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Wood v. Costan

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

February 19, 2014

CHARLES WOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
ALTON COSTAN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES R. SPENCER, District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 8) filed by Defendant Alton Costan ("Costan"). Plaintiff Charles Wood ("Wood") has sued Costan in this matter regarding alleged violations of Wood's Eighth Amendment rights and common law battery. For the reasons stated below, the Court will GRANT IN PART Defendant's Motion.

I. PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

In his initial Complaint, Wood alleged that he was called from his cell, or other areas in the jail, to stand in front of Costan in order to be assaulted with a nightstick or other hard striking device. However, under oath, Wood now acknowledges that Costan never hit him with a stick or any other device. Pat down searches of inmates are routine when going from one building to another, when leaving or entering a pod, and when standing outside another inmate's cell due to the possibility of the presence of contraband. Further, Wood acknowledges that in each facility he has been incarcerated, pat down searches are performed essentially in the same manner. Wood claims that Costan hit him in the testicles as a part of a pat down search on three occasions. In each pat down search, Wood was facing the wall with his hands on a wall and could not see Costan perform the pat down search. There was no animosity or prior dispute between Wood and Costan.[2]

The first pat down search occurred sometime in September of 2011. The pat down search was conducted in a sally port, which was subject to video surveillance. There were other deputies and inmates present for the pat down search. However, Wood cannot remember who those individuals were. The pat down that was conducted was part a routine process at the jail. The parties dispute whether Costan performed the pat down search in the same manner as he performed all other pat down searches. Wood claims that during the search, Costan hit him in the testicles and that he complained to Costan that "there's no need to do that." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 3). Costan did not respond other than to tell Wood to face the wall. Wood said the impact caused "a numbness feeling, a sting in [his] testicles." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 3). He stayed on his feet during the pat down. Wood did not file a grievance against Costan following the first pat down and did not complain to anyone other than Costan. Wood did not require medical attention or ask for medical attention following the first pat down search. Within the hour, Wood felt no effect from the search. Wood did not complain or tell any medical care provider that he had been struck by Costan.

The second pat down search occurred sometime in October of 2011. The pat down search was again conducted in the sally port. There were other deputies and inmates present for the pat down search, but Wood cannot remember who those individuals were. The pat down procedure was the same as the other procedures and Costan performed the search as he had on other occasions. The parties dispute whether Costan said anything out of the ordinary to Wood before the search. Wood claims that Costan hit him in the testicles during the pat down search and that his testicles stung for a couple of hours and ached for a couple of days. Again, Wood stayed on his feet during the search. Wood did not file a grievance or write a complaint after the second incident. Wood did not tell his medical provider that he had been struck in the testicles. Instead, Wood sought treatment for a lump he discovered in his testicles after the incident.

Wood asserts that the third incident occurred on November 29, 2011. According to Wood, the lump in his testicles was swollen and caused him pain on a daily basis. He rated the pain at an eight on a scale of ten. The third pat down occurred outside of Wood's cell, an area that was subject to video surveillance and observation. This search was routine and performed in order to ensure that there was no contraband being exchanged between inmates. The parties dispute whether this pat down was unusual. Wood states that the method used to search him- using the "karate chop" method and coming up hard to strike the testicles-was no different than how Costan performed the other searches. Wood claims that he asked Costan not to hit him in the testicles during the search like he normally did because his testicles were already in pain. In response, Costan said "whatever... get against the wall." (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, at 44). Costan made contact with Wood's testicles during the pat down. Although he stayed on his feet, Wood testified that the pat down hurt and that he went to his cell for a short time. Wood claims the ensuing pain lasted for a couple of days, after which he returned to his baseline pain level before the search.

Wood filed a Complaint against Costan on or about May 23, 2013 in the Circuit Court for Chesterfield County, Virginia. Wood alleges Battery (Count I), and a violation of his Eighth Amendment Rights (Count II). Pursuant to his claims, Wood requests punitive damages (Count III) and attorney's fees (Count IV). After filing an Answer, Costan removed this case from the Chesterfield Circuit Court on May 28, 2013. (ECF No. 1). Costan then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on September 19, 2013. (ECF No. 8). Wood filed a Response on October 17, 2013. Costan filed a Reply on October 23, 2013.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment should be granted where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, it is the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, if the court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact, the motion must be denied. 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2720 (3d ed. 2011).

A court must look to the specific facts pled to determine whether a triable issue exists. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-49 (1996). The moving party bears the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a triable issue of fact by "showing-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325 (internal quotations omitted). "The judge's inquiry, therefore, unavoidably asks whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [nonmoving party] is entitled to a verdict." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

All "factual disputes and any competing, rational inferences [are resolved] in the light most favorable to the party opposing that motion." Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "Mere unsupported speculation is not sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion if the undisputed evidence indicates the other party should win as a matter of law." Francis v. Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 452 F.3d 299, 308 (4th Cir. 2006). Thus, if the nonmoving party's evidence is only colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 at 249-50. "[A] prisoner proceeding pro se in an action filed under § 1983 may rely on the detailed factual allegations in his verified pleadings to withstand a motion for summary judgment supported by affidavits containing a conflicting version of the facts." Davis v. Zahradnick, 600 F.2d 458, 460 (4th Cir. 1979); Carpenter v. Sheriff of Roanoke City, No. CIVA 7:05-CV-667, 2006 WL 2709691, at *3 (W.D. Va. Sept. 20, 2006).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Eighth Amendment ...


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