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Tucker v. Mezo

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 21, 2016

TRAVIUS TUCKER, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS MEZO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Thomas Mezo. (Doc. 50.) Plaintiff is an inmate with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant is a correctional officer employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections. On November 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Defendant violated his constitutional rights. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff proceeded on his Complaint with the following claims:

Count 1: An Eighth Amendment claim of excessive force against Defendant Mezo for slamming Plaintiff's arm into the cell chuckhole and stabbing him with keys on February 13, 2014.
Count 2: A state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress based on the incident described in Count 1.

         Defendant seeks summary judgment on both counts. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate who was incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center. (Doc. 56-2 at 6.) Defendant Mezo worked as a correctional officer at Menard. (Doc. 56-6 at 8.) At Menard, inmates are prohibited from placing their arms in cell chuckholes as an institutional safety measure to prevent inmates from stabbing, grabbing or throwing bodily fluids. (Id. at 87-88.)

         On February 12, 2014, Plaintiff was moved into a cell in the segregation unit with prisoner Darrian Daniels, who had a history of physical altercations with his cellmates. (Doc. 56-2 at 21-22; Doc. 61-1.) On the morning of February 13, 2014, Daniels told Plaintiff that he would assault him if Plaintiff did not leave the cell. (Doc. 56-2 at 21.) When Defendant came by Plaintiff's cell, Plaintiff informed of Daniels' threat and requested a transfer. (Id. at 30.) Later that morning as Defendant distributed lunch trays, Plaintiff reiterated his request to Defendant who responded that he had notified the sergeant and proceeded down the hall. (Id. at 32-33.)

         When Defendant returned to collect the trash, Plaintiff placed his arm in the chuckhole. (Id. at 34-35.) Defendant instructed Plaintiff to remove his arm from the chuckhole and Plaintiff replied that he would not until Defendant notified the sergeant or removed Plaintiff from the cell. (Id. at 35-36.) Defendant then said to Plaintiff, “We can either do this the hard way or the easy way, ” to which Plaintiff did not respond. (Id. at 38.) At that point, Defendant grabbed Plaintiff's arm, slammed it against the chuckhole four times, bent it and stabbed it with keys until Plaintiff removed his arm from the chuckhole. (Id. at 38-39.) Defendant then slammed the chuckhole closed and continued collecting trash. (Id. at 39.)

         Following the incident, a physician assessed minimal lacerations of Plaintiff's right middle and ring fingers and decreased sensation in the right hand. He prescribed ibuprofen for pain. (Doc. 56-5.) Plaintiff has sought and received mental health treatment as a result of this incident and has been diagnosed with unspecified anxiety disorder. (Doc. 61-4.)

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves for summary judgment against Plaintiff on both counts. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) states that the Court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court shall “examine the record and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Spurling v. C & M Fine Pack, Inc., 739 F.3d 1055, 1060 (7th Cir. 2014). Summary judgment must be denied “if a material issue of fact exists that would allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving party.” Id.

         Count 1- Excessive Force

         Defendant argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because he used force to restore order rather than to maliciously or sadistically to cause harm. The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const., amend. VIII. In excessive force cases, “[t]he central question is “whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Fillmore v. Page, 358 F.3d 496, 503 (7th Cir. 2004). “In making that determination, several factors are relevant, including the need for the application of the force, the amount of force applied, the threat an officer reasonably perceived, the effort made to temper the severity of the force used, and the extent of the injury that force caused to an inmate.” Id. at 504. “Unless it appears that the evidence, ...


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