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Broadhead v. Ratcliffe

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

May 24, 2019

SHERMAN ANTWAN BROADHEAD, #246 842, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER QUENTEN D. RATCLIFFE, Defendant.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          STEPHEN M. DOYLE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Sherman Broadhead [“Broadhead”], an inmate incarcerated at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, files the instant civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging a claim of excessive force during his incarceration at the Draper Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. The Complaint is filed against Correctional Officer Quenten Ratcliffe [“Ratcliffe”]. Plaintiff seeks $300, 000 in damages.[1] (Docs. 1, 1-1).

         Ratcliffe filed an answer, special report, a supplemental special report, and supporting evidentiary materials addressing Broadhead's claim for relief. (Docs, 13, 14, 23). In these filings, Ratcliffe denies he acted in violation of Broadhead's constitutional rights. Id. Upon receipt of Ratcliffe's special report, as supplemented, the Court issued an order directing Broadhead to file a response, including sworn affidavits and other evidentiary materials, and specifically cautioning Broadhead “the court may at any time thereafter and without notice to the parties (1) treat the special report, supplemental special report, and any supporting evidentiary materials as a motion for summary judgment.” (Doc. 24) at 2.

         Broadhead responded to Ratcliffe's report, as supplemented. See (Docs. 19, 28). Broadhead, however, did not submit any sworn statements in support of, or in opposition to, Ratcliffe's Motion for Summary Judgment, and therefore he failed to comply with Rule 56(e), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Further, Broadhead did not comply with 28 U.S.C. § 1746 because he did not attempt to make an unsworn declaration under penalty of perjury. Accordingly, neither the allegations in Broadhead's unsworn brief or statement of facts (Docs. 19, 28) may be considered as evidence when ruling on the motion for summary judgment. See McCaskill v. Ray, 279 Fed. App'x. 913, 915 (11th Cir. 2008) (litigant's unsworn allegations were not admissible on motion for summary judgment where litigant did not attempt to make the declarations under penalty of perjury). Broadhead's Complaint (Docs. 1, 1-1), however, was signed under penalty of perjury and is, therefore, treated by the Court like a sworn affidavit. Perry v. Thompson, 786 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1986) (“Where plaintiff has presented specific facts to the trial court, in sworn form, the court may not make such a credibility choice nor may it grant summary judgment against plaintiff on the procedural ground that he did not controvert the factual affidavits that controverted his sworn factual statements.”); Sammons v. Taylor, 967 F.2d 1533, 1545 n.5 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Perry, 786 F.2d at 1095) (“[T]his Court has recognized that facts alleged in an inmate's sworn pleading are sufficient [to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment] and that a separate affidavit is not necessary.”). The Court will therefore consider Broadhead's Complaint in ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the Motion for Summary Judgment, the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, and the sworn Complaint, the Court concludes the Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be denied.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “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) (per curiam); Fed.R.Civ.P. 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 [dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by showing the non-moving party has failed to present evidence to support some element on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Id. at 322-324.

         Ratcliffe has met his evidentiary burden. Thus, the burden shifts to Broadhead to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute material to his case exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593-94 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that, once the moving party meets its burden, “the non-moving party must then go beyond the pleadings, and by its own affidavits [or sworn statements], or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ” demonstrate there is a genuine dispute of material fact) (internal quotations omitted). 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 the non-moving party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict in its favor. Greenberg, 498 F.3d at 1263; Allen v. Bd. of Public Educ., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007).

         To demonstrate a genuine dispute of material fact, the party opposing summary judgment “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. . . . 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 [dispute] for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; see also United States v. Stein, 881 F.3d 853 (11th Cir. 2018) (holding that a plaintiff's self-serving and uncorroborated, but not conclusory, statements in an affidavit or deposition may create an issue of material fact which precludes summary judgment); Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach, 707 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted) (“To be sure, [plaintiff's] sworn statements are self-serving, but that alone does not permit us to disregard them at the summary judgment stage. . . . ‘Courts routinely and properly deny summary judgment on the basis of a party's sworn testimony even though it is self-serving.'”). However, “[c]onclusory, uncorroborated allegations by a plaintiff in an affidavit or deposition will not create an issue of fact for trial sufficient to defeat a well-supported summary judgment motion.” Solliday v. Fed. Officers, 413 Fed.Appx. 206, 207 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Earley v. Champion Int'l Corp., 907 F.2d 1077, 1081 (11th Cir. 1990)); see also Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (holding that conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and pro se complaints are entitled to liberal interpretation by the courts, a pro se litigant does not escape the burden of establishing by sufficient evidence a genuine dispute of material fact. See Beard v. Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 525 (2006); Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). 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 the evidence of record. In this case, Broadhead, through the submission of his sworn Complaint, has demonstrated a genuine dispute of material fact in order to preclude entry of summary judgment on his excessive force claim against Defendant Ratcliffe.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. The Complaint

         On November 19, 2013, Broadhead was in his assigned cell in “lock up.” (Docs. 1, 1-1). At approximately 7:25 a.m., Ratcliffe entered Broadhead's cell and punched him in the face. Id. Officer Lorenzo Mills entered the cell and pulled Ratcliffe off Broadhead. Id. Broadhead states “that's when Officer Ratcliffe started to hit me with his iron stick.” Id. Ratcliffe struck Broadhead on his left arm causing a serious injury and also struck him on the back of his head as Officer Mills escorted him out of the cell. Id. Broadhead testifies Ratcliffe struck him eight or nine times with his iron stick “for nothing.” Id. A nurse conducted a body chart on Broadhead following the incident. Id. Broadhead states Ratcliffe received a write-up from Warden John Crow regarding his interaction with Broadhead on November 19, 2013 and was re-assigned to another area of Draper. Id.

         B. ...


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