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Cook v. Pamunkey Regional Jail

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

October 4, 2016

Brent W. Cook, Plaintiff,
v.
Pamunkey Regional Jail, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Gerald Bruce Lee United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. This case concerns claims asserted by Brent W. Cook, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights. The remaining defendants, Sergeant Berry, Sergeant Dority, and Officer Sletten, have each filed a Motion for Summary Judgment as well as memoranda of law with supporting exhibits. Plaintiff was given the Notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and the opportunity to file responsive materials pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4fh Cir. 1975). Plaintiff did not file a response. The matter is now ripe for disposition. The issue before the Court is whether to grant defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. The Court concludes that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the claims against Sergeants Berry and Dority and, therefore, Sergeant Berry's and Sergeant Dority's Motions for Summary Judgment must be granted. The Court also concludes that there remains a genuine issue of material fact as to die claims against Officer Sletten and, therefore, his Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied, without prejudice to Officer Sletten filing a supplemental motion on the merits of plaintiff s claims against him.

         I. Factual Background

         At all times relevant, defendants were employees of the Pamunkey Regional Jail ("PRJ"). On September 17, 2014, Sergeant Berry instructed Officers Sletten and Walker to take custody of plaintiff from the Hanover County Court Services deputies. Dkt. Nos. 26-4, 26-5.[1] When they arrived, plaintiff was being attended to by emergency service personnel who informed Officer Sletten that plaintiff could be restrained according to protocol and that they "could find nothing wrong with [plaintiff] per the evaluation process." Dkt. No. 26-5. Officer Sletten handcuffed plaintiff, and Officer Walker escorted plaintiff to the ambulance. Id. When plaintiff and the officers arrived at the ambulance, an unidentified woman approached from behind, yelling "Oh my God, my son! I must hold my son." Id. Officer Sletten stood between plaintiff and the woman and asked her to "stay clear." Id. Plaintiff became combative; therefore, Officer Sletten took control of plaintiffs right arm while Officer Walker took control of plaintiffs left arm. Id. Plaintiff then threatened to kill Officer Sletten upon his release. Id. Officer Walker accompanied plaintiff in the ambulance to the hospital while Officer Sletten followed in the jail transport vehicle. Id. Plaintiff was seen at the hospital and told, in front of Officer Sletten, that "all the tests came back normal." Id. Plaintiff was discharged and, while Officers Sletten and Walker were taking him back to the transport vehicle, plaintiff tried to fall to the floor. Id. Officers Sletten and Walker carried plaintiff to the transport vehicle where he refused to sit in the vehicle and became combative. Id. When the transport vehicle arrived at PRJ, plaintiff refused to exit the transport vehicle. Id. Officer Sletten placed plaintiff in an "escort hold and assisted him out of the vehicle." Id. Plaintiff began to resist, kicking off his left shoe and screaming, Id.

         Plaintiff went through the booking process and was immediately placed on "Pre-Hearing Detention"[2] and "charged with a 1-1 (Assault) for assaulting Officer Walker, and a 1-12 (Threatening Bodily Harm), for threatening Officer Sletten and 1 -15 (Disobeying a Direct Order), for refusing to exit the vehicle after he was told to do so several times." Dkt. Nos. 26-1 Tab 4, 26-4. A disciplinary hearing was scheduled for September 19, 2014, at 6:30am; however, based on comments made by plaintiff at the hearing, he was placed on level 1 suicide watch for seven days instead. Dkt. Nos. 26-4, 26-6. It is PRJ's policy to not conduct disciplinary hearings while an inmate is on suicide watch. Dkt. No. 26-4. On September 26, 2014, plaintiff was given notice of a disciplinary hearing scheduled for September 29, 2016. Dkt. No. 26-1, Tab 5. Plaintiff was found guilty on all three charges at the disciplinary hearing and was sanctioned to 45 days in disciplinary detention, which is defined in the PRJ policy as "[s]pecial management bed assignment that separates an inmate from the general population for a specific period of time for a rule violation." Dkt. No. 26-1, Tabs 6, 7.

         PRJ policy provides mat, when an inmate is transferred to segregation, medical staff is immediately notified, the inmate's medical file is reviewed to determine if the inmate would be medically and mentally able to be in segregation, and each inmate is visited by a health care provider at least once a day. Dkt. No. 26-1, Tab 7. Additionally, pursuant to PRJ policy 2A-52, plaintiff was observed three times every hour while in disciplinary segregation. Dkt. No. 26-4.

         Plaintiff alleges that Sergeant Berry placed him "in solitary knowing [of plaintiff's] mental condition bi polar [sic] manic depressed anxity [sic] disorder and PTS, " causing him "severe mental distress;" however, Sergeant Berry states she had no personal knowledge that plaintiff had a mental health condition. Dkt. Nos. 10, 26-4.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Sergeant Dority was notified that plaintiffs shoes were medically necessary for his bone spurs, but that he refused to give plaintiff his medical shoes, causing plaintiff "unfixable pain to [his] foot." Dkt. No. 10. On September 19, 2014, plaintiff submitted a Medical Request Form asking for pain medication "for lower back and foot bone spurs;"[3] Dkt. No. 11-1, however, Sergeant Dority does not recall ever speaking to plaintiff about medical shoes or bone spurs. Dkt. No. 26-6. In fact, Sergeant Dority was not on duty on September 17, 2014, the day plaintiff was brought to PRJ. Id. Additionally, when inmates are processed, their shoes are removed and placed in a property bag and then screened by a nurse who returns the shoes to the inmate if they are authorized to have them by intake staff. Id. Sergeant Dority is not a part of the intake staff. Id.

         Finally, plaintiff claims that Officer Sletten "slammed [plaintiffs] thumb in the trey [sic] slot" on September 30, 2014, causing severe trauma to plaintiff's hand as well as mental anguish. Dkt. No. 10. Plaintiff filed an Inmate Request Form that day asserting these claims. Dkt. No. 11-1. On October 1, 2014, at approximately 2:30 pm, Officer Sletten went to speak with plaintiff, at plaintiffs request. Dkt. No. 26-5. Officer Sletten

opened the tray slot and kneeled down to the side of the door to speak to [plaintiff], [Plaintiff] pushed his disciplinary finding sheet out of the tray slot. [Officer Sletten] then handed the paperwork back to [plaintiff], shut and locked the tray slot door and walked away. [Plaintiff] yelled, "Hey, my paperwork is stuck in the door." [Plaintiff] was sitting on the bunk when [Officer Sletten] returned to [plaintiffs cell] and opened the tray slot allowing the papers to fall inside the cell. [Officer Sletten] then closed the tray slot and exited the unit. [Plaintiff's] fingers were not in the trey [sic] slot when [Officer Sletten] closed it.

Id. That same day, at around 3:00 pm, plaintiffs right thumb was x-rayed. Dkt. No. 26-1. The results came back normal. Id. On October 3, 2014, plaintiff told the medical staff that he "hit is hand on the door because he [had] not rcvd [sic] his glasses." Id., X-rays of plaintiff s right hand taken on October 4, 2014, showed normal results. Id.

         Plaintiff is alleging that Sergeants Berry and Dority violated his Eighth Amendment rights by showing deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, that Sergeant Berry violated his Eighth Amendment rights based on his conditions of confinement, and that Officer Sletten violated his Eighth Amendment right by using excessive force.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment on the pleadings is appropriate. See Celotex Com, v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317. 323 (1986). To meet that burden, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issues of material fact are present for resolution. Id. at 322. Once a moving party has met its burden to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to point out the specific facts that create disputed factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a district court should consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of that party. United States v. Diebold. Inc.,369 U.S. 654. 655 (1962) Those facts which the moving party bears the burden of proving are facts which are material. "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts which 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. An issue of material fact is genuine when, "the evidence ... create[s] [a] fair doubt; wholly speculative assertions ...


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