United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the court on an
amended complaint filed by Eddie James Richards, Jr., an
indigent state inmate, challenging actions which occurred
during his incarceration at the Bullock Correctional
Facility. Richards names as defendants Officer Kendarius
Glover, Officer Clarence Giles, and Nurse Martha Jackson.
Richards complains that Glover and Giles acted with
deliberate indifference to his safety when they failed to
protect him from attack by other inmates on December 9, 2014.
Doc. 12 at 2-3. He also alleges that nurse Jackson acted with
deliberate indifference to his medical needs after this
attack. Doc. 1 at 3. Richards seeks a declaratory judgment,
injunctive relief, and monetary damages for the alleged
violations of his constitutional rights. Doc. 1 at 4.
defendants filed special reports and relevant evidentiary
materials in support of their reports-including affidavits, a
prison report, and medical records-addressing Richards'
claims. In these filings, the defendants deny they acted with
deliberate indifference to Richards' safety or medical
needs and also assert they did not violate any of his
court issued orders directing Richards to file responses to
the arguments set forth by the defendants in their special
reports and advising him that his responses should be
supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of
perjury and other appropriate evidentiary materials.
Docs. 35 at 2 & 38 at 3. These orders specifically
cautioned the parties that “unless within fifteen (15)
days from the date of this order a party files a response in
opposition which 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 to the order] 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[s] for summary judgment in
accordance with the law.” Docs. 35 at 3 & 38 at
3-4. Richards filed sworn responses to these orders. Docs. 48
to the directives of these orders, the court deems it
appropriate to treat the special reports filed by the
correctional and medical defendants as motions for summary
judgment. Upon consideration of the defendants' motions
for summary judgment, the evidentiary materials filed in
support thereof, the sworn complaint and the plaintiff's
responses in opposition, the court concludes that summary
judgment is due to be granted in favor of the defendants.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
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) (internal quotation marks
omitted); Rule 56(a), Fed.R.Civ.P. (directing that
“[t]he 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); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox,
Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that
the moving party has the 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 the moving party discharges its
burden by showing the record lacks evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case or the nonmoving party would be
unable to prove his case at trial).
the defendants meet their evidentiary burden, as they have in
this case, the burden shifts to the plaintiff 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, 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). In civil actions filed by inmates, federal
courts “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. 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 v.
Banks, 548 U.S. 521, 530 (2006) (internal citation
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.
genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving
party produces evidence that would allow a reasonable
factfinder 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) (citation omitted). “When 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
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; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670
(11th Cir. 1990). Thus, Richards' pro se status
alone does not compel this court to disregard elementary
principles of production and proof in a civil case.
court has undertaken a thorough and exhaustive review of all
the evidence contained in the record. After this review, the
court finds that Richards has failed to demonstrate a genuine
dispute of material fact in order to preclude entry of
summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
extent Richards requests monetary damages from the
correctional defendants in their official capacities, they
are entitled to absolute immunity. Official capacity lawsuits
against state employees are “in all respects other than
name, . . . treated as a suit against the entity.”
Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). As the
Eleventh Circuit has held,
the Eleventh Amendment prohibits federal courts from
entertaining suits by private parties against States and
their agencies [or employees]. There are two exceptions to
this prohibition: where the state has waived its immunity or
where Congress has abrogated that immunity. A State's
consent to suit must be unequivocally expressed in the text
of [a] relevant statute. Waiver may not be implied. Likewise,
Congress' intent to abrogate the States' immunity
from suit must be obvious from a clear legislative statement.
Selensky v. Alabama, 619 Fed.Appx. 846, 848-49 (11th
Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
Thus, a state official may not be sued in his or her official
capacity unless the state has waived its Eleventh Amendment
immunity, see Pennhurst State School and
Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984), or
Congress has abrogated the State's immunity. See
Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 59 (1996).
Neither waiver nor abrogation applies here. The Alabama
Constitution states that “the State of Alabama shall
never be made a defendant in any court of law or
equity.” Ala. Const. Art. I, § 14. The Supreme
Court has recognized that this prohibits Alabama from waiving
its immunity from suit.
Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx. at 849 (citing Alabama
v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978)). “Alabama has
not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity in § 1983
cases, nor has Congress abated it.” Holmes v.
Hale, 701 Fed.Appx. 751, 753 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing
Carr v. City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d
1521, 1525 (11th Cir. 1990)). In light of the foregoing,
defendants Glover and Giles are entitled to sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for claims seeking
monetary damages from them in their official capacities.
Selensky, 619 Fed.Appx. at 849; Harbert
Int'l, Inc. v. James, 157 F.3d 1271, 1277 (11th Cir.
1998) (holding that state officials sued in their official
capacities are protected under the Eleventh Amendment from
suit for damages); Edwards v. Wallace Comm. College,
49 F.3d 1517, 1524 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that damages are
unavailable from a state official sued in his official
Deliberate Indifference to Safety-Failure to Protect from
prison official's duty under the Eighth Amendment is to
ensure reasonable safety, a standard that incorporates due
regard for prison officials' unenviable task of keeping
dangerous men in safe custody under humane conditions.”
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 844-45 (1994)
(internal quotations and citations omitted). Officials
responsible for prison inmates may be held liable under the
Eighth Amendment for acting with “deliberate
indifference” to an inmate's safety when the
official knows the inmate faces “a substantial risk of
serious harm” and with this knowledge disregards the
risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.
Id. at 828. A constitutional violation occurs only
“when a substantial risk of serious harm, of which the
official is subjectively aware, exists and the official does
not respond reasonably to the risk.” Cottone v.
Jean, 326 F.3d 1352, 1358 (11th Cir. 2003). “It is
not, however, every injury suffered by one prisoner at the
hands of another that translates into constitutional
liability for prison officials responsible for the
victim's safety.” Farmer, 511 at 834.
“Within [a prison's] volatile
‘community,' prison administrators are to take all
necessary steps to ensure the safety of . . . the prison
staff and administrative personnel. . . . They are under an
obligation to take reasonable measures to guarantee the
safety of the inmates themselves.” Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). The Eleventh
Circuit has, however, consistently “stress[ed] that a
‘prison custodian is not the guarantor of a
prisoner's safety.” Purcell ex rel. Estate of
Morgan v. Toombs Cnty., Ga., 400 F.3d 1313 (11th Cir.
2005) (citing Popham v. City of Talladega, 908 F.2d
1561, 1564 (11th Cir. 1990)). “Only ‘[a] prison
official's deliberate indifference to a known,
substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the
Eighth Amendment.'” Harrison v. Culliver,
746 F.3d 1288, 1298 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Marsh v.
Butler Cnty., Ala., 268 F.3d 1014, 1028 (11th Cir.
2001), abrogated on other grounds by Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). “In order
to state a § 1983 cause of action against prison
officials based on a constitutional deprivation resulting
from cruel and unusual punishment, there must be at least
some allegation of a conscious or callous indifference to a
prisoner's rights, thus raising the tort to a
constitutional stature.” Williams v. Bennett,
689 F.2d 1370, 1380 (11th Cir. 1982).
requires proof of both objective and subjective elements to
demonstrate an Eighth Amendment violation. Caldwell v.
Warden, FCI Talladega, 748 F.3d 1090, 1099 (11th Cir.
2014). With respect to the requisite objective elements of a
deliberate indifference claim, an inmate must first show
“an objectively substantial risk of serious harm . . .
exist[ed]. Second, once it is established that the official
is aware of this substantial risk, the official must react to
this risk in an objectively unreasonable manner.”
Marsh, 268 F.3d at 1028-29. As to the subjective
elements, “the official must both be aware of facts
from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial
risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference. . . . The Eighth Amendment does not outlaw cruel
and unusual ‘conditions'; it outlaws cruel and
unusual ‘punishments.' . . . [A]n official's
failure to alleviate a significant risk that he should have
perceived but did not, while no cause for commendation,
cannot under our cases be condemned as the infliction of
punishment.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38;
Campbell v. Sikes, 169 F.3d 1353, 1364 (11th Cir.
1999) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 838) (“Proof
that the defendant should have perceived the risk, but did
not, is insufficient.”); Cottrell v. Caldwell,
85 F.3d 1480, 1491 (11th Cir. 1996) (same). The conduct at
issue “must involve more than ordinary lack of due care
for the prisoner's interests or safety. . . . It is
obduracy and wantonness, not inadvertence or error in good
faith, that characterize the conduct prohibited by the Cruel
and Unusual Punishments Clause[.]” Whitley v.
Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986).
To be deliberately indifferent, Defendants must have been
subjectively aware of the substantial risk of serious harm in
order to have had a sufficiently culpable state of mind. . .
. Even assuming the existence of a serious risk of harm and
legal causation, the prison official must be aware of
specific facts from which an inference could be drawn that a
substantial risk of serious harm exists-and the prison
official must also draw that inference.
Carter v. Galloway, 352 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir.
2003) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A
defendant's subjective knowledge of the risk must be
specific to that defendant because “imputed or
collective knowledge cannot serve as the basis for a claim of
deliberate indifference. . . . Each individual Defendant must
be judged separately and on the basis of what that person
knew at the time of the incident.” Burnette v.
Taylor, 533 F.3d 1325, 1331 (11th Cir. 2008). “The
known risk of injury must be a strong likelihood, rather than
a mere possibility before a [state official's] failure to
act can constitute deliberate indifference.” Brown
v. Hughes, 894 F.2d 1533, 1537 (11th Cir. 1990)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover,
“[m]erely negligent failure to protect an inmate from
attack does not justify liability under section 1983.”
correctional officers may be held directly liable under
§ 1983 if they fail or refuse to intervene when a
constitutional violation occurs in their presence. . . .
However, in order for liability to attach, the officer must
have been in a position to intervene.” Terry
v. Bailey, 376 Fed.Appx. 894, 896 (11th Cir.2010)
(citing Ensley v. Soper, 142 F.3d 1402, 1407 (11th
Cir. 1998)). The plaintiff has the burden of showing that the
defendant was in a position to intervene but failed to do so.
Ledlow v. Givens, 500 Fed.Appx. 910, 914 (11th Cir.
2012) (citing Hadley v. Gutierrez, 526 F.3d 1324,
1330-31 (11th Cir. 2008)).
to survive the properly supported motion for summary judgment
filed by the correctional defendants, Richards must first
demonstrate an objectively substantial risk of serious harm
existed to him prior to the altercation with the other
inmates and “that the defendant[s] disregarded that
known risk by failing to respond to it in an objectively
reasonable manner.” Johnson v. Boyd, 568
Fed.Appx. 719, 721 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing
Caldwell, 748 F.3d at 1100). If he establishes these
objective elements, Richards must then satisfy the subjective
component. To do so, Richards “must [show] that the
defendant[s] subjectively knew that [Richards] faced a
substantial risk of serious harm. The defendant[s] must ...