Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

West Virginia Division of Corrections v. P.R.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

November 22, 2019

West Virginia Division of Corrections, Scott Patterson, and Jason Walton, Petitioners, Defendants below,
P.R., Respondent, Plaintiff below.

          Kanawha County 13-C-578


         The petitioners West Virginia Division of Corrections ("DOC"), Scott Patterson, and Jason Walton (collectively referred to herein as "the defendants") filed an interlocutory appeal of the July 17, 2018, order of the Circuit Court of Kanawha County denying their motion to alter or amend a judgment. The order that they were seeking to have altered or amended was the portion of the circuit court's November 27, 2017, order that denied their motion for summary judgment on a negligence claim. The defendants argue that they have qualified immunity from the negligence claim. The respondent P.R.[1] (plaintiff below) argues that the circuit court correctly denied summary judgment on this issue.[2]

         After considering the parties' written and oral arguments, as well as the record on appeal and the applicable law, this Court finds that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from P.R.'s negligence claim. Because our decision relies upon well-settled law, we find that this case satisfies the "limited circumstances" requirement of Rule 21(d) of the Rules of Appellate Procedure and is appropriate for disposition in a memorandum decision. For the reasons set forth below, the circuit court's decision regarding qualified immunity for the negligence claim is reversed, and this case is remanded for entry of an order granting summary judgment to the defendants.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In 2011, P.R. served a term of incarceration at the Anthony Correctional Center ("ACC"). The ACC is a facility operated by the DOC that primarily houses young adult offenders between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old, both male and female. Defendant Patterson was the Warden at ACC, while Defendant Walton was the Associate Warden.

         P.R. alleges that during the lunch hour on or about September 5, 2011, she entered the women's outdoor bathroom facility in the ACC recreation yard. She contends that inside the bathroom, she was physically restrained and sexually assaulted, both vaginally and anally, by three male inmates. P.R. asserts that she did not immediately report that she was raped because the assailants threatened to kill her if she told.

         On September 28, 2011, P.R. informed ACC staff that she had been sexually assaulted. At the time, she was being transferred out of ACC to a regional jail due to her violation of institutional rules. A correctional officer wrote the following in an Incident Report prepared that day:

. . . [P.R.] also made accusations about how ACC had not protected her and that she wanted to go back to the Regional Jail where she wouldn't be beat up and raped. . . . We then asked about the rape, and she said that she had told Sgt. Dilley that she was going to be raped, and that he had better do a report on that. . . . She claimed that there was three male inmates that had raped [her] while she was in the bathroom on the back yard. She claims that all three of these guys are still housed here, and that's why she won't say their names. She claimed that this happened shortly after she had started Vocations, on 05 Sept. 2011.

         According to the Incident Report, P.R. blamed a Correctional Officer Fox for failing to adequately supervise the recreation yard. The DOC investigated P.R.'s rape allegation, ultimately concluding that "due to conflicting statements of the victim and the accused, and no known independent witnesses or physical evidence, the accusation . . . is unsubstantiated."

         P.R. filed this civil action in circuit court in March 2013 contending that the DOC and its employees failed to provide a safe confinement facility and failed to protect her from being raped. She asserted claims for violation of multiple state and federal constitutional rights; intentional infliction of emotional distress/outrage; common law negligence including negligent supervision, training, and retention of staff and negligent supervision of inmates; invasion of privacy; and civil conspiracy.[3] Ultimately, the circuit court dismissed or granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all of P.R.'s claims except negligence.

         The defendants argued to the circuit court that they were also entitled to summary judgment on the negligence claim. They asserted that even assuming arguendo there was negligence on their part, they have qualified immunity because any acts or omissions were not in violation of a clearly established statutory or constitutional right or law of which a reasonable person would have known, and were not otherwise fraudulent, malicious, or oppressive.[4]

         In response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, P.R. argued that a clearly established law was violated, specifically, DOC Policy Directive 332.02, which provides in part:

An inmate may report a sexual assault/abuse to any employee. Any employee that receives a report of a sexual assault/abuse or possible sexual assault/abuse, whether verbally or in writing, shall immediately notify the Shift Commander and complete an Incident Report.

         DOC Policy Dir. 332.02(V)(A)(1). [5]

         P.R. argued that she had complained to Sergeant Dilley about rude and blatant sexual comments that male inmates directed toward her, but contrary to this Policy Directive, the sergeant did not inform the shift commander or file an incident report, and she was subsequently assaulted.[6]

         During her discovery deposition, P.R. testified as follows regarding the comments that male inmates had made to her prior to the alleged assault:

         BY MR. MINCER [defense counsel]:

Q: [Did] Any of them [the male inmates] threaten you before this happened? I'm going to do this or that to you or -
A. They would just say what they would like to do to me on the rec yard, but it wasn't really a threat.
Q. Okay. What would they say? What would they say that wanted to do to you?
A. Just -

         MR. NESSEL [plaintiff's counsel]:

Go ahead. Tell him verbatim.
Q. Yeah. That's - I need the best you can remember of what any of these guys told you beforehand.
A. How if we wasn't in prison, they'd f*** me real hard and -
Q. Meaning those three guys in specific told you things like that?
A. I mean, it was more than just those three guys. It was a group.
Q. Yeah. Let me - and I don't mean to interrupt you, but here's what I'm wondering is you've told me already that generally the guys in the group would say things like to you. And I'm wondering those guys, three guys in specific, if they had said things to you like that? And if so, what did they say to you?
A. I mean, they were there whenever they were said and they might've even said them. But most of the time I wouldn't even look at them when they were saying it to see who said it, you know?
Q. So it's kind of like -
A. I try to ignore it.

         In response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, P.R. submitted an affidavit indicating that if defense counsel would have allowed her to finish her answer during the deposition, she "would have continued with the following: How the group told me that they wanted to hit that phat ass, f*** that phat ass, tap that phat ass and other similar sexual comments." She further averred that of the approximately ten male inmates who were saying this to her, three were the perpetrators of the subsequent sexual assault. She additionally averred that she "informed Sgt. Dilley of the sexual comments mentioned above approximately one week prior to being gang raped. He did not question me and, to the best of my knowledge, did not question the group of male inmates who were making the sexual comments to me."

         The defendants argued that Policy Directive 332.02 is not a clearly established law of which a reasonable person would have known for purposes of defeating qualified immunity, but even if it were, the policy does not apply to a threat of potential future sexual assault. The defendants argued that the policy only specifies actions that correctional staff must take after a sexual assault, or an act that may possibly constitute a sexual assault, has been committed. The circuit court disagreed with the DOC, concluding that the policy is a clearly established law applicable to threatened sexual assault. However, the circuit court found that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding whether P.R.'s complaint to Sergeant Dilley was made, when it was made, and whether the contents of P.R.'s alleged complaint to Sergeant Dilley were sufficiently specific to put the DOC on notice that it must comply with Policy Directive 332.02.

         Accordingly, by order entered November 27, 2017, the circuit court denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment on P.R.'s common law negligence claim.[7]Thereafter, the defendants filed their motion to alter or amend the judgment, which was denied on July 17, 2018. In this appeal, the defendants file an interlocutory challenge to the circuit court's refusal to grant summary judgment on the negligence claim on the basis of qualified immunity.[8]

         Standard ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.