United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division
DOMINIQUE J. BROCK PLAINTIFF
SAMUEL WRIGHT, et al. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court upon a motion for summary judgment
by defendant Samuel Wright. (DN 62.) This matter is ripe for
to the complaint, Brock was an inmate at Green River
Correctional Complex. In May 2014, he was involved in an
altercation with an inmate named Timothy Delahanty, who Brock
alleges has ties to a white supremacist group. Following the
altercation, Brock was placed on “rec alone, ”
meaning he could not be placed in a recreation cage with
other inmates. However, on June 4, 2014, Brock was placed in
a recreation cage with defendant David Hicks, who Brock
alleges was another white supremacist in the prison. Hicks
and another unknown individual assaulted Brock in the
recreation cage. Brock alleges that prison staff conspired
with Hicks to have Brock assaulted in retaliation for his
prior altercation with Delahanty and a previous lawsuit Brock
filed while being housed at the Crittenden County Jail.
originally brought various constitutional and state-law
claims against three guards who were at the scene of the
recreation cage fight, Karen Stammers, Samuel Wright, and
Stephen Embry; the prison official who handled his appeal,
Stephen Wright; and Hicks. Following this Court's pro
se screening process (DN 11), a motion for summary
judgment by the defendants employed by the prison (DN 33),
and the entry of default judgment against Hicks (DN 52), the
only claims that remain are § 1983 claims against Samuel
Wright for (1) failure to protect and (2) deliberate
indifference. The Court vacated the jury trial that was set
to allow for additional discovery and further dispositive
motions. (DN 52.) Wright has now moved for summary judgment
as to both claims that remain against him. (DN 62.)
Standard of Review
the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it 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). The moving party bears the
initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and
identifying the portion of the record that demonstrates the
absence of a genuine issue of fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party
satisfies this burden, the non-moving party must produce
specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for
trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 252 (1986).
the Court must review the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must
do more than merely show that there is some
“metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to show
that a genuine factual issue 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). “The mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position
will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the
jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on both claims
that remain against him, as Brock has failed to establish
that he has a cognizable physical injury for which he could
recover damages. The Prison Litigation Reform Act states that
“[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner
confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility,
for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody
without a prior showing of physical injury.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(e). Brock has asserted § 1983 claims
against Wright for violations of his Eighth Amendment rights.
(Pl.'s Compl. [DN 1] at 4; Mem. Op. and Order [DN 11] at
13 (construing allegations as Eighth Amendment claims for
failure to protect and deliberate indifference).) Thus, the
statute applies to Brock's claims. See Jarriett v.
Wilson, 162 Fed.Appx. 394, 400 (6th Cir. 2005) (42
U.S.C. § 1997e(e) applies to § 1983 claims for
violations of Eighth Amendment rights).
circuit, § 1997e(e) requires that a physical injury
“be more than de minimis for an Eighth
Amendment claim to go forward.” Id. The line
between serious and de minimis injuries is typically
drawn at whether the injury would require “a free world
person to visit an emergency room, or have a doctor attend
to, give an opinion, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment for
the injury.” Id. at 401 (citing Luong v.
Hatt, 979 F.Supp. 481, 485-86 (N.D. Tex. 1997)). Wright
argues that Brock suffered no serious injury for which he
could recover damages under § 1997e(e), as prison
records and photographs indicate that he only suffered a
scratch across his neck during the altercation with Hicks.
The prison's “Accident/Extraordinary Occurrence
Report” indicates that Brock had an abrasion under his
right ear lobe that was one centimeter round and extended to
his neckline. (DN 62-2, at 1.) The Report also indicates that
Brock had two “healing burns” on his right elbow,
although it is unclear if these burns were the result of the
altercation, the use of pepper spray to end the altercation,
or some other event. (Id.) Photos taken two hours
after the incident confirm the details in the written report.
(Id. at 2-3.) In response, Brock only argues that
the photos “support [the] allegations raised in [the]
original complaint[.]” (Pl.'s Resp. [DN 66] at 3.)
Court finds that Brock suffered nothing more than a de
minimis injury during the altercation that gave rise to
his claims against Wright. Even taking into account the two
burn marks of questionable origin, Brock's scratch on the
neck and burn marks are not the type of serious injury that
would allow him to recover for an Eighth Amendment violation.
See Corsetti v. Tessmer, 41 Fed.Appx. 753, 755 (6th
Cir. 2002) (two small bruises and minor cuts that did not
require medical attention were de minimis injuries);
Ratliff v. De Baun, 2017 WL 4365802, at *8 (W.D. Ky.
Sep. 29, 2017) (two burn marks on arm were de
minimis injury). Brock has not presented proof that he
required medical attention for his injuries or that the
prison's records understate the extent of his injuries.
As such, his injuries are de minimis, and they do
not give rise to an actionable claim under § 1997e(e).
Therefore, the motion for summary judgment by Wright is
GRANTED as to all remaining claims against
him, and he is DISMISSED from the action as
the dismissal of Wright, there remain no outstanding claims
against any defendant. However, the Court entered a default
judgment as to liability against Hicks on September 1, 2017,
and indicated that Brock would have the opportunity to prove
his damages as to his claims against Hicks at trial. (DN 52,
at 2.) No claims remain to be tried, but Brock will still be
permitted to present evidence of his damages. By May
31, 2018, Brock must submit to the Court evidence of
his damages, ...