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Lamb v. Telle

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 8, 2013

ZACHARY AMOS LAMB, Plaintiff,
v.
JACK TELLE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Zachary Lamb's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 63.) Defendants, Phil Hazel and Rodney Hill, have responded. (Docket No. 65.) Plaintiff Lamb has replied. (Docket No. 66.) This matter is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the Court will DENY Plaintiff Zachary Lamb's Motion for Summary Judgment.

Defendants, Phil Hazel and Rodney Hill, also move for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 67.) Plaintiff has responded. (Docket No. 70.) Defendants have replied. (Docket No. 72.) This matter is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendant Hazle's Motion For Summary Judgment as to all claims asserted against him. The Court will DENY IN PART, as to the Fourteenth Amendment excessive force, assault, and battery claims, and GRANT IN PART, as to all other claims, Defendant Hill's Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

In this action Plaintiff Zachary Lamb ("Lamb") alleges that Defendants Calloway County Jailer Phil Hazle and Deputy Jailer Rodney Hill (collectively "Defendants") violated his constitutional rights while he was detained in the Calloway County Jail and asserts claims for unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, and assault and battery. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Civil Rights Act of 1871.[1] The Defendants are employees of the jail. The Plaintiff initially alleged two specific pepper spraying incidents: May 22, 2011, and January 17, 2012.[2] There is no video evidence available for the May 22, 2011 incident. (Docket No. 65, Page 2.) There is video evidence available for the January 17, 2012 incident.

Presently before the Court is Lamb's third motion for summary judgment and Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff alleges that evidence submitted with the motion conclusively proves that the Defendants violated his rights and he is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. This evidence includes a video of the January 17, 2012 incident and jail guidelines concerning the use of pepper spray. The Court denied the first motion as premature because discovery was on-going and the evidentiary record incomplete. ( See Docket No. 27.) The Court also denied his second motion because it was not properly supported by evidence in the record at that time. (Docket No. 55.)

On January 17, 2012, Plaintiff was arrested on a warrant issued by the Calloway County District Court for contempt of court and taken to Calloway County Jail. He was placed in an isolation cell which contained a video camera for observation of inmates in the cell. Shortly after being placed in the cell Plaintiff admits that he began "thrashing about in frustration." (Docket No. 69, Page 102.) Specifically, Plaintiff began hitting walls/the door, hitting the camera, and obstructing the camera with what appears to be moist toilet paper. Deputy Hill entered the cell, removed the obstruction and removed all of Plaintiff's belongings except for his bed mat and clothing. After Hill left, Plaintiff continued hitting walls/the door, hitting the camera, and obstructing the camera. Hill returned again and removed the obstruction and confiscated Plaintiff's jail issued flipflops. Subsequently, Plaintiff continued to strike the camera again and again and began kicking the door.[3]

Defendant alleges that Plaintiff was warned multiple times to leave the camera alone and stop kicking the door of his cell. Plaintiff states he doesn't recall that instruction, but states "anything is possible." (Docket No. 69, Page 111-12.) The video does not give any indication that a warning was given, although admittedly the video does not have audio. At approximately 18.20.19, Deputy Hill entered the cell and pepper sprayed Plaintiff for the first time. (Video of January 17, 2012 Incident.) After the use of the peppery spray, Plaintiff continued to hit walls, kick the door, and throw water within the cell, allegedly at a speaker box.[4] ( Id. at 18:24-25.) Deputy Hill then entered the cell and pepper sprayed Plaintiff a second time. ( Id. at 18:25:23.)

Despite the second use of pepper spray, Plaintiff continued his previous behavior of kicking/hitting the door and hitting the wall.[5] At 18:29:00 Deputy Hill, along with an unidentified person, again enter the cell. Deputy Hill appears to pepper spray Plaintiff a third time[6] and then rubs the pepper spray in.[7]

After the incident on 18:29:00, Plaintiff appears to yell through the door. Other than that, Plaintiff does not continue to "misbehave." However, he does strike the door a single time with both of his hands at 18:30:21. Immediately thereafter, Deputy Hill enters the cell and appears to deploy pepper spray a fourth time and/or rub the pepper spray in.[8] ( Id. at 18:30:24.)

Subsequently, Plaintiff reinitiates hitting the door and appears to yell through the door. ( Id. at 18:31:00-18:31:35.) Deputy Hill then enters the cell and appears to deploy pepper spray a fifth time and/or rub the pepper spray in. (Id. at 18:35:00.)

Plaintiff continues to hit the door of his cell and yell through the door. Plaintiff then dips his head in the cell toilet, even though there was a decontamination bucket available in the cell.[9] Thereafter, Plaintiff stood, removed his clothing and dumped the decontamination bucket over his entire body. Defendants allege that Plaintiff then indicated to Deputy Hill he was ready to cooperate and therefore was removed from the cell and allowed to shower in another part of the jail.

STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where "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). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

"[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact." Street v. J. C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case. Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence in support of his position; the plaintiff must present evidence on which the trier of fact could reasonably find for the plaintiff. See id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). The plaintiff may accomplish this by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute...." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(1). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment; "the mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate." Moinette v. Elec. Data Sys. Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996).

DISCUSSION

I. May 22, 2011 Incident Claims

As an initial matter, Plaintiff testified in his deposition he is no longer pursuing any claims in relation to the May 22, 2011 incident since he failed to sue the individuals actually involved in that incident.[10] (Docket No. 69, Page 99-100.) Accordingly, the Court's analysis of the parties' motions for summary judgment will be limited to the January 2012 incident. All claims related to the May 22, 2011 incident are DISMISSED without prejudice.

II. January 17, 2012 Claims Against Defendants in Their Official Capacity

An official capacity suit will be construed as a suit directly against the local governmental unit. Because Defendants are employees of the Calloway County Jail, these official capacity claims would be construed as claims against Calloway County.[11] Defendants argue that the Eleventh Amendment and governmental sovereign immunity bar all claims asserted against them in their official capacities. The Court will address the official capacity claims under federal and state law separately, as the analysis is different between the two schemes.[12]

a. Federal Claims

To assert a § 1983 claim against a defendant such as Calloway County, the Court must determine: (1) whether the plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so, whether the county is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115');"> 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). Assuming Plaintiff could prove that any of the Defendants violated his constitutional rights, in order to recover against Calloway County Plaintiff would be required to prove that the actions or inactions of Defendants were done pursuant to a "policy or custom" attributable to Calloway County. Monell v. New York Depart. Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). The policy or custom must play a part in the violation of federal law-a causal connection is required. Considerably more proof than a single incident is necessary to establish both the requisite fault on the part of the municipality, and the casual connection between the policy and the constitutional deprivation. Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823 (1985).

In this case, Plaintiff has pled only a single incident and has not put forth any evidence of an unconstitutional custom, policy, or practice. Therefore, the official capacity federal § 1983 constitutional claims against Calloway County will be dismissed and summary judgment GRANTED to Defendants on those claims.

b. State Claims

A county is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth. Accordingly, it is "cloaked" with sovereign or governmental immunity. Jones v. Cross, 260 S.W.3d 343, 345 (Ky. 2008) (quoting Lexington-Fayette Urban County Gov't v. Smolcic, 142 S.W.3d 128 (Ky. 2004)). As a result, absent waiver, Calloway County has immunity on Plaintiff's claims. Id. Plaintiff has not asserted there was waiver of this immunity. Therefore, summary judgment will be GRANTED to Defendants on the state claims against Defendants in their official capacities.

III. Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims Relating to Excessive Force

Section 1983 does not confer substantive rights but merely provides a means to vindicate rights conferred by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Aldini v. Johnson, 609 F.3d 858, 864 (6th Cir. 2010). "In addressing an excessive force claim brought under § 1983, analysis begins by identifying the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed by the challenged application of force." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). The three constitutional provisions for analyzing an excessive force claim brought under § 1983 are the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. As will become apparent, the Fourteenth Amendment is the appropriate constitutional provision for analyzing Plaintiff's claims.

a. Fourth Amendment Claims

The Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures of a person applies in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop:

The Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures of the person applies to excessive-force claims that arise in the context of an arrest of investigatory stop of a free citizen, ' while the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment applies to excessive force claims brought by convicted criminals serving their sentences. When neither the Fourth nor the Eighth Amendment serves to protect citizens, courts have applied the Fourteenth Amendment.

Aldini v. Johnson, 609 F.3d 858, 864 (6th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a warrant. The Fourth Amendment protects detainees arrested without a warrant through completion of their probable cause hearing. Since Plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a warrant, the Fourth Amendment does not apply to his claims. Accordingly, ...


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