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Broadhead v. Boyd

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

February 4, 2019

SGT. KENDRICK BOYD, et al., Defendants.


          Susan Russ Walker, United States Magistrate Judge


         This case is before the court on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint filed by Sherman Antwan Broadhead, a state inmate. In this complaint, Broadhead challenges the constitutionality of force used against him on March 5, 2014 by officers at the Draper Correctional Facility during a cell extraction and the failure to protect him from this use of force. Broadhead names Sgt. Kendrick Boyd, Sgt. Paul Sanders, Lt. Michael Winters, Sgt. Curtis Nolen, Sgt. Edmond Cooper, Sgt. Jackie Pettway and Officer Dan'Terrio Scullock, correctional officials employed at Draper at the time of the incident, as defendants. Broadhead seeks monetary damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights and requests that criminal charges be brought against the defendants for their actions. Doc. 1 at 4.

         The defendants filed an answer, special reports and supporting evidentiary materials, including affidavits, a digital recording of the cell extraction and certified prison records, addressing Broadhead's claims for relief. In these documents, the defendants deny they acted in violation of Broadhead's constitutional rights. After receipt of the defendants' special reports, the court issued an order directing Broadhead to file a response to the reports, including affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. Doc. 54 at 2. The order specifically cautioned Broadhead that “unless within fifteen (15) days from the date of this order a party … presents sufficient legal cause why such action should not be undertaken … the court may at any time [after expiration of the time for the plaintiff filing a response] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special report[s] and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment and (2) after considering any response as allowed by this order, rule on the motion for summary judgment in accordance with the law.” Doc. 54 at 3. Defendant filed a response in opposition to the special reports. See Docs. 55, 57. Pursuant to the foregoing order, the court deems it appropriate to treat the defendants' reports as a motion for summary judgment.

         Upon consideration of the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, the sworn complaint, the plaintiff's affidavit in response to the initial special report and his responses in opposition to the reports, the court concludes that the defendants' motion for summary judgment is due to be denied as to the plaintiff's allegations of excessive force and failure to protect brought against them in their individual capacities, and granted in all other respects.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine [dispute] as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007); Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 56(a) (“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.”). The party moving 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 [record, including pleadings, discovery materials and affidavits], which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 529 (2006) (holding that court “must examine the record to see whether the [party moving for summary judgment], in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, affidavits and the like, has demonstrated the absence of a genuine [dispute] of material fact, and his entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.”) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that moving party has initial burden of showing there is no genuine dispute of material fact for trial). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present appropriate evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011) (holding that moving party discharges his burden by showing that the record lacks evidence to support the nonmoving party's case or that the nonmoving party would be unable to prove his case at trial).

         When the moving party meets its evidentiary burden, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. At this juncture, the court “must determine whether [the plaintiff], who bears the burden of persuasion has by affidavits or as otherwise provided in Rule 56 … set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine [dispute of material fact] for trial.” Beard, 521 U.S. at 529 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted); Jeffery, 64 F.3d at 593-94 (holding that, once a moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or statements made under penalty of perjury], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate that there is a genuine dispute of material fact.). This court will also consider “specific facts” pled in a plaintiff's sworn complaint when considering his opposition to summary judgment. Caldwell v. Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1098 (11th Cir. 2014). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when a party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor such that summary judgment is not warranted. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007). “The mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the outcome of the case.” McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). “[T]here must exist a conflict in substantial evidence to pose a jury question.” Hall v. Sunjoy Indus. Group, Inc., 764 F.Supp.2d 1297, 1301 (M.D. Fla. 2011).

[This court] recognize[s] that at this stage [it] must draw “all justifiable inferences in [the plaintiff's] “favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In doing so, however, we must distinguish between evidence of disputed facts and disputed matters of professional judgment. In respect to the latter, our inferences must accord deference to the views of prison authorities. Overton [v. Bazetta, 539 U.S. 126, 132 (2003)]. Unless a prisoner can point to sufficient evidence regarding such issues of judgment to allow him to prevail on the merits, he cannot prevail at the summary judgment stage.

Beard, 548 U.S. at 530.

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard, 548 U.S. at 525; McKeithen v. Jackson, 606 Fed.Appx. 937, 938 (11th Cir. 2015); Ivory v. Warden, 600 Fed.Appx. 670, 675 (2015). Thus, Broadhead's pro se status alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case.

         The court has undertaken a thorough review of all the evidence contained in the record, including the DVD submitted by the defendants. After this review, the court finds that Broadhead, through the submission of his sworn complaint, the evidentiary materials submitted in support thereof and his responses to the defendants' report, has demonstrated a genuine dispute of material fact in order to preclude entry of summary judgment on his excessive force and failure to protect claims brought against the defendants in their individual capacities. The defendants, however, are entitled to summary judgment on Broadhead's remaining claims for relief.


         A. Absolute Immunity

         To the extent that Broadhead brings claims against the defendants in their official capacities and seeks monetary damages, they are entitled to absolute immunity. Official capacity lawsuits are “in all respects other than name, … treated as a suit against the entity.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985).

“[T]he Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from entertaining suits by private parties against States and their agencies [or employees].” Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114 (1978). There are two exceptions to this prohibition: where the state has waived its immunity or where Congress has abrogated that immunity. Virginia Office for Prot. & Advocacy v. Stewart, 563 U.S. 247, 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1637-38, 179 L.Ed.2d 675 (2011). “A State's consent to suit must be ‘unequivocally expressed' in the text of [a] relevant statute.” Sossamon v. Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 131 S.Ct. 1651, 1658, 179 L.Ed.2d 700 (2011) (quoting Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984)). “Waiver may not be implied.” Id. Likewise, “Congress' intent to abrogate the States' immunity from suit must be obvious from ‘a clear ...

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