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Scales v. Markham

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 5, 2014

ONEAL SCALES, Plaintiff,
v.
BYRON TRAVIS MARKHAM, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.

In this action, which was removed from state court, Oneal Scales claims that he was subjected to unconstitutionally excessive force while he was confined at the Roanoke City Jail. The sole remaining defendant, Byron Travis Markham, a Roanoke City Sheriff's deputy, has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied.

Factual Background

The following facts from the summary judgment record are presented in the light most favorable to Scales. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (noting that all evidence must be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment).

In the early morning hours of August 19, 2011, Roanoke City police officers arrested Scales for public intoxication, after being dispatched in response to a reported fight. The officers took Scales to the Roanoke City Jail, where he was held in Cell 7 pending a bond hearing in state court.

The bond hearing was held later that morning. After Scales returned from the hearing, Deputy Thomas Boone attempted to photograph Scales prior to releasing him on bond. Scales was uncooperative during the process and appeared to still be intoxicated. Consequently, Boone decided to return Scales to his cell and attempt to obtain a photograph later.

Markham assisted Boone in escorting Scales back to Cell 7. They were followed by Deputy William Belanger. It is undisputed that Scales became upset upon learning that he was not going to be released at that time, and that he "threaten[ed]" and "curse[d]" at the deputies as they led him to the cell. Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n 2, Docket No. 63. Upon reaching the cell, Markham and Boone let go of Scales' arms and Scales entered the cell. While Markham was preparing to lock the cell door, Scales reached his arm through the door's bars and unsuccessfully attempted to strike Markham.

Markham and Scales present two different stories about what transpired next, and both parties maintain that the soundless video footage recorded by a nearby camera substantiates their version of events. Markham states that he proceeded to "rush[] Scales" and "push him" on the metal bench in the back of the cell "because Scales refused to step away from the door." Def.'s Br. in Supp. 2, Docket No. 58. Markham contends that he and the other deputies then "struggled to gain control of Scales, " that they ordered Scales to quit resisting, and that "he did not quit until Markham used a knee strike to Scales' back just below his right shoulder blade." Id. at 2-3. Although Scales suffered a laceration above his right eye, Markham maintains that he "did not strike Scales in the head" or see "Scales hit[] his head on the wall." Id. at 3.

Scales, on the other hand, contends that he stepped back from the cell door after unsuccessfully attempting to strike Markham, and that Markham nonetheless reopened the cell door, "bull rush[ed]" him, and forcefully struck him in the upper chest, causing him to fall back against the rear wall of the cell and on to the metal bench. Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n 4, Docket No. 63. Scales contends that Markham then climbed on top of him and repeatedly struck him in the head while the other two deputies restrained his left arm and legs.

The jail's medical staff was subsequently called to check on Scales, and they treated the laceration above his right eye. When the medical staff returned to check on Scales again after lunch, they found him unresponsive and called 911. Paramedics from Roanoke Fire-EMS responded to the call. They found Scales to be unresponsive and noted that he had "a laceration with associated hematoma over the [right] eye orbit with no active bleeding." Pl.'s Ex. 5 at 2, Docket No. 63-5. The paramedics transported Scales to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where a CT scan revealed a "large right subdural hematoma" and a "superficial hematoma adjacent to the right orbit." Pl.'s Ex. 6 at 3-4, Docket No. 63-6. Scales was taken "emergently to the operating room" for the performance of a "right frontotemporoparietal craniectomy and evacuation of [the] acute subdural hematoma." Id.

Procedural History

On August 16, 2013, Scales filed the instant action against Markham, Boone, and Belanger in the Circuit Court for the City of Roanoke, asserting claims under federal and state law. On December 20, 2013, Boone removed the case to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. All three defendants then moved to dismiss Scales' claims under state law on the basis that they were barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in Virginia Code ยง 8.01-243.2. On September 29, 2014, the court granted the defendants' motions.

Following the completion of discovery, Scales voluntarily dismissed the remaining claims under federal law against Boone and Belanger, and Markham moved for summary judgment. The court held a hearing on the summary judgment motion on November ...


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