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Brumfield v. Goodwin

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

February 20, 2018


          FOOTE JUDGE.




         Cedric J. Brumfield (“Plaintiff”) is a convicted prisoner who has accumulated three strikes by filing frivolous IFP complaints. He is, therefore, barred from filing a civil action or appeal as a pauper unless he is under imminent danger of serious physical injury at the time he files the complaint or appeal. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g); Banos v O'Guin, 144 F.3d 883 (5th Cir. 1998).

         Plaintiff asked to file this complaint as a pauper against several officials at the David Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”). The court reviewed the complaint and determined that the only claim that met the imminent danger exception was a claim for exposure to excessive heat directed at Secretary James LeBlanc, Warden Jerry Goodwin, Deputy Warden Angie Huff, and Colonel Lonnie Nail. Doc. 8. The claims against the other defendants were dismissed. Doc. 16. The four defendants who were required to answer the heat exposure claim have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 34, supplemented at Doc. 41). Plaintiff has filed a Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. 45). For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that Defendants' motion be granted in part by dismissing the claims against Secretary LeBlanc and be denied with respect to the other three defendants.

         Injunctive and Declaratory Relief Claims are Moot

         Plaintiff was housed at DWCC in north Louisiana at the time he filed this complaint, and all of his allegations regard alleged heat exposure while held on extended lockdown at that prison between 2014 and 2016. He seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against DWCC officials, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Soon after briefing on the pending motion was completed, Plaintiff notified the court that he is now housed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, more than 200 miles from DWCC. Doc. 46.

         A prisoner's transfer to another facility “render[s] his claims for declaratory and injunctive relief moot.” Herman v. Holiday, 238 F.3d 660, 665 (5th Cir. 2001) (claims for injunctive and declaratory relief based on exposure to asbestos mooted by transfer); Cooper v. Sheriff, Lubbock County, 929 F.2d 1078, 1084 (5th Cir. 1991) (claims for injunctive relief based on denial of food at prior jail were moot). There is no information in the record to suggest that Plaintiff might be returned to DWCC in the foreseeable future, so any request for injunctive relief based on that possibility “is too speculative to warrant relief.” Herman, 238 F.3d at 665. Accordingly, the only issues that remain are whether Plaintiff's heat-exposure claims for compensatory and punitive damages survive the summary judgment challenges raised by the defendants.

         Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if there is sufficient evidence so that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party. Anderson, supra; Hamilton v. Segue Software Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000).

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those parts of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). If the moving party carries his initial burden, the burden then falls upon the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of a material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56 (1986).

         Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleged in his complaint that he was 36 and had been on extended lockdown at DWCC for all or most of the prior two years. He complained that he suffers from hypertension, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, which require him to take a variety of medications that make him susceptible to heat-related illnesses. An exhibit to his complaint indicates that a physician granted him a heat-related duty status with a notation: “Heat alert Precautions when indoor temp is greater than 90 degrees, NSAA.” Plaintiff alleged that the temperatures in his lockdown cellblock in the summer were extremely hot, and they adversely affected his blood pressure and other health matters. He complained that the single fan on the tier was inadequate to cool the area, he was not allowed to have a cup or afforded ice (because of his lockdown status), the water from his sink was lukewarm, and his shower water was hot. Plaintiff alleged that he sent letters and grievances to Defendants about these conditions, but they afforded no relief.

         Defendants' Summary Judgment Evidence

         Defendants attacked the complaint with affidavits from Dr. Pam Hearn and Colonel Lonnie Nail. Dr. Hearn has been the Medical Director at DWCC for approximately 30 years. She explains that during the summer months of 2014-2016, the standard of care for heat pathology at the prison was governed by the DOC's Health Care Policy No. 45 and DWCC Employee Policy Memorandum #04-01-039.

         Those policies state that offenders prescribed psychotropic medication will be educated, monitored, and evaluated for potential adverse reactions concerning heat-related pathology. Education includes instruction that the prisoner increase his consumption of liquids and avoid the sun. The offender is generally to be brought indoors when outside temperature reaches or exceeds 90 degrees. Between May 15 and October 15, the staff is provided a list of all offenders with heat-related duty status, temperatures inside and outside each housing unit are monitored and recorded every two hours between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and a heat alert will issue if the indoor temperature reaches or exceeds 90 degrees. A heat alert means that offenders with a heat-related duty status are provided increased fluids and ice, allowed additional showers or issued cold wet towels, and ventilation is increased to the area as much as possible. Offenders with signs of heat-related pathology will be immediately referred to the medical department for evaluation and treatment.

         Dr. Hearn testifies that Plaintiff was taking a psychotropic medication during the relevant time, but he was never denied access to the medical department for complaints of heat-related illness. He was, as demonstrated by his medical records, treated for a number of complaints during the summer months of 2014 through 2016. The complaints ranged from multiple allegations of sexual assault by staff members, a declaration of a hunger strike, multiple complaints of being poisoned or having metal placed in his food, toothache, jock ...

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