United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
O' GRADY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Funk, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, initiated this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violations of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
Defendant Lucilla Correa-Battle ("defendant" or
"Officer Battle") has filed a motion for summary
judgment, a memorandum in support of her motion, a video of
the events in question, and a host of documentary exhibits.
Dkt. Nos. 17-18. Plaintiff received 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) [Dkt. No. 19], but has failed to submit
any materials in opposition to defendant's motion. This
matter is therefore ripe for adjudication. For the reasons
that follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment will
be granted, and this civil action will be dismissed.
undisputed facts are as follows. On June 11, 2018, defendant
was assigned to Pod C-2 of Rappahannock Regional Jail
("RRJ"), the pod in which plaintiff was housed.
Battle Aff. ¶¶ 2-4. At approximately 9:45 p.m.,
Officer Battle dispensed juice boxes to the inmates,
including plaintiff, who had received Ramadan meal trays
earlier in the evening. Id. at ¶ 3. Defendant
unlocked plaintiffs cell door tray slot and handed plaintiff
a juice box. Id. at ¶ 4. As defendant moved to
close the tray slot, plaintiff extended his arms out of the
opening, thereby preventing it from closing. Id. at
¶ 5. Plaintiff at that time complained that he had not
received enough cakes or chips with his dinner tray.
Id. Officer Battle then issued plaintiff a direct
order to remove his hands from the tray slot so she could
close and secure it, as is required by RRJ policy.
Id. at ¶¶ 6-7. Defendant once more
attempted to close the slot but was prevented from doing so
by plaintiff, who again pushed the slot back open and placed
his arms in the opening. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.
the intention of returning once plaintiff became compliant,
Officer Battle moved away from plaintiffs cell without
closing the tray slot door. Id. at ¶¶
10-11; Dkt. No. 18-1, p. 24. As defendant distributed mail to
other inmates, plaintiff threw two food trays out of the tray
slot door in the direction of defendant, strewing food across
the ground in her vicinity. Battle Aff. ¶¶ 12-13.
From the location of his cell, plaintiff equally could have
aimed projectiles at a desk officer located just below him.
Id. at ¶ 26. Once plaintiff removed his hands
from the slot, Officer Battle returned to the cell in order
to close it. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. As defendant
attempted to close the slot, plaintiff returned his arm to
the opening, and plaintiffs left hand was momentarily pinned
in the door. Id. at ¶¶ 17-19; Dkt. No.
18-1, p. 24. Officer Battle once more walked away from
plaintiffs cell, at which point plaintiff yelled, "Fuck
you, you fucking bitch," and threw a cup of ice in her
direction. Battle. Aff. ¶¶ 27-28.
informed Sergeant Adcock of her interactions with plaintiff,
and the sergeant, after using the intercom to communicate
with plaintiff, instructed defendant to return to plaintiffs
cell to close the tray slot. Id. at ¶¶
33-34. On her third attempt, defendant was able to do so
without issue. Id. at ¶¶ 33-35. Later in
the evening, Sergeant Foster and Sergeant Adcock escorted
plaintiff to the medical unit for examination. Dkt. No. 18-1,
p. 21. There, LPN Quayes evaluated plaintiff and cleared him
to leave medical with no treatment after finding no swelling,
paleness, or discoloration in plaintiffs left hand. Dkt. No.
18-1, p. 57. Approximately four months after the events in
question, however, plaintiff was diagnosed with a scaphoid
fracture in his wrist for which he needed surgery.
Id. at p. 56.
Standard of Review
court shall grant summary judgment if 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). "A dispute is genuine if a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party," and "[a] fact is material if it might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law."
Variety Stores v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.. 888 F.3d
651, 659 (4th Cir. 2018). Once the moving party has met its
burden to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law, the nonmoving party "must show that there is a
genuine dispute of material fact for trial... by offering
sufficient proof in the form of admissible evidence."
Id. (quoting Guessous v. Fairview Prop. Invs..
LLC. 828 F.3d 208, 216 (4th Cir. 2016)). 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).
claims that Officer Battle used excessive force in violation
of the Eighth Amendment when she shut his arm in his cell
door's tray slot. The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison
officials from inflicting unnecessary and wanton pain and
suffering on prisoners. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S.
312, 320-21 (1986). The "core judicial inquiry" in
an excessive force claim is "whether force was applied
in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson
v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). Determination of
whether force was necessary or intentionally aimed at
inflicting unnecessary physical harm requires consideration
of factors such as the need for the application of force, the
relationship between the need and the amount of force used,
the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates
reasonably perceived by responsible officials, the extent of
injury inflicted, and any efforts made to temper the severity
of a forceful response. Whitley, 475 U.S. at 321;
see also Wilkins v. Gaddv. 559 U.S. 34, 37-39
(2010). "[P]unitive intent behind a defendant's use
of force may be inferred when the force is not reasonably
related to a legitimate nonpunitive governmental
objective." United States v. Cobb. 905 F.2d
784, 789 (4th Cir. 1990) (quotations omitted).
has introduced-and plaintiff has failed to call into
question-evidence that forecloses the notion that defendant
acted maliciously or sadistically against plaintiff. Indeed,
all five Whitley factors weigh in favor of
Need for the Application of Force
the first factor, whether the use of force was necessary,
defendant has introduced evidence that shows plaintiff
refused to obey direct orders and threw food trays at Officer
Battle before defendant attempted to close the tray slot.
Plaintiffs behavior justified the use of some force to regain
order. See Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 762
(4th Cir. 1996) (finding guards' decision to use force
justified in the face of inmates' refusal to cease unruly
and disruptive behavior); see also Karavias v.
Virginia, 2013 WL 3879701, at *3 (W.D. Va. July 26,
2013) ("Plaintiffs arms did not belong outside of his
cell when returning the lunch tray, and his persistent
refusal to comply with staffs orders required some type of
force to restore discipline and order"). Though
defendant was ultimately able to close the tray slot without
exerting any force against plaintiff, this occurred only
after plaintiff ignored defendant's direct orders, threw
several items in defendant's direction, and swore at
defendant. In sum, this factor cuts in favor of Officer
Relationship Between Need and ...