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Lewis v. Wade

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

June 2, 2017

John Thomas Lewis, Plaintiff,
Michael Wade, et al., Defendants.


         John Thomas Lewis, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se. has Hied a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated by officers at the Henrico County Jail West Facility. On February I, 2017, defendants Deputy Charles Amoah and Lieutenant Jerry Robinson tiled a Motion for Summary Judgment, as well as a memorandum of law and supporting exhibits, wherein 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 (4th Cir. 1975).[1] Dkt. Nos. 33-34. On May 3, 2017. plaintiff filed a sworn pleading styled "Plaintiffs Objection to Defendant's [sic J Motion for Summary Judgement [sic]" in which he disputes several facts as stated in the Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 38. For the following reasons, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

         I. Background

         The record establishes the following facts.[2] Plaintiff was injured on or about July 9, 2014, after falling from a top bunk at the Henrico County Jail West Facility. Compl. at 14; Dkt. No. 34 at 1-2. At that time, plaintiff was assigned to dayroom 221, cell 10, where he had been assigned since June 23, 2014, along with two other inmates. Dkt. No. 34 at 3 ¶ 6. Each cell housing general population inmates has a top and bottom bunk, and when necessary to accommodate a third inmate, a cot. Id. at 2 ¶ 5. "There is no ladder to the top bunk or rails on the bunk" Gregory Decl. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. A ¶ 7.

         Plaintiff had been assigned a cot due to "a medical detail for a bottom bunk." Compl. at 9 ¶ 10. Only the jail's medical staff may issue "no top bunk" restrictions, Dkt. No. 34 at 4 ¶ 13, and plaintiff contends that he "was given a bottom bunk assignment [from Dr. Dana Vango at Henrico Jail-East] for 90 days from the ending [sic] of May until August 2014." Dkt. No. 38 at 3, 7. Generally, inmates who are provided "no top bunk" restrictions receive a hard copy of a "Henrico County Jail Restriction Instructions" form. See Gregory Decl. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. A ¶ 12.

         On July 8, 2014, to alleviate overcrowding in cell 10, which housed three inmates, plaintiff asked defendant Robinson if he could move to cell 12, which housed one inmate. Compl. at 9 ¶12. "Lt. Robinson verbally okayed the move and said he would email records the next day to reflect the move, but advised Plaintiff to wait until lockdown at night before moving." Id. at 9-10 ¶ 13. "Plaintiff waited approximately 20 minutes before lock[] down to move his belongings to cell 12, " but after plaintiff completed the move, and while defendant Amoah was performing the "count, " defendant Amoah asked plaintiff why he was not in his assigned cell, cell 10. Id. at 10 ¶¶ 14-16. Plaintiff advised defendant Amoah that defendant Robinson had given him permission to move cells, but defendant Amoah "instructed Plaintiff to gather his belongings and move back to cell 10 right then and there." Id. ¶¶ 17-18. As plaintiff returned to cell 10, he advised defendant Robinson that defendant Amoah would not allow him to remain in cell 12, to which defendant Robinson replied, "it was [defendant Amoah's] decision, he ., . was deferring to it, and Plaintiff would have to write classification to get the move officially done." Id. at 10-11 ¶¶ 19-20.

         Only personnel in the Henrico County Sheriffs Office's Classification section ("Classifications"), who are privy to inmate information that is used in the assignment process and unavailable to other staff, have the authority to assign inmates to cells; other personnel may not change cell assignments. See Gregory Decl. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. A ¶¶ 8, 9. At the time of plaintiffs injury, neither defendant Amoah nor defendant Robinson was assigned to Classifications. Amoah Decl. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. B ¶¶ 2, 4; Robinson Decl. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. C ¶¶ 2-5, 9. According to plaintiff, jail personnel may change assignments "if it is deemed appropriate an [sic] necessary or for emergency purposes, " and the Classifications department is notified thereafter. Dkt. No. 38 at 5. ¶ 7. In any case, if an inmate refuses to abide by his cell assignment, a non-Classifications deputy may place the inmate in holding until Classifications can reassess and reassign the inmate. See Amoah Decl. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. B ¶ 5.

         When plaintiff returned to cell 10 after his attempted move, he discovered that the inmate who previously occupied the top bunk "had moved his belongings to the cot." Compl. at 11 ¶ 21. Plaintiff advised defendant Amoah that he had "bottom bunk status and he needed his cot back as he could not climb to the top bunk due to his medical condition, " yet Defendant Amoah refused to instruct the inmate on the cot to return to the top bunk. Id. at 11-12 ¶¶ 22, 24. Plaintiff did not obviously satisfy any condition on the Henrico Sheriffs Office's Assessment Protocol: Bottom Bunk Requests used to determine "no top bunk" assignments. See Dkt. No. 34 Ex. D (listing age (greater than 60); musculoskeletal immobility; surgery or major trauma to neck, back, chest, abdomen or extremities within six weeks; documented history of seizure disorder; severe cardiac or pulmonary disease; active detox protocol; and pregnancy). When plaintiff offered to show the defendants his

bottom bunk pass, in [sic] which stated to them that he had an [sic] could produce, but needed time to retrieve it from his belongings, [sic] They both refused to listen or give him time to produce the documents, knowing full well that the Plaintiff had just moved his belongings from the cot that he was requesting to move back too [sic].

Dkt. No. 38 at 10-11 ¶ 24.

         Plaintiff then requested to be taken "to the hole" because he "could not get on the top bunk, " he would not "tell another inmate to move, " and he would not risk "any further injury to his elbow and his back trying to get on a top bunk that did not have any ladder or railings." Compl. at 12 ¶¶ 25, 28. When defendant Amoah advised plaintiff that he would be given "a charge for disobeying a direct order" if he had to be taken to the "hole, " plaintiff' turned to [defendant] Robinson and asked him if he was going to allow [defendant] Amoah to force Plaintiff to the top bunk or be subject to a charge." Id. at 12-13 ¶¶ 29-30. When defendant Robinson told plaintiff to "do as you're told and step in the cell, " plaintiff agreed to remain in cell 10. Id. at 13 ¶¶ 30-31. According to plaintiff, defendants Amoah and Robinson "totally disregarded the fact that the inmate [in cell 10] who was assigned to the top bunk had broken his assignment to occupy the Plaintiffs assigned cot." Dkt. No. 38 at 14.

         When plaintiff attempted to climb onto the top bunk later that evening, "he slipped and fell to the ground, landing on his injured right arm on which he [was wearing a] brace, causing it to be re-injured." Compl. at 14 ¶ 36. The two other inmates in cell 10 eventually helped plaintiff onto the top bunk, where he fell asleep. Id. at 14. ¶ 37. "[J]ust before the breakfast wakeup call, Plaintiff fell off the top bunk while in his sleep, hitting his head on the cot, and landing on his injured arm." Id. Plaintiff could not move, and the inmates in his cell called for the deputy, who alerted the medical officials. Id. at 15 ¶¶ 39-40. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital by ambulance. Id. ¶ 41.

         As a result of his fall, plaintiff suffers from anxiety and "continues to suffer nerve damage pain to his neck and back, migrane [sic] headaches, and aggravated nerve pain in his right arm." Id. ¶ 42. On July 9, 2014, plaintiff received a "no top bunk" restriction. Dkt. No. 34 Ex. F. Plaintiff states that he was "provided with [the] bottom bunk detail indefinitely, " because his previous accommodation, which was issued "due to problems with his back and nerve damage to his right arm, " only covered the end of May through August of 2014. Compl. at 8-9 ¶¶ 8-9. Plaintiff asserts that, prior to his fall, "Dr. Dana [sic] Vango issued him a 90 day bottom bunk pass from 5/29/14-8/29/14" due to his back and neck pain and "nerve damage to his right arm for which he also received a brace." Id. at 9 ¶ 9; Dkt. No. 38 at 7 ¶l 3.

         On November 15, 2013, plaintiff was transferred from Pamunkey Regional Jail to Henrico County Jail with no current health problems, and plaintiffs medical records reveal that during his intake evaluation on November 21, 2013, he reported "NO current health problems or medications." Dkt. No. 34 Ex. E (emphasis in original). On December 6, 2013, plaintiff requested "to see the doctor because of chest pain, back and knee pain, " but he was a "no show [during] sick call." Id. He received mental health treatment on December 31, 2013, and on January 4, 2014, he was treated due to complaints of "dry, cracking skin between several toes on his R. foot" and "recurrent discomfort from a L. knee injury in 2012."Id. On March 17, 2014, plaintiff requested to see a doctor concerning "a burning sensation in [his] inner elbow and calf muscle (back left). . . ."Id. Dr. Vango treated plaintiff that day, and her clinical notes indicate that plaintiff had complained of his right elbow "constantly burning" for "the past few months" and of burning in his left calf as well.[3] Id. Dr. Vango noted "no redness or deformities" and normal range of motion, and she provided plaintiff with a "motrin starter pack" and "muscle rub." Id.

         On April 2, 2014, plaintiff completed an "inmate sick call request" stating that he "put in to see the doctor a month ago and [had not] been called yet for problems with elbow an [sic] calve [sic]. Now I have skin irritation and I would like to see the nurse." Id. Plaintiff requested another medical appointment on April 10, ...

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