United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is Defendants, James Rubenstein, David
Ballard, Russell Matheny, Steve Caudill, and David
Miller's, Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No.
218]. 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.
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
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].
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.
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.
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).
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).
Count One: 42 U.S.C. § 1983
plaintiff brings a Section 1983 claim against each of the
defendants alleging that they violated his Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendment rights. The court will address each of
the plaintiff's Section 1983 claims below.
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).
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
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).
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).
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.
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