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Wiley-Stiger v. O'Bannon

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

December 22, 2016

PAMELA WILEY-STIGER, Plaintiff,
v.
EDWIN O'BANNON, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David J. Hale, Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Pamela Wiley-Stiger was an inmate at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC) in 2013; Defendant Edwin O'Bannon was an LMDC Corrections officer. (Docket No. 34-1, PageID # 164) Wiley-Stiger claims that Officer O'Bannon used excessive force with her during a dispute. (Id.) Wiley-Stiger sued O'Bannon, alleging that O'Bannon's use of excessive force violated her constitutional rights. (Id.) In addition, Wiley-Stiger alleges state law claims of false arrest, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. (Id.) In response, O'Bannon has filed a motion for summary judgment. (D.N. 34) O'Bannon has also filed a motion in limine to strike Plaintiff's Expert Disclosures. (D.N. 29) Because Wiley-Stiger has raised a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to her federal constitutional claims and her state law assault and battery claims, the defendant's motion for summary judgment will be denied in part and granted in part. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion in limine will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         During at least part of her time at LMDC, Wiley-Stiger had been sleeping in a “boat, ” which is “essentially a plastic mat[] into which a mattress fits.” (D.N. 34-1, PageID # 164.) Boats are used when there are not enough bunks for all the inmates. (Id.) On March 27, 2013, Officer O'Bannon instructed the inmates in Wiley-Stiger's dorm that all the inmates sleeping in boats were to move into newly emptied bunks, and had until the next meal time to move their belongings, otherwise they would be skipped at meal time and served last. (Id., PageID # 164-65)

         Officer O'Bannon returned to the dorm just before meal time and discovered that there were still personal belongings in one of the boats. (Id., PageID # 165) After O'Bannon threatened to take the items if they were not removed from the boat, Wiley-Stiger retrieved her things from the boat and placed them on her bed. (Id.) According to O'Bannon's account, Wiley-Stiger was “cursing and causing the other inmates to become agitated” as she moved her belongings. As a result, O'Bannon “made the decision to remove Plaintiff from the dorm to prevent her from further agitating the other inmates in the dorm.” (Id.)

         After retrieving the boat and placing it in the hallway, Officer O'Bannon returned to the dorm “where the inmates were now eating” to remove Wiley-Stiger. (Id.) O'Bannon claims that he asked Wiley-Stiger to stand up and put her hands behind her back. (Id.) Wiley-Stiger complied and O'Bannon “held onto her hands behind her back so as to safely escort her from the dorm.” (Id.) O'Bannon alleges that as they were walking out of the dorm, another inmate yelled something that upset Wiley-Stiger. (Id.) As a result, Wiley-Stiger tried to free herself by “bucking and jumping.” (Id.) Officer O'Bannon claims that he did not have the time or ability to call for assistance. (Id.) According to O'Bannon, “because Plaintiff was jumping in the air trying to free herself . . . he had no choice but to escort her to a nearby table in order to break her fall in half.” (Id., PageID # 166) After Wiley-Stiger landed on the table, O'Bannon then allegedly “slid her to the ground, spilling ice that was on the table in the process.” (Id.) Next, Wiley-Stiger “went limp and refused to cooperate, ” forcing O'Bannon to grab her jumpsuit and “guide her out of the dorm.” (Id.) O'Bannon claims that as he was escorting her through the doorway, he slipped on some of the spilled ice and “fell with Plaintiff into the hallway.” O'Bannon alleges that he “was able to guide Plaintiff enough that she landed in the boat that had previously been placed in the hallway, and he caught himself on the wall.”[1] (Id.)

         Wiley-Stiger has a very different account of the events in question. She claims that she and another inmate were eating dinner when the other inmate began “commenting on the cross temperament and demeanor” of Officer O'Bannon. (D.N. 36, PageID # 206) The other inmate then allegedly “made a comment stating that she knew the individual from whom [O'Bannon] bought marijuana.” (Id.) Wiley-Stiger then said that she also knew the individual. (Id.) According to Wiley-Stiger, O'Bannon overheard the conversation and became angry. (Id., PageID # 206-07) As a result, he “approached Plaintiff from behind, grabbing her by both arms and twisting them up behind her back, forcing her off her seat.” (Id., PageID # 207) Wiley-Stiger purportedly had preexisting shoulder injuries, and pleaded with O'Bannon to let her arms go. (Id.) Instead, Wiley-Stiger contends that O'Bannon “slammed her hard upon the table, ” then forced her up and slammed her onto the concrete floor. (Id.) O'Bannon then allegedly drug her out into the hallway where he pushed her into the boat that had been placed there earlier. (Id.)

         Wiley-Stiger claims that she sustained severe injuries as a result of Officer O'Bannon's excessive force. (Id.) Specifically, she asserts that her shoulder and chin were injured, and her shoulder eventually required surgery. (Id.) Wiley-Stiger allegedly sought medical treatment in jail following the incident to address her shoulder pain and injury to her chin. (D.N. 36, PageID # 207) After her release from jail, Wiley-Stiger claims she sought “further treatment at the Emergency Room” and from her treating physician. (Id.) According to Wiley-Stiger, her treating physician found that the incident “obviously” exacerbated her pre-existing shoulder injury and she eventually required surgery to address the issue. (Id.)

         In response, Officer O'Bannon asserts that this incident did not cause or aggravate her shoulder injury. (D.N. 37, PageID # 244-45) Instead, O'Bannon claims that Wiley-Stiger's injury dated “back as far as 2009 and that one doctor had even discussed the likely need for a surgery on that shoulder in the future.” (Id.) O'Bannon also challenges how Wiley-Stiger's treating physician “reached the conclusion that the obvious pre-existing condition was exacerbated by this incident.” (Id.) O'Bannon argues that another doctor “found that there were absolutely no changes in Plaintiff's shoulder since 2009 and the condition could not have been exacerbated by any action of Officer O'Bannon.” (Id.)

         In response to the incident, O'Bannon filed an Inmate Disciplinary Report, charging Wiley-Stiger with “disruptive behavior, use of abusive language, refusing to follow order, and threatening staff.” (D.N. 34-1, PageID # 166) A neutral officer investigated and found Wiley-Stiger guilty of the charges. (Id.) She was sentenced to serve ten days in a single cell. (Id., PageID # 166-67) Because Wiley-Stiger had nine days left to serve, she spent “the remainder of her time in custody in the single cell.” (Id., PageID # 167)

         After her release from jail, Wiley-Stiger filed a complaint with Louisville Metro Department of Corrections against Officer O'Bannon. (D.N. 36-3, PageID # 231) When an inmate files a grievance with LMDC, he or she files a written complaint, which is then investigated by the Professional Standards Unit of the LMDC. (D.N. 46, PageID # 335; D.N. 47, PageID # 376) As part of the investigation into Wiley-Stiger's complaint, the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) interviewed a number of inmates who were present in the dorm and witnessed the incident. (Id.) Of the seven inmate-witnesses, four agreed with Wiley-Stiger that O'Bannon grabbed Wiley-Stiger's arm before giving her instructions, and they asserted that she complained of shoulder pain. They also maintained that even though she did not resist O'Bannon, he forced her onto the table and then the ground. (Id., PageID # 231-33) The three other inmates who were interviewed claimed that O'Bannon asked Wiley-Stiger to get up, but she refused and resisted, forcing O'Bannon to take appropriate steps in restraining her and removing her from the dorm. (Id.)

         During the investigation, neither the plaintiff nor the defendant was given a hearing to address the complaint or an opportunity to participate in the investigation. (See D.N. 46, PageID # 335; D.N. 47, PageID # 376-77) Following the investigation, the Professional Standards Unit issued a written report detailing their conclusions. (D.N. 46, PageID # 335; D.N. 47, PageID # 376) The investigators found “no proof that Inmate Wiley sustained any serious injuries only bumps and bruises.” (Id., PageID # 237) Additionally, the report stated that “Inmate Wiley should take some responsibility for her actions in this incident. Inmate Wiley admitted she had cursed [Officer] O'Bannon during the beginning of this incident and her behavior was inappropriate.” (Id.) However, investigators also concluded that “O'Bannon's actions were not an attempt to defuse the situation, but rather his actions escalated the situation.” (Id.) The investigators wrote, “O'Bannon should have used better judgment when he decided to remove Inmate Wiley from the dorm by himself.” (Id.) They found that his actions violated policy and procedures regarding the use of force and dealing with violent inmates. (Id., PageID # 237-38) As a result of the Unit's report, Officer O'Bannon “was disciplined through a written reprimand.” (D.N. 47, PageID # 376) Neither party was able to appeal the decision. (D.N. 46, PageID # 335; D.N. 47, PageID # 378)

         Following her release from jail, Wiley-Stiger filed the present complaint in Jefferson Circuit Court, which was removed to federal court, alleging that O'Bannon used excessive force and violated her Constitutional rights.[2] (D.N. 1-3). Additionally, she claims false arrest, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and conspiracy under Kentucky state law. (Id.) Wiley-Stiger seeks to recover damages for “all bodily harm, emotional harm, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of enjoyment of life and another other injuries inflicted by Defendant, ” as well as punitive damages and “any and all other relief as may be appropriate, including attorney's fees and reasonable costs and expenses.” (Id., PageID # 10) In response, O'Bannon argues that he is entitled to both sovereign immunity and qualified immunity, and then argues that each of Wiley-Stiger's federal and state law claims fail as a matter of law. (D.N. 34) In addition, O'Bannon asks the Court to bar Wiley-Stiger from seeking punitive damages. (Id.)

         O'Bannon has also filed a motion in limine, asking the Court to strike Wiley-Stiger's expert witness disclosures from the record and prevent her from utilizing expert testimony. (D.N. 29) O'Bannon argues that the motion should be granted because: (1) Wiley-Stiger failed to provide the experts' written reports as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B); (2) One of the experts would be “presented by deposition, as opposed to appearing live at trial”; and (3) the disclosures were made four days late. (D.N. 29, PageID # 146-47) Wiley-Stiger contends that: (1) written reports are not required because the experts are treating physicians; (2) the experts would be available to appear at trial; and (3) the defendant has not alleged any prejudice as a result of the delay. (D.N. 30)

         II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         To grant a motion for summary judgment, the Court must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A “dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine' . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying the basis for its motion and those portions of the record that “it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party must point to specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), but “the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The non-moving party must present specific facts demonstrating that a genuine issue of fact exists 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).

         a. Federal Claims

          i. Sovereign Immunity

         Wiley-Stiger's federal claims against Officer O'Bannon in his official capacity are considered to be claims against the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, which are in effect claims against the city. Kentucky v. Graham,473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); Harrison v. Michigan, 722 F.3d 768, 771 (6th Cir. 2013). Such claims against the Louisville Metro Government are barred by the Eleventh Amendment because the city “is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth.” Jewish Hosp. Healthcare Servs., Inc. v. Louisville/Jefferson Cty. Metro Gov't, 270 S.W.3d 904, 907 (Ky. Ct. App. 2008). The Eleventh Amendment prohibits bringing §1983 claims against a state in federal court, regardless of the relief sought, unless the state has waived its immunity or Congress has overridden it. See P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 119-20 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978); Ferritto v. Ohio Dep't of Highway Safety, No. 90-3745, 1991 WL 37824, at *2 (6th Cir. Mar. 19, 1991). The Commonwealth of Kentucky has not waived its immunity to § 1983 suits, see Adams v. Morris, 90 F. App'x 856, 857 (6th Cir. 2004), and in enacting ยง ...


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