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Johnson v. Miller

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division

January 9, 2019

ERIC ANTHONY JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MILLER, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          HANLV A. INGRAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On October 30, 2018, this pro se civil rights case was consolidated with case number 0:18-CV-38-HRW. D.E. 20. The matters had already been referred to the undersigned to issue a recommended disposition. D.E. 10. The operative complaints are Docket Entry #1 in this case and Docket Entries #1 and #5 in 0:18-CV-38-HRW. Before the Court are three motions filed by Defendants. The first is a motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute. D.E. 21. The second is a motion “to deem requests for admissions admitted and for summary judgment based on those admissions.” D.E. 22. The third is a motion for summary judgment, accompanied by a memorandum and affidavit. D.E. 23.

         As District Judge Wilhoit previously explained (D.E. 4 at 2), Plaintiff Eric Anthony Johnson essentially raises five claims in these three complaints.

         First, Johnson alleges that, on February 12, 2018, four fellow-inmates at the Boyd County Detention Center “jumped” him and “kicked out” his teeth. D.E. 1 at 2. He alleges four prison officers failed to protect him from the assault. Johnson acknowledges he was taken to a hospital that day but claims that severe headaches and pain and infection in his mouth have persisted. Id.

         He requests $150, 000 in compensatory damages from each of the four officers, plus $75, 000 from each in punitive damages. Id. at 3.

         Second, Johnson claims he “was sexually assaulted by several inmates” in October 2017, and prison officials displayed deliberate indifference to that situation. 0:18-CV-38, D.E. 1; D.E. 5 at 3-4.

         Johnson's third claim is that, over several months, a registered nurse at the prison failed to provide him with medication to treat his mental health problems, causing him to see things, hear voices, and suffer from paranoia. 0:18-CV-38, D.E. 1; D.E. 5 at 4.

         The fourth claim is that there were unclean and unsanitary conditions at the prison, including black mold, which caused him emotional distress and breathing problems. Id. D.E. 1; D.E. 5 at 5.

         The fifth claim is that a prison officer “threatened” him in November 2017, causing him to fear for his life. Id. D.E. 5 at 5-6.

         On the latter four claims, Johnson seeks $200, 000 in compensatory damages (plus future “longterm health care costs”), $100, 000 in punitive damages, and $250 per day “spent under these conditions.” Id. at 6.

         Johnson filed a notice of address change in August 2018 after his release from jail. D.E. 17. But he failed to timely respond to the motion to consolidate in October and to the three pending dispositive motions that the Court now considers. As Joint Local Civil Rule 7.1(c) warns, “Failure to timely respond to a motion may be grounds for granting the motion.”

         I.

         First, Defendants move for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). D.E. 21. That rule states:

(b) Involuntary Dismissal; Effect. If the plaintiff fails to prosecute or to comply with these rules or a court order, a defendant may move to dismiss the action or any claim against it. Unless the dismissal order states otherwise, a dismissal under this subdivision (b) . . . operates as an adjudication on the merits.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(b). The Sixth Circuit has identified four factors to evaluate a District Court's dismissal for failure to prosecute:

(1) whether the party's failure is due to willfulness, bad faith, or fault; (2) whether the adversary was prejudiced by the dismissed party's conduct; (3) whether the dismissed party was warned that failure to cooperate could lead to dismissal; and (4) whether less drastic sanctions were imposed or considered before dismissal of the action.

Carpenter v. City of Flint, 723 F.3d 700, 704 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Mulbah v. Detroit Bd. of Educ., 261 F.3d 586, 589 (6th Cir. 2001). These factors weigh against dismissal for failure to prosecute.

         The first factor “requires a clear record of delay or contumacious conduct, ” meaning “behavior that is perverse in resisting authority and ‘stubbornly disobedient.” Id. at 704-05 (internal quotation marks omitted). The plaintiff's conduct must display either an intent to thwart judicial proceedings or a reckless disregard for the effect of his conduct on those proceedings. Id. at 705. Concerning the second factor, a defendant is prejudiced by a plaintiff's dilatory conduct if the defendant is required to waste time, money, and effort in pursuit of cooperation which the plaintiff was legally obligated to provide. Id. at 707.

         According to Defendants, they propounded discovery on June 12, 2018, including interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for production of documents. D.E. 21 at 2. Johnson filed limited responses in the record, including signed release forms for employment and medical records. See D.E. 16; 0:18-CV-38, D.E. 18. But no discovery responses were sent by mail, and Johnson never responded to the requests for admissions. D.E. 21 at 2. Defendants argue they “have been prejudiced by Plaintiff's failure and refusal to answer virtually any discovery regarding Defendants['] claims and at this stage of the litigation there are ...


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