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Murray v. Matheney

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

October 26, 2017




         Pending before the court is Defendants, James Rubenstein, David Ballard, Russell Matheny, Steve Caudill, and David Miller's, Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 218].[1] The plaintiff filed a Response [ECF No. 237], and the defendants filed a Reply [ECF No. 244]. The motion is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. Facts

         The plaintiff, Garland Murray, has been incarcerated at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex (“MOCC”) since 2012. Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n to Partial Mot. Summ. J. of Defs. Rubenstein, Ballard, Matheny, Caudill, & Miller 2 (“Pl.'s Resp.”) [ECF No. 237]. From 2012 to 2016, the plaintiff was housed in solitary confinement in the Quilliams Units of MOCC. Id. During this time, he was permitted one hour of recreation five times per week. Id. The plaintiff maintains that in 2013, he was the only African American in his recreation group, and in this group, there were a couple of known racist inmates who he believed were armed with improvised weapons. Am. Compl. 11-12 [ECF No. 112]. According to the plaintiff, he repeatedly refused to go to the recreation yard when it was his designated time because he was scared of those racist inmates. Id.

         On March 12, 2013, the plaintiff filed a grievance stating:

I've addressed this problem on Requests & to staff about being on (Single Rec) Before (I) get into a altercation. Im still placed within rec with others. Im in fear on rec with others. I don't want to rec with anyone for sake of my safty. So please put me on single rec before i get into trouble - please - thank you

Compl. Ex. 1, at 1 [ECF No. 2-1]. On March 13, 2013, the unit manager, defendant Russell Matheny, responded, “you can fill out a special management request and be seen by the committee if you like. Let me know and we will bring you [sic] to fill out the request.” Id. The plaintiff maintains that after this, defendant Matheny went on vacation without placing him on single rec or notifying other staff of the plaintiff's concerns. Id. at 13. The defendants maintain, however, that the plaintiff was not placed on single rec because he failed to fill out a special management request form. Defs., James Rubenstein, David Ballard, Russell Matheny, Steve Caudill, and David Miller's Mem. Law Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 2 (“Defs.' Mem.”) [ECF No. 219].

         On April 1, 2013, the plaintiff was stabbed by another inmate, Kristopher Creel, while on recreation. Id. at 1. Creel was able to bring the weapon into the recreation yard because defendant Paul Donelson failed to strip search or screen the inmates before they went to recreation on that day. Am. Compl. 14. Defendant Steve Caudill was the captain in charge of the unit as a stand-in for Captain Matheny the day the plaintiff was stabbed. Pl.'s Resp. 4. Defendant David Ballard was the warden of MOCC, and defendant James Rubenstein was commissioner of the Division of Corrections. Id. at 8.

         On June 26, 2013, the plaintiff filed this action against the defendants. Compl. [ECF No. 2]. On August 8, 2016, the plaintiff filed his second amended complaint. Am. Compl. The amended complaint contains three causes of action against the defendants: Count One alleges that the defendants violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Count Two alleges that the defendants violated Article III, Sections 1, 5, and 10 of the West Virginia Constitution; Count Three alleges that the defendants were negligent. Id. at 22-26.

         II. Legal Standard

         To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Facts are ‘material' when they might affect the outcome of the case.” Lester v. Gilbert, 85 F.Supp.3d 851, 857 (S.D. W.Va. 2015) (quoting News & Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010)). “A genuine issue of material fact exists if . . . a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-movant.” Runyon v. Hannah, No. 2:12-1394, 2013 WL 2151235, at *2 (S.D. W.Va. May 16, 2013) (citations omitted); Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 824 (4th Cir. 1991) (“Disposition by summary judgment is appropriate . . . where the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-movant.”). The moving party bears the burden of showing that “there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court will not “weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Instead, the court will draw any permissible inference from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmoving party has the burden of proof on an essential element of his or her case and does not make, after adequate time for discovery, a showing sufficient to establish that element. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. The nonmoving party must satisfy this burden of proof by offering more than a mere “scintilla of evidence” in support of his or her position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or unsupported speculation, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of summary judgment. See Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d 303, 311 (4th Cir. 2013); Stone v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 191 (4th Cir. 1997).

         III. Discussion

         a. Count One: 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         The plaintiff brings a Section 1983 claim against each of the defendants alleging that they violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[2] The court will address each of the plaintiff's Section 1983 claims below.

         i. Russell Matheny

         “In order to prevail on a [Section] 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show that the defendant deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States and that the defendant acted under color of state law.” Lester, 85 F.Supp. at 858 (citing Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49 (1999). “The Eighth Amendment, which applies to the States through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the infliction of ‘cruel and unusual punishments' on those convicted of crimes.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297-98 (1991).

         “The Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, but neither does it permit inhumane ones, and it is now settled that the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citations omitted) (quotation marks omitted). The Eighth Amendment imposes a duty on prison officials to “take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.” Id. (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). This includes a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners. Id. at 833; Pressly v. Hutto, 816 F.2d 977, 979 (4th Cir. 1987) (“The eighth amendment protects a convicted inmate from physical harm at the hands of fellow inmates resulting from the deliberate or callous indifference of prison officials to specific known risks of such harm.”).

         “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 U.S. at 834. Instead, prison officials only violate the Eighth Amendment when two requirements are met. Id. “First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, ‘sufficiently serious.'” Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298). This means that, “[f]or a claim . . . based on a failure to prevent harm, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. “Though guidance is limited on the question of what precisely constitutes sufficiently serious deprivation, the threat of a beating by another inmate clearly satisfies” this requirement. Denney v. Berkley Cnty., No. 3:10-1383-RMG-JRM, 2012 WL 3877732, at *5 (D. S.C. Sept. 5, 2012).

         The second requirement mandates that the prison official have acted with “deliberate indifference” to the inmate's safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Deliberate indifference is a subjective requirement which necessitates that the prison official both “know[] of and disregard[] an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Id. (emphasis added). This means that “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.” Id. “This subjective assessment ‘sets a particularly high bar to recovery' which cannot be met by ‘a showing of mere negligence.'” Parker v. Maryland, 413 Fed. App'x 634, 638 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).

         Here, with regard to the first element, the plaintiff was fearful that he would be attacked, and he was in fact attacked and stabbed multiple times. Thus, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he faced an objective, sufficiently serious deprivation.

         With regard to the second requirement, the defendant maintains that while the plaintiff “may have voiced his fears to Correctional Officers in general terms, ” he “[n]ever stated that he had a particularized fear of a specific inmate or group of inmates.” Defs., James Rubenstein, David Ballard, Russell Matheny, and Steve Caudill's Reply to Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. 3 (“Defs.' Reply”) [ECF No. 244]. This argument is unpersuasive. In Farmer, the Supreme court made clear “that ‘a prison official [cannot] escape liability for deliberate indifference by showing that, while he was aware of an obvious, substantial risk to inmate safety, he did not know that the complainant ...

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