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Mayfield v. Reeder

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 7, 2014

GARY MAYFIELD, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL REEDER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

DONALD G. WILKERSON, Magistrate Judge.

Now pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, Michael Reeder, on June 30, 2014 (Doc. 47). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is DENIED.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Gary Mayfield, Jr., a former inmate at Shawnee Correctional Center ("Shawnee"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. After an initial screening, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed on one count against Defendant Michael Reeder for allegedly failing to protect Plaintiff from an assault by his cellmate. Defendant Reeder filed his Motion for Summary Judgment on June 30, 2014, asserting he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law as there are no material facts in dispute and he is entitled to qualified immunity (Doc. 47). Plaintiff filed his response on August 4, 2014 (Doc. 52), arguing that Defendant has failed to establish that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This action arises from an incident that occurred on January 4, 2011, in which Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with his cellmate, Chester Lewis, while incarcerated at Shawnee (Doc. 48-2, Def.'s Ex. B, Deposition of Gary Mayfield, p. 11). According to Plaintiff, prior to the altercation, in approximately December, 2010, his cellmate repeatedly threatened him with physical violence ( Id., p. 13). After receiving these threats, Plaintiff asserts that on two or three occasions he wrote letters to Defendant Reeder, who was the head of internal affairs ( Id., pp. 13-14). Plaintiff had met with Defendant Reeder at the time of his initial transfer to Shawnee ( Id., p. 16). At this initial meeting, Defendant Reeder introduced himself to Plaintiff and instructed Plaintiff to send him a "kite, " or letter, if he had problems with any officers or inmates ( Id., pp. 16-17). Plaintiff asserts that he sent letters about the threats addressed to Defendant Reeder via the prison mail system ( Id., p. 15). Specifically, Plaintiff addressed the letters to "C/O Reeder - Internal Affairs" and placed the letters in the drop box marked "Mail" ( Id., pp. 14-15). Plaintiff does not specifically remember the precise content of the letters, but asserts that they informed Defendant Reeder that he was being threatened by his cellmate and needed to be moved, as he feared for his life ( Id., p. 25). Plaintiff never received a response to his letters ( Id., p. 16). Plaintiff never spoke with Defendant Reeder about the threats he was receiving prior to the altercation ( Id., p. 16).

Soon after the altercation, Plaintiff asserts that he briefly met with Defendant Reeder in the internal affairs office ( Id., p. 29). At this time, Plaintiff immediately asked Defendant Reeder "What happened? Didn't you get my letters? I told you this was going to happen" ( Id. ). In response, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Reeder looked at him and nodded ( Id. ). Plaintiff was then escorted out of the office by another correctional officer ( Id. ).

As a result of the altercation, Plaintiff suffered severe injuries, including a crushed sinus cavity and significant nerve damage ( Id., pp. 31-32). Plaintiff never incurred any disciplinary action as a result of the altercation, as an investigation apparently concluded that he was not the instigator ( Id., pp. 23-24).

Defendant Reeder asserts that he never received any of the letters Plaintiff allegedly sent (Doc. 48-1, Def.'s Ex. A, Affidavit of Michael Reeder, p. 2). Defendant indicates that he keeps all letters sent by inmates in a designated file, but he has no record of any letters sent by Plaintiff prior to the January 4, 2011 altercation ( Id., p. 2). Additionally, Defendant contends that he never interviewed Plaintiff after the altercation ( Id., p. 4). Moreover, Defendant states that even if he did encounter Plaintiff sometime after the incident and nodded in response to something Plaintiff said, the nod would not have been intended to convey agreement, but rather, would have been intended merely to acknowledge that Plaintiff was speaking ( Id. ). Defendant Reeder asserts that he was not aware of any problems Plaintiff had with his cellmate prior to the January 4, 2011 altercation ( Id. ).

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper only if the moving party can demonstrate that there is no genuine issue 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). See also Ruffin-Thompkins v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 422 F.3d 603, 607 (7th Cir. 2005); Black Agents & Brokers Agency, Inc. v. Near North Ins. Brokerage, Inc., 409 F.3d 833, 836 (7th Cir. 2005). The moving party bears the burden of establishing that no material facts are in genuine dispute; any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue must be resolved against the moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 160 (1970). See also Lawrence v. Kenosha County, 391 F.3d 837, 841 (7th Cir. 2004). A moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law where the non-moving party "has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of a nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. The Seventh Circuit has stated that summary judgment is "the put up or shut up moment in a lawsuit, when a party must show what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events." Steen v. Myers, 486 F.3d 1017, 1022 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hammel v. Eau Galle Cheese Factory, 407 F.3d 852, 859 (7th Cir. 2005) (other citations omitted).

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment requires that prison officials "take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates." Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 758 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (other citations omitted). In order to establish a claim for failure to protect against a prison official, a plaintiff needs to show: (1) he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and, (2) that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to that risk. Id. In order to establish the first element, a plaintiff must show not only that he experienced, or was exposed to, a serious harm, but also that there was a substantial risk beforehand that serious harm might actually occur. Brown v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 910 (7th Cir. 2005). The second element, the subjective element, is more difficult for a plaintiff to demonstrate, and requires an inquiry into a defendant prison official's state of mind. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 847. A prison official may be held liable only if he knows an inmate faces a substantial risk of serious harm and "disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. Accordingly, in this instance, in order for Plaintiff to prevail on his claim, he must establish that Defendant Reeder had actual knowledge of an impending harm, easily preventable, so that a conscious, culpable refusal to prevent the harm can be inferred from Defendant's failure to prevent it. Santiago, 599 F.3d at 758. In cases involving inmate-on-inmate violence, a prisoner normally provides actual knowledge of impending harm by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996).

DISCUSSION

Defendant Reeder contends that he is entitled to summary judgment because (1) he was not informed of Plaintiff's concerns about his cellmate prior to the January 4, 2011 altercation, (2) he is protected by qualified immunity, and (3) to the extent Plaintiff seeks damages from Defendant in his official ...


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