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Traywick v. Bentley

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

June 26, 2019

KENNETH SHAUN TRAYWICK, #177252, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNOR ROBERT BENTLEY, et al. Defendants.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          STEPHEN M. DOYLE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION[1]

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action is pending before the Court on a Complaint filed on April 18, 2016 by Kenneth Shaun Traywick (“Traywick”), an indigent state inmate, challenging numerous actions which occurred while he was an inmate at Draper Correctional Facility (“Draper”). (Doc. 1). By Order dated April 29, 2016, this Court advised Plaintiff to file an amended complaint and that his case would proceed “only against the defendants named and claims presented in the amended complaint.” (Doc. 2). Thereafter, he filed an Amended Complaint. (Doc. 10). Specifically, Traywick alleges that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference when they failed to protect him by “placing him in an institution, and or dorm without personel [sic] from A.D.O.C. to see over his safety” and for failing to protect him from the use of excessive force by correctional officers against him on March 14, 2016. Id. at 5-6. He also alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights when they used excessive force and “picked the plaintiff up by legs and arms and tossed him on his back upon a concrete floor” into a population dorm cell. Id. at 6. He further alleges that the defendants retaliated against him by placing him in segregation and ordering the confiscation of his mail for complaining about the “inadequate security and assault.” Id.

         The named defendants are: former Governor Robert Bentley; Jefferson Dunn, Commissioner of ADOC; Edward Ellington, Correctional Warden at Draper; Janet LeJeune, ADOC Constituent Services Officer in Montgomery, Alabama; Tracey Smith, Correctional Captain at Draper; Kahdra Davis, Correctional Lieutenant at Draper; Larry Philyaw, Correctional Lieutenant at Draper; Samuel Johnson, Correctional Officer at Draper; De'Teri Mayes, Correctional Officer at Draper; Deointequan Murray, Correctional Officer at Draper; Kendrick Chappell, Correctional Officer at Draper; and Jackie Pettway, Correctional Sergeant at Draper. Traywick seeks monetary damages from Defendants in their individual and official capacities. (Doc. 10) at 7. Defendants filed a special report (Doc. 35), including supporting evidentiary materials, which addressed the claims presented by Traywick. In their report, Defendants deny they acted with deliberate indifference to Traywick's safety needs, participated in the actions which form the plaintiff's excessive force claim, or retaliated against Plaintiff.

         After reviewing the special reports and exhibits, the United States Magistrate Judge previously assigned to the case issued an Order (Doc. 36), directing Traywick to file a response to Defendants' special report, supported by affidavits or statements made under penalty of perjury and other evidentiary materials. The Court specifically cautioned that “unless within ten (10) 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 to this order] and without further notice to the parties (1) treat the special reports 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. 36) at 2. Traywick then filed his Response. (Docs. 39; 40). Pursuant to the Order, the undersigned magistrate judge now treats Defendants' special report and supplements thereto as a motion for summary judgment and concludes that summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of Defendants.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         “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 issue 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). “[A] party seeking 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 Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also Williamson Oil Co., Inc. v. Phillip Morris USA, 346 F.3d 1287, 1298 (11th Cir. 2003); Jeffery v. Sarasota White Sox, Inc., 64 F.3d 590, 593 (11th Cir. 1995). The movant may meet this burden by presenting evidence indicating there is no dispute of material fact or by demonstrating 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. The moving party meets 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. Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011).

         When the movant meets its evidentiary burden, the burden shifts to the other party to establish, with appropriate evidence beyond the pleadings, that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. 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 that there is a genuine dispute of material fact. Jeffery, 64 F.3d at 593-94 (internal quotation marks omitted). The 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 nonmoving 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 Pub. Educ. for Bibb Cty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2007). 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).

         To proceed beyond the summary judgment stage, an inmate-plaintiff may not rest upon his pleadings but must produce “sufficient [favorable] evidence” which would be admissible at trial supporting each essential element of his claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “If the evidence [on which the nonmoving party relies] is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative . . . summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. “A mere ‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing party's position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing that the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1576-77 (11th Cir. 1990) (internal citation omitted). Conclusory allegations based on a plaintiff's subjective beliefs are likewise insufficient to create a genuine dispute of material fact and, therefore, do not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Harris v. Ostrout, 65 F.3d 912, 916 (11th Cir. 1995) (holding that grant of summary judgment is appropriate where inmate produces nothing beyond “his own conclusory allegations” challenging actions of the defendants); Fullman v. Graddick, 739 F.2d 553, 557 (11th Cir. 1984) (“Mere verification of party's own conclusory allegations is not sufficient to oppose summary judgment.”); Evers v. General Motors Corp., 770 F.2d 984, 986 (11th Cir. 1985) (“[C]onclusory allegations without specific supporting facts have no probative value.”). Hence, when a plaintiff fails to set forth specific facts supported by requisite evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is due to be granted in favor of the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322 (“[F]ailure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”); Barnes v. Sw. Forest Indus., Inc., 814 F.2d 607, 609 (11th Cir. 1987) (If on any part of the prima facie case the plaintiff presents insufficient evidence to require submission of the case to the trier of fact, granting of summary judgment is appropriate.); Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (holding that summary judgment is appropriate where no genuine dispute of material fact exists). At the summary judgment stage, this court must “consider all evidence in the record . . . [including] pleadings, depositions, interrogatories, affidavits, etc.-and can only grant summary judgment if everything in the record demonstrates that no genuine [dispute] of material fact exists.” Strickland v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 692 F.3d 1151, 1154 (11th Cir. 2012).

         For summary judgment purposes, only disputes involving material facts are relevant. United States v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). What is material is determined by the substantive law applicable to the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “Only factual disputes that are material under the substantive law governing the case will preclude entry of summary judgment.” Lofton v. Sec'y of the Dep't of Children and Family Svs., 358 F.3d 804, 809 (11th Cir. 2004). “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) (citing Anderson, supra).

         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). In cases where the evidence before the court which is admissible on its face or which can be reduced to admissible form indicates there is no genuine dispute of material fact and the party moving for summary judgment is entitled to it as a matter of law, summary judgment is proper. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. A court may grant summary judgment where the pleadings, evidentiary materials and affidavits before the court show there is no genuine dispute as to a requisite material fact. Id. To establish a genuine dispute of material fact, the nonmoving party must produce evidence such that a reasonable trier of fact could return a verdict in his favor. Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Associates, Inc., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001). “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 (2007).

         Although factual inferences must be viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party 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. Beard, 548 U.S. at 525; Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990). Thus, Traywick's pro se status alone does not mandate this Court's disregard of elementary principles of production and proof in a civil case. The undersigned has undertaken a thorough and exhaustive review of all the evidence contained in the record. After such review, the undersigned finds that Traywick has failed to demonstrate any genuine dispute of material fact that precludes entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendants.

         III. FACTS

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on March 14, 2016[2] he “requested protective custody in fear for his life due to these conditions of inadequate security.” (Doc. 10) at 5. Specifically, he alleged that Governor Bentley, Commissioner Dunn, Warden Ellington, and Janet LeJune, “implemented customs and policies that caused the plaintiff to suffer injury and harm by . . . placing him in an institution, and or dorm without personel [sic] ADOC to see over this safety.” Id. He further alleged that Lieutenant Kahdra Davis denied his request for protective custody and ordered certain defendant Correctional Officers to “physically place [him] with force in a population dorm.” Id. at 6.

         He then alleged that Lieutenant Philyaw and Sergeant Pettway instructed other officers to carry out this order and officers Johnson, Murray, Mayes and Thorton[3], “picked the plaintiff up by legs and arms and tossed him on his back upon a concrete floor” into a population dorm cell. Id. He alleged that as a result of this assault he suffered from back pain and loss of bladder control. Id. He also alleged that, in retaliation for his Complaint concerning this assault and the “inadequate security, ” he was placed in segregation and Lieutenant Davis “ordered the confiscation of the plaintiff's mail, ” which Officer Chappell carried out. Id.

         Defendants deny that Plaintiff was thrown on his back onto a concrete floor in F-Dormitory. Rather, Lt. Philyaw states in his affidavit that, upon finding Plaintiff in the barber shop after he was ordered to relocate from B-Dormitory to F-Dormitory, the facts occurred as follows:

Inmate Traywick refused to report back to F-Dorm. Sgt. Jackie Pettway along with Officers Samuel Johnson, David Free, and me escorted inmate Traywick back to F-Dorm without incident. Upon arrival at the dorm entrance door, inmate Traywick kneeled down and placed his hands behind his head and stated that he was not going inside the dorm. Officer Johnson instructed inmate Traywick to stand to his feet. Inmate Traywick looked around and observed that Sgt. Pettway, Officer Free and I were present. Officer Johnson touched inmate Traywick on his left shoulder and instructed him again to stand up and go inside F-Dorm. Inmate Traywick complied. Officer Johnson then placed his personal property inside the dorm and secured the gate. During this incident, no force was used on inmate Traywick.

(Doc. 35-6). Although many of the details underlying this action are disputed, there is no dispute that Plaintiff was ordered to relocate himself and his belongings from B-Dormitory to F-Dormitory at Draper[4] and that he refused to follow this direct order on more than one occasion. (Doc. 10) at 5-6; (Doc. 35-2) at 1-2; (Doc. 35-4); (Doc. 35-5); (Doc. 35-11); (Doc. 35-12). Indeed, Plaintiff does not deny that he refused to report to F-Dormitory and that, upon being escorted to F-Dormitory by correctional officers, he physically resisted placement in his cell. As a result of disobeying a direct order, Plaintiff was placed in segregation. Id.

         On March 16, 2016, two days after the alleged excessive force and following Traywick's placement in segregation, a body chart was conducted on Traywick. This body chart states “no markings noted on skin.” (Doc. 35-14) at 15. On the same day, Traywick lodged a sick call request noting “I was thrown down on my back by ADOC officials on 3-14-16. Back pain is unbearable and have no blatter [sic] control.” (Doc. 35-14) at 14. On March 18, 2016, Traywick was evaluated by medical staff and treated with ibuprofen. The nursing encounter report noted that Plaintiff injured his back about five years ago. Id. at 12-13.

         On March 22, 2016, another body chart was performed on Plaintiff where he declared “I'm on a hunger strike” and which stated “[n]o wounds noted on assessment.” Id. at 11. Subsequent body charts performed on March 29 and March 30, 2016, also include no references to a back injury or any reports of back pain. Rather, Plaintiff again reported that he was not eating. Id. at 9-10. The record reflects that Plaintiff's next complaint of back pain did not occur until April 4, 2016 when he was treated by a nurse practitioner. Id. at 8.

         On March 23, 2016, Segregation Officer Kendrick Chappell informed Lieutenant Davis that he had located a suspicious piece of mail in the segregation cubicle. (Doc. 35-5) at 2; (Doc. 35-10). The envelope identified James Cooley as the sender and Tabby White as the recipient. (Doc. 35-5) at 2; (Doc. 35-10); (Doc. 35-13) at 74. However, inmate Cooley was not assigned to the segregation unit but instead was assigned to B-Dormitory. (Doc. 35-5) at 2; (Doc. 35-10). It was determined that Plaintiff was the author of the letter. (Doc. 35-5) at 2; (Doc. 35-10). The three-page letter contained in the envelop stated “P.S. I placed someone's name on return address cause I'm afraid they will try and intercept my mail.” (Doc. 35-13) at 73. The letter also stated that Plaintiff had received a disciplinary action and was planning to file a lawsuit against the ADOC for failing to follow their standard ...


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