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Baker v. Ephion

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

February 21, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 70) and the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 98) filed by Defendant, Sergeant Tyranissuim Ephion ("Sgt. Ephion"); as well as the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 124) and the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 123) filed by Defendants, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Smith ("Lt. Col. Smith"), Lieutenant Jeffrey Franklin ("Lt. Franklin"), and Sergeant F. Vannorman ("Sgt. Vannorman"). All Defendants seek summary judgment in their favor based on Plaintiff-Inmate Sede Baker's ("Plaintiff) alleged failure to exhaust all available administrative remedies. All Defendants also seek a dismissal of the claims brought by Plaintiff under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff filed an Opposition to each Motion. (Docs. 72, 129, 127, 108). Sgt. Ephion filed a Reply in Support of the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 81). The Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Oral argument is not necessary.

         For the following reasons, the Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 70, 124) are DENIED. The Motions to Dismiss (Docs. 98, 123) are DENIED. Additionally, the Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 126) is discussed below. The motion is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is an inmate currently confined at the Louisiana State Penitentiary ("LSP"), in Angola, Louisiana. (Doc. 118). He alleges that on or about March 23, 2015, he was housed in the Jaguar 1 Right Cell #8 when he was attacked by another inmate. (Doc. 118 at ¶ 6). Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Sgt. Ephion, Lt. Col. Smith, Lt. Franklin, and Sgt. Vannorman ("Defendants") were stationed at the dorm and that they knew which inmates were in which cells, and that no inmate could be let into the cell of any other inmate. (Id. at ¶ 7). On March 23, 2015, Inmate Norton Hamilton ("Hamilton") was allegedly housed in Cell #7, next to Cell #8. (Id. at ¶ 10). According to Plaintiff, one or all of the Defendants allowed Hamilton to exit his cell, Cell #7. (Id.). At that time, Hamilton purportedly and noticeably had his hands wrapped in cloth, which was an indication that Hamilton intended to commit an assault. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that Hamilton then stood in front of Cell #8 and requested that Defendants "Pop Cell # 8, " to allow Hamilton to enter Plaintiffs cell either intentionally or "grossly negligently by] failing to merely check the log" to ensure Hamilton was not seeking to enter the wrong cell. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12). Plaintiff was allegedly asleep in his bunk when the attack began. (Id. at ¶ 13). Further, Plaintiff contends that Defendants closed Cell #8 with Hamilton inside assaulting him. (Id. at ¶ 14). Plaintiff claims that Defendants then walked away, and eventually Lt. Col. Smith opened the cell door and pulled Hamilton out of the cell. (Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff required medical attention for the injuries sustained during the alleged attack. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18).

         On March 29, 2015, LSP received an Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") complaint from Plaintiff in which he complained of alleged negligence on the part of an unknown officer, which supposedly resulted in the breach of security and the altercation between Plaintiff and Hamilton. (Doc. 124-2 at ¶ 1). Plaintiffs ARP was assigned ARP No. LSP-2015-0807. (Id. at ¶ 2; Doc. 69). In the ARP, Plaintiff complained that "unknown security" negligently opened his cell door while he was sleeping, resulting in Hamilton attacking him and causing injury. (Doc. 69 at pp. 3-4). In his request for relief, Plaintiff requested compensation for the injuries sustained due to the "negligent actions of the officer or officers" that allegedly opened his cell door and allowed another inmate to "enter in early morning hours to assault [Plaintiff] as [he] slept." (Id.). Notably, the First Step Response Form claimed that "[Lt. Col.] Smith observed another offender run into [Plaintiffs] cell during yard call and begin fist fighting with [Plaintiff]." (Doc. 69 at p. 7). Additionally, Lt. Franklin responded to the ARP by asserting that "[a]t no time was [Plaintiffs] cell opened intentionally to let another offender into his cell." (Id. at p. 16).

         After his request for relief was denied at the Second Step, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on December 14, 2015. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed his First Amended Complaint on July 22, 2016, to properly name Defendant "Sgt. Tyranissuin Ephion" by correcting the spelling of her name. (Doc. 35). Plaintiff filed his Second Amended Complaint on August 12, 2017, naming three additional Defendants, Lt. Col. Smith, Lt. Franklin, and Sgt. Vannorman. (Doc. 118). He also alleged that these Defendants, as well as Sgt. Ephion, violated his rights by failing to protect him from attack by another inmate. (Id.). Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against all Defendants in their individual capacities, for a violation of his Fourth[1] and Eighth Amendment rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and the use of excessive force while being detained or incarcerated. (Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiff also alleges a state law claim of negligence against all Defendants. (Id. at ¶ 25).


         1. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[W]hen a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse 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) (quotation marks and footnote omitted).

         In determining whether the movant is entitled to summary judgment, the Court "view[s] facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brothers v. Klevenhagen, 28 F.3d 452, 455 (5th Cir. 1994)). At this stage, the Court does not evaluate the credibility of witnesses, weigh the evidence, or resolve factual disputes. Int'l Shortstop, Inc. v. Rally's, Inc., 939 F.2d 1257, 1263 (5th Cir. 1991), cert, denied, 502 U.S. 1059 (1992). However, if the evidence in the record is such that a reasonable jury, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, could arrive at a verdict in that party's favor, the motion for summary judgment must be denied. Int'l Shortstop, Inc., 939 F.2d at 1263. On the other hand, the non-movant's burden is not satisfied merely upon a showing of "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

         In sum, summary judgment is appropriate if, "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, [the non-movant] fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment will lie only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sherman v. Hallbauer, 455 F.2d 1236, 1241 (5th Cir. 1972).

         2. Failure to Exhaust ...

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