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Joyner v. Swiney

United States District Court, Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division

February 21, 2014

WALTER SWINEY, etaL, Defendants.


Hon. Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge

Christopher Lee Joyner, a Virginia inmate proceeding dto se, filed a verified Amended Complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with jurisdiction vested in 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1343. Plaintiff names as defendants Walter Swiney, Steven Franklin, Travis McCoy, Paul Payne, and Daniel McCowan,[1] who are all correctional officers at the Red Onion State Prison ("ROSP"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by using excessive force, not preventing others' use of excessive force, and delaying necessary medical treatment. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, to which Plaintiff responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment because disputes of material facts exist and a trial is necessary for all claims.


This matter depends on contrasting versions of events about when Defendants entered Plaintiffs cell on March 18, 2013. Defendants aver that they never used physical force on Plaintiff while he was in five-point restraints for disruptive behavior, but Plaintiff avers that the Defendants mercilessly beat him while he was restrained.[2]


Plaintiff alleges that on March 18, 2013, at approximately 3:28 p.m., Payne, Franklin, and McCoy entered Plaintiffs cell while Swiney waited at the cell door as a "lookout." Although Plaintiff was strapped to a bed by five-point restraints, Franklin punched Plaintiff four times in the stomach, and Payne punched Plaintiff twice in the stomach and four times to the head. McCoy, who had been holding a t-shirt over Plaintiffs mouth to silence him, switched roles with Payne, stomped on Plaintiffs genitals four times, and punched Plaintiffs face four times before everyone left the cell. Plaintiff asked correctional officers working after the shift changed at 6:00 p.m. for medical assistance to no avail. McCowan eventually stopped at Plaintiffs door, saw Plaintiffs swollen face, and asked Plaintiff about who he had fought. Plaintiff replied, "You should know," and asked for medical assistance, but McCowan refused to help "if McCoy had anything to do with [the] [injuries]."


In contrast, Defendants explain that on March 17, 2013, Plaintiff refused orders to close his tray slot and to uncover his cell-door window. Plaintiff also refused multiple orders to cuff-up, stating, "Fyou, I'm going to tear this fing cell apart," "Fit, I'm gonna get you right now," and "Y'all coming up in here today." Plaintiff finally complied after receiving two bursts of pepper spray, and staff decontaminated him and placed him in ambulatory restraints.

On March 18, 2013, at about 12:10 a.m., staff saw that Plaintiff had damaged the left handcuff of his ambulatory restraints, removed the damaged ambulatory restraint, and placed Plaintiff in five-point restraints. At about 1:00 p.m., staff saw that Plaintiff had freed his left hand from the restraint and smeared or threw feces on his cell-door window. Staff managed to secure Plaintiff in five-point restraints despite Plaintiff intending to spit feces at them.

At about 3:21 p.m., Swiney stood at Plaintiffs cell door while Franklin, McCoy, and Payne entered the cell with a shield to give Plaintiff a meal and restroom break. Due to Plaintiffs prior attempts to spit at staff, Payne held the shield above Plaintiffs face for protection, and McCoy used a cloth to cover the spit and feces in the cell. Franklin, McCoy, Payne, and Swiney exited the cell at about 3:23 p.m. after Plaintiff threatened them when asked if he wanted to be released from five-point restraints. Franklin, McCoy, Payne, and Swiney aver that they did not assault Plaintiff, did not touch Plaintiff or his restraints, and did not try to harm him. Although McCowan recalls talking to Plaintiff during his rounds that evening, McCowan denies that Plaintiff asked him for medical treatment at that time and denies saying he would not request medical staff if McCoy had anything to do with a need for treatment.

On March 19, 2013, at about 4:00 a.m., Plaintiff was released from five-point restraints because he stopped being disruptive. A nurse examined Plaintiff, did not find any distress or trauma, and, thus, did not note any injuries in Plaintiffs medical record. Although Plaintiff complained of pain in his right-pelvis, no swelling or discoloration was noted, and Plaintiff did not say he was assaulted or felt pain while moving. Plaintiffs' medical record does not indicate that Plaintiff sustained physical injuries from the alleged beating.

Plaintiff did not claim to be beaten until March 22, 2013, when he alleged in a grievance that staff caused his face to swell by beating him while in five-point restraints. The ROSP Institutional Investigator watched a video recording of Plaintiff s release from five-point restraints and did not see any injury to Plaintiff.


A party is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); seeWilliams v. Griffin. 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991) (recognizing a party is entitled to summary judgment if the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the non-movant). "Material facts" are those facts necessary to establish the elements of a party's cause of action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if, in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden of showing - "that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must set forth specific, admissible facts that demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id. at 322-23. A court may not resolve disputed facts, weigh the evidence, or make determinations of credibility. Russell ...

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