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Aucoin v. Cupil

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

March 28, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 33) filed by Defendants Lt. Andrew Cupil and Msgt. Reginald Robinson. Plaintiff Layne Aucoin filed an opposition. (Doc. 36). For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 33) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff are as follows. Plaintiff is an inmate at the Dixon Correctional Institute, and on August 24, 2015 he was on suicide watch. (Docs. 39 and Doc. 13 at ¶ 3, 7). Plaintiffs prison cell had a video camera with a live feed that prison guards monitored in a control room. (Doc. 33-4 at p. 2). At about 11:00 AM, Plaintiff placed a paper cup over the camera to see if anyone was watching him. (Docs. 39 and Doc. 13 at ¶ 7). At about 11:30 A.M. an officer in the control room notified Msgt. Robinson that the camera in Plaintiffs cell was covered. (Doc. 33-5 at p. 2). Msgt. Robinson and Lt. Cupil then "snuck up" on Plaintiff and used mace on him. (Docs. 39 and 13 at ¶ 8).

         Lt. Cupil then ordered Plaintiff to come to the bars in his cell. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff complied with Lt. Cupil's order and Lt. Cupil handcuffed Plaintiffs hands behind his back and restrained his feet. Id. Lt. Cupil then removed Plaintiff from his cell and brought him to a lobby area where Msgt. Robinson allegedly punched him and threw him to the ground. Id. at ¶ 10-11. Sgt. Franklin was also in the area and failed to intervene. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff asserts that Lt. Cupil then kicked him. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Afterwards, Plaintiff showed a Warden his arms and face and boot prints on his chest. Id. at ¶ 12. There was an "indentation" on his arm from where Defendants kicked his handcuffs. Id. at ¶ 12. Plaintiff was allegedly refused medical care for more than twenty-five days while his hand was numb. Id. Two days later, he was moved to a cell that also had a camera and he made sure his swollen face, head, ears, and the "crook" in his arm were presented to the camera.[1] Id. at ¶ 13.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants are liable in their personal capacities under § 1983 for violating his Eighth Amendment right to be free from excessive force, for failing to protect him from excessive force under the Eighth Amendment, and for retaliating against him for filing an administrative complaint in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants are liable for negligence under Louisiana law. Id. at 35-36.

         Plaintiff filed suit on June 8, 2016, (Doc. 1), and then filed an Amended Complaint on August 2, 2016. (Doc. 13). The Court then denied Defendants Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 30). Defendants then filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 33).


         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). When 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[sj all reasonable inferences in her favor." Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 113 F.3d 528, 533 (5th Cir. 1997) (citing Brothers v. Kleuenhagen, 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).


         A. Excessive Force

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants used excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 13 at ¶ 27). "[T]he settled rule [is] that 'the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain . . . constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.'" Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)). In the context of an allegation of the use of excessive force by a prison official, "the core judicial inquiry is . . . whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Id. at 7.

         "In determining whether the use of force [by a prison guard] was wanton and unnecessary, " courts consider "the extent of [the] injury suffered, " "the need for [the] application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat reasonably perceived by the responsible officials, and any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response." Id. (citing Whitley, 475 U.S. at 321) (internal quotation marks omitted). Not every malicious or malevolent action by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action, and the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment ...

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