United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT & RECOMMENDATION
BRADLEY MURRAY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Reynaldo Herrera, Jr. an Alabama prison inmate proceeding
pro se and informa pauperis, filed his
complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983. (Doc. 1). 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. (Doc. 15). After careful review of the pleadings,
and for the reasons set out below, the undersigned recommends
that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment be
granted in favor of Defendants and that the
claims asserted against Defendants Trey Oliver, III, Sam
Cochran, and Sam Houston be dismissed with
Summary of Allegations and Background.
complaint, Plaintiff Reynaldo Herrera, Jr.
(“Herrera”) challenges the conditions of his
confinement while incarcerated at Mobile County Metro Jail
(“Mobile Metro Jail” or “the
jail”). Specifically, Herrera alleges that he was
exposed to toxic waste (in the form of backed up sewage
drainage in his cell and shower), contaminated water, faulty
air ventilation, extreme temperatures, and general unsanitary
conditions (including, rusted tables, dirty cells, bacteria,
mold, continuous plumbing problems). (Doc. 1 at 4).
Additionally, Herrera claims he was denied adequate medical
care. Id. Herrera claims he notified the defendants
numerous times, verbally and through filed grievances, of the
deficient conditions but his complaints were ignored. Herrera
is suing Warden Trey Oliver, III., Sheriff Sam Cochran, and
Deputy Warden Sam Houston for the alleged Eighth Amendment
violations. (Id. at 5-6). Herrera requests that the
challenged conditions “be fixed” and further
requests compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of
$3, 000, 000.00. (Id. at 7).
have answered Herrera's suit and filed a Special Report
in support of their denial of all allegations. (Docs. 12,
13). Defendants' pleadings have been converted by the
Court into a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 15), to which
Plaintiff Herrera has responded. (Doc. 27). After a thorough
review of the record, this motion is ripe for consideration.
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). More
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)).
Eleventh Amendment Immunity.
unclear from the complaint whether Herrera is suing the
defendants in their official or individual capacities. To the
extent Herrera seeks to impose liability against Sheriff
Cochran, Warden Oliver, and Deputy Warden Houston in their
official capacities, the defendants are immune from suit, as
the liability imposed, in reality, is on the entity the
individuals represent versus the individuals themselves.
Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72, 105 S.Ct.
873, 83 L.Ed.2d 878 (1985).
entity Sheriff Cochran and Wardens Oliver and Houston
represent for consideration of immunity from suit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 is determined by reference to state law.
Carr v. City of Florence, 916 F.2d 1521, 1525 (11th
Cir. 1990). Alabama law holds that a sheriff is a state,
rather than a county, official for purposes of immunity from
suit. Parker v. Amerson, 519 So.2d 442 (Ala. 1987);
Ala. Const. Art. V § 112 (listing county sheriffs as
members of the state's executive department); see
also Taylor v. Adams, 221 F.3d 1254, 1256 (11th Cir.
2000) ("Alabama sheriffs operating jails are state
officers protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity.").
Similarly, "employees of the sheriff, deputies [and
officers] in their official capacities, are  entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity." Scruggs v. Lee,
256 Fed.Appx. 229, 232 (11th Cir. 2007); Lancaster v.
Monroe Cnty., 116 F.3d 1419, 1429 (11th Cir. 1997)
("[J]ailers are state officials for the purpose of
Eleventh Amendment immunity."). There is no dispute that
Defendants Cochran, Oliver, and Houston, in their official
capacities as sheriff and wardens, are arms of the state for
Eleventh Amendment Immunity purposes and are therefore barred
from suit for monetary damages in this action.
further assert the defense of qualified immunity as a bar
from suit against them in their individual capacities. (Doc.
13). Qualified immunity offers complete protection for
individual government officials performing discretionary
functions "insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow
v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738,
73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). "Qualified immunity balances two
important interests - the need to hold public officials
accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the
need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and
liability when they perform their duties reasonably."
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct.
808, 815, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009). A party is eligible to
claim qualified immunity if he was acting within the line and
scope of his employment. Holloman ex rel. Holloman v.
Harland, 370 F.3d 1252, 1264 (11th Cir. 2004). Based on
Plaintiff's complaint allegations and the record, clearly
the defendants were acting within their discretionary
authority at the time the complaint arose. Thus, the burden
shifts to the plaintiff to establish that qualified immunity
is inappropriate. Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188,
1194 (11th Cir. 2002).
Supreme Court has mandated a two-step analysis for resolving
qualified immunity claims. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 2156, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001).
First, a court must decide whether the facts that a plaintiff
has alleged "show the [defendant's] conduct violated
a constitutional right." Id. Second, the court
must decide "whether the right was clearly
established." Id. The determination of these
elements may be conducted in any order. Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d
565 (2009). Therefore, the Court will proceed with its
analysis of whether Plaintiff has successfully alleged a
time the complaint arose, Herrera was being held as a
pretrial detainee at the Mobile Metro Jail; thus, his claims
fall under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-36, 99
S.Ct. 1861, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979). However, the standard for
providing basic necessities and the conditions of confinement
for inmates is regarded by the courts as the same
“minimum standard allowed by the due process clause . .
. as that allowed by the [E]ighth [A]mendment for convicted
persons.” Hamm v. DeKalb Cnty., 774 F.2d 1567,
1573-74 (11th Cir. 1985); see also, Johnson v.
Bessemer, 741 Fed.Appx. 694, 699 n.5 (11th Cir. 2018)
(noting the “objectively reasonable” test of
Kingsly v. Hendrickson, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct.
2466, 192 L.Ed.2d 416 (2015) as applicable to excessive force
claims only); Collins v. Bates., No.
2:14-CV-231-WHA, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 124277, *10-115 (M.D.
Ala., Aug. 4, 2017) (recognizing the Eleventh Circuit's
continued utilization of the Eighth Amendment deliberate
indifference standard in deciding claims of pretrial
detainees which challenge medical treatment and other
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. Prison conditions constitute cruel and unusual
punishment only when they result in the "unquestioned
and serious deprivation of basic human needs."
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 101 S.Ct.
2392, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981).
The Eighth Amendment governs the conditions under which
convicted prisoners are confined and the treatment they
receive while in prison. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 832, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994). Although
the Amendment does not require comfortable prisons, it
prohibits inhumane ones. Id. The Eighth Amendment
guarantees that prisoners will not be "deprive[d] ... of
the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
347, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2399, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981) (quoted in
Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1289 (11th Cir.
2004)). "[B]asic human necessities include food,
clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care, and personal
safety." Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1511
(11th Cir. 1991) (cited in Collins v. Homestead Corr.
Inst., 452 Fed.Appx. 848, 850-851 (11th Cir. 2011)).
"[T]o make out a claim for an unconstitutional condition
of confinement, ...