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Williams v. Doe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 18, 2014

EUGENE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD HULICK, SGT. WAGNER, OFFICER JOHN DOE, and NURSE JANE DOE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("Report") of United States Magistrate Judge Donald G. Wilkerson following Defendant Timothy Wagner's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 93). Plaintiff Eugene Williams, an inmate formerly housed at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), alleges that Wagner, a correctional sergeant at Menard, was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's health and safety by failing first to prevent and then to halt an attack by fellow inmate Michael Johnson. Plaintiff asserts these failures violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

For the following reasons, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of Wagner on the failure to prevent theory, and orders Plaintiff to show cause why, in light of the currently undisputed facts, summary judgment should not be granted in favor of Wagner on the failure to halt theory as well.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, originally proceeding pro se, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting violations of his constitutional rights while he was incarcerated at Menard. Plaintiff alleges that on April 16, 2008, he and his cellmate, Michael Johnson, were handcuffed and taken to the shower area. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant John Doe failed to sufficiently search Johnson for weapons or other contraband before Plaintiff and Johnson were handcuffed. After locking Plaintiff and Johnson in the shower area, Johnson's handcuffs were released first and Johnson began stabbing Plaintiff with a pen while Plaintiff was still cuffed. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendants Wagner and John Doe looked on and did not intervene until the attack abated. Plaintiff also alleges that following the attack, he remained locked and bleeding in the shower area for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes while Wagner and other correctional officers searched for the key to unlock the door.

Plaintiff further alleges that prior to Defendant Donald Hulick's (the warden at the time of attack) arrival at Menard, prison staff removed a prisoner's handcuffs before placing a prisoner in a locked area with another inmate. However, once Hulick arrived at Menard, he allegedly changed the procedure so that inmates' handcuffs were removed one-by-one after placing a prisoner in a locked area with another inmate.

The District Court completed its preliminary review of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and, among other counts previously disposed of in this case, allowed Plaintiff to proceed under the following count:

Count 3: Against Defendants Wagner and Doe for being deliberately indifferent to his health and safety by failing to halt the attack by inmate Johnson, in violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights.

Wagner now moves for summary judgment on Count 3, arguing he is entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff did not inform him, nor was he aware, that Plaintiff needed to be protected from Johnson. Wagner also raises a defense of qualified immunity. In response, Plaintiff asserts there is a question of fact as to whether Wagner knew he was placing Plaintiff in a position that would likely result in serious harm. Further, Plaintiff asserts that Wagner knew there was a higher risk of harm in placing handcuffed, violent inmates in the shower with un-handcuffed inmates, and therefore there exists a question of fact as to whether Wagner is entitled to qualified immunity.

Now before the Court is the Report by Magistrate Judge Wilkerson. The Report correctly observes that Count 3, as written after the preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, contains only the theory that Wagner was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's health and safety by failing to halt the attack. However, neither Wagner's motion for summary judgment, nor Plaintiff's response, contains argument on that theory. Instead, the parties focus their efforts on the question of whether Wagner was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's health and safety by failing to prevent the attack.

The Report recommends the Court restate Count 3 to include the failure to prevent theory. It then recommends granting summary judgment in favor of Wagner on the failure to prevent theory. Next, the Report recommends identifying the material facts not in dispute, providing notice to the parties, allowing for response, and then granting summary judgment in favor of Wagner on the original failure to halt theory. Finally, the Report recommends a finding that Wagner is entitled to qualified immunity.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2), and SDIL-LR 73.1(b), Plaintiff filed objections (Doc. 94) to the Report's recommendation that summary judgment be entered in favor of Wagner on the theories that he failed to prevent and halt the attack. Wagner filed a response. (Doc. 95).

LEGAL STANDARD

Where a party timely and specifically objects to a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court must undertake a de novo review of those portions to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); SDIL-LR 73.1(b); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may then "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations" made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); SDIL-LR73.1(b). In making this determination, the Court must look at all the evidence contained in the record and give fresh consideration to those issues to which specific objection was made. Willis v. Caterpillar Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999).

Summary Judgment

Plaintiff's specific objections are to the Report's recommendation of summary judgment on both the failure to prevent and halt theories. Therefore, the Court reviews these issues de novo.

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party can show "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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); see also Serednyj v. Beverly Healthcare, LLC, 656 F.3d 540, 547 (7th Cir. 2011) ("When a summary judgment motion is submitted and supported by evidence... the nonmoving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials in its pleadings"). A mere scintilla of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's position is insufficient to overcome summary judgment; a non-movant will prevail only when it presents definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion. Estate of Escobedo v. Martin, 702 F.3d 388, 403 (7th Cir. 2012); Parent v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 694 F.3d 919, 922 (7th Cir. ...


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