). Jones asserts that he
approached the officers, with the weapon in hand, to seek
medical attention, but instead of walking towards him, the
officers backed away and ordered him to “drop the
weapon”, to which he complied. (Id., Doc. 31-1
at 5). Jones promptly received treatment following the
incident, including sutures to his left eyelid and orbital
scans. (Doc. 23-4 at 8, 10, 14, 20).
alleges that while he was in the healthcare unit, Warden
Myers stood alongside the doctor and questioned him about the
incident and remarked “how ‘dumb' inmate
Gamble was for blowing his ‘second chance'”
and “admonish[ed] [Jones] for ‘not telling
[Warden Myers] that Inmate Gamble still had a problem with
[Jones.]'” (Doc. 1 at 9). Jones further asserts that
Defendant Myers . . . appeared to be disappointed. He shook
his head, and asked the whereabouts inmate Gamble; whom [sic]
was in the next room, receiving medical treatment; whereof,
it is my opinion, that there may have been some kind of
“verbal agreement” between inmate Gamble and
Defendant Myers, following the week after I had been released
from segregation, that Gamble would ‘not attack me
again', wherefore, my opinion was drawn after hearing
Defendant Myers ask inmate Gamble, in the next room, quote
on[sic] quote, “Now why you went right back and bother
(Doc. 31-1 at 5). Following the attack and medical treatment,
both inmates were placed in administrative segregation, both
received disciplinary charges, were officially validated as
enemies, and inmate Gamble was subsequently transferred to
another correctional facility. (Id.; Doc. 23-4 at 8,
10, 17, 20; Doc. 23-8 at 4-15; Doc 26; Doc. 30 at 17, 29,
brings this § 1983 action against the defendants
asserting claims related to the June 29 and August 12, 2014
attacks and seeks monetary damages from Defendants in their
official and individual capacities. (Doc. 1 at 7). As to the
June incident, Jones brings three specific claims. Jones'
first claim is against Defendant Wiley. Jones alleges that
the lack of security in Dorm C caused the attack.
(Id. at 11). Jones' second claim is against
Defendants Wiley and Scarbrough. He alleges that his right
under the Eighth Amendment to protection from other prisoners
was violated. (Id.). Jones' third claim is that
Defendants Wiley and Scarbrough were deliberately indifferent
to his medical needs pursuant to the Eighth Amendment.
relation to the August 12 attack, Jones alleges four claims.
Jones' first claim is against Defendants Myers and
DeSpain for acting negligently and in violation of the Eighth
Amendment by releasing Gamble, a known enemy of Jones, into
general population. (Id. at 5). Jones' last
three claims are against Defendant Everett for negligently or
with deliberate indifference failing to provide adequate
security outside the S-4 gate which would have prevented the
attack, failing to provide a “living agreement”
between Jones and Gamble before releasing them into general
population together, and failing to protect or properly
respond to the assault incident. (Id. at 6).
filed Answers and Special Reports and argue that Jones has
failed to establish that Defendants had sufficient knowledge
of and appreciated the risk of harm, that Defendants acted
unreasonably or that their actions or inactions actually
caused harm. Thus, Jones cannot establish deliberate
indifference. (Docs. 22, 23, 26, 27, 28). Defendants also
argue that they are immune from suit in their official
capacities, and they assert state-agent immunity from
Plaintiff's negligence claims. (Id.). After
providing notice to the parties, the Court converted
Defendants' Answers (Doc. 22, 27) and Special Reports
(Docs. 23, 28, 26) into a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
33), and provided the parties with an opportunity to submit
briefs and materials in support or opposition to the motion.
Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion. (Doc.
Court has thoroughly reviewed the parties' pleadings and
other submissions. The Motion for Summary Judgment is ripe
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, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d
265 (1986); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158,
1165 (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.'"(emphasis omitted)).
party asking for summary judgment "always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
'pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at
323. The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence
showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing,
or pointing out to, the district court that the nonmoving
party has failed to present evidence in support of some
element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of
proof. Id. at 322-24.
Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e)
"requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings
and by [its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, '
designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.'" Id. at 324. 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, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538
(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, 477 U.S. at 255.
ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC v. United Forming, Inc.,
926 F.Supp.2d 1286, 1289-90 (S.D. Ala. Jan. 29, 2013)
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 material facts."
Garczynski, 573 F.3d at 1165 (internal citations
omitted). A "mere scintilla" of evidence is
insufficient; the nonmoving party must produce substantial
evidence in order to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Id. 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. v. Dunmar
Corp., 43 F.3d 587, 599 (11th Cir. 1995).
importantly, where "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." Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167
L.Ed.2d 686 (2007); see also Logan v. Smith, 439
Fed.Appx. 798, 800 (11th Cir. Aug. 29, 2011) ("In cases
where opposing parties tell different versions of the same
events one of which is blatantly contradicted by the
record-such that no reasonable jury could believe it-a court
should not adopt the contradicted allegations."
(citations omitted) (unpublished)).
the undersigned recognizes that while the Court is required
to liberally construe a pro se litigant's pleadings, the
Court does not have “license to serve as de facto
counsel for a party . . . or to rewrite an otherwise
deficient pleading in order to sustain an action.”
GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cnty. of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d
1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted),
overruled on other grounds by Randall v.
Scott, 610 F.3d 701 (11th Cir. 2010); see also Giles
v. Wal-Mart Distrib. Ctr., 359 F.App'x 91, 93 (11th
Cir. 2009) (internal citations and quotations omitted)
(“Although pro se pleadings are held to a less strict
standard than pleadings filed by lawyers and thus are
construed liberally, this liberal construction does not give
a court license to serve as de facto counsel for a party, or
to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to
sustain an action.”).
Official Capacity Claims
Defendants named in this action are all correctional officers
employed by the Alabama Department of Corrections. Jones has
sued each defendant in his official and individual capacity.
"Official-capacity suits ... generally represent only
another way of pleading an action against an entity of which
an officer is an agent." Penley v. Eslinger,
605 F.3d 843, 854 (11th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted);
see also Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d
1291, 1309 (11th Cir. 2009) ("A claim asserted against
an individual in his or her official capacity is, in reality,
a suit against the entity that employs the individual.")
(citation omitted). As a practical matter, then, Jones'
§ 1983 claims against Defendants in their official
capacities functionally reduce to § 1983 claims against
the State itself.
Eleventh Amendment protects Defendants in their official
capacities from Jones' claims. See, e.g., Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100,
104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984) (With some exceptions,
"a suit in which the State or one of its agencies or
departments is named as the defendant is proscribed by the
Eleventh Amendment. This jurisdictional bar applies
regardless of the nature of the relief sought."
(citations omitted)); Harbert Int'l, Inc. v.
James, 157 F.3d 1271, 1277 (11th Cir. 1998)
("[S]tate officials sued in their official capacity are
protected by the [Eleventh A]mendment." (citing
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165, 105 S.Ct.
3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985)). In addition, "a state
agency and a state official sued in his official capacity
are not 'persons' within the meaning of § 1983,
thus damages are unavailable..." Edwards v. Wallace
Cmty. Coll., 49 F.3d 1517, 1524 (11th Cir. 1995) (citing
Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S.
58, 71, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989)). Thus, Jones
may not sue Defendants in their official capacities.
Individual Capacity Claims
however, are not absolutely immune from suit in their
Qualified immunity protects government officials from
liability for civil damages unless they violate a statutory
or constitutional right that was clearly established at the
time the alleged violation took place. See Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d
565 (2009); Amnesty Int'l, USA v. Battle, 559
F.3d 1170, 1184 (11th Cir. 2009). "The purpose of
[qualified] immunity is to allow government officials to
carry out their discretionary duties without the fear of
personal liability or harassing litigation, protecting from
suit 'all but the plainly incompetent or one who is
knowingly violating the federal law.'" Lee[
v. Ferraro], 284 F.3d [1188, ] 1194 [(11th Cir.
2002) ](citation omitted) (quoting Willingham v.
Loughnan, 261 F.3d 1178, 1187 (11th Cir. 2001)).
Qualified immunity is a defense not only from liability, but
also from suit... See id.
"Under the well-defined qualified immunity framework, a
'public official must first prove that he was acting
within the scope of his discretionary authority when the
allegedly wrongful acts occurred.'" Terrell v.
Smith, 668 F.3d 1244, 1250 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting
Lee, 284 F.3d at 1194). Once the official has done
so, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to satisfy the
following two-pronged inquiry: (1) whether the facts that a
plaintiff has shown make out a violation of a constitutional
right; and (2) whether the right at issue was clearly
established at the time of the defendant's alleged
misconduct. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232, 129 S.Ct.
808...The Supreme Court recently has made it clear that
[courts] need not employ a rigid two-step procedure, but
rather may exercise [their] discretion to decide "which
of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should
be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the
particular case at hand." Id. at 236, 129 S.Ct.
Gilmore v. Hodges, 738 F.3d 266, 272-73 (11th Cir.
2013). "Under controlling law, the plaintiff must
carry [his] burden by looking to the law as interpreted at
the time by the United States Supreme Court, the Eleventh
Circuit, or [the highest court of the state from which the
case arose]." Terrell v. Smith, 668 F.3d 1244,
1255-56 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Lee v. Ferraro,
284 F.3d 1188');">284 F.3d 1188, 1199 (11th Cir. 2002).
record evidence amply supports the determination that all
Defendants were acting within the scope of their
discretionary authority as prison officials at the time of
the incidents at issue, and Jones offers no evidence or
argument to the contrary. Accordingly, the burden now shifts
to Jones to show why Defendants are not entitled to qualified
Deliberate Indifference Claims.
Eighth Amendment provides that, "[e]xcessive bail shall
not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and
unusual punishments inflicted." U.S. CONST. amend. VIII.
The Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and
unusual punishment prohibits prison officials from exhibiting
deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm
to an inmate. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828,
114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994); see also
Robinson v. California, 370 U.S. 660, 82 S.Ct. 1417,
8 L.Ed.2d 758 (1972) (Eighth Amendment is applicable to the
states through the Fourteenth Amendment). The Supreme Court
summarized a state's constitutional responsibilities with
regard to inmates stating:
[W]hen the State takes a person into its custody and holds
him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it
a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his
safety and general well-being. . . . The rationale for this
principle is simple enough: when the State by the affirmative
exercise of its power so restrains an individual's
liberty that it renders him unable to care for himself, and
at the same time fails to provide for his basic human needs
-- e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and
reasonable safety -- it transgresses the substantive limits
on state action set by the Eighth Amendment and the Due
DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200, 109 S.Ct. 998, 103 L.Ed.
2D 249 (1989) (citations omitted).
order to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate must
make both an objective and a subjective showing. In Sims
v. Mashburn, 25 F.3d 980 (11th Cir. 1994), the court
delineated the objective and subjective portions of an Eighth
Amendment claim as follows:
An Eighth Amendment claim is said to have two components, an
objective component, which inquires whether the alleged
wrongdoing was objectively harmful enough to establish a
constitutional violation, and a subjective component, which
inquires whether the officials acted with a sufficiently
culpable state of mind.
25 F.3d at 983. To prevail on constitutional claims like the
ones asserted by Jones, he must prove that there was "a
substantial risk of serious harm, " that the defendant
was subjectively deliberately indifferent to that risk, and
causation. Hale, 50 F.3d at 1582; see also
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832-34.
defining "deliberate indifference, " the Supreme
Court in Farmer stated:
With deliberate indifference lying somewhere between the
poles of negligence at one end and purpose or knowledge at
the other, the Courts of Appeals have routinely equated
deliberate indifference with recklessness. See e.g.,
LaMarca v. Turner, 995 F.2d 1526, 1535 (CA111993).... It
is, indeed, fair to say that acting or failing to act with
deliberate indifference to a substantial ...