United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division
PEREZ-MONTES MAG. JUDGE
matter came before the court for bench trial on October 24,
2017. At the conclusion of the evidence, the parties were
asked to submit post-trial briefs. Having heard the evidence
and reviewed all filed briefs, we issue the following ruling
on the merits.
filed this suit on March 2, 2015, alleging he was the victim
of excessive force at the hands of defendant, Sergeant
Anderson ("SGT. Anderson" or "Anderson"),
while he was incarcerated at Winn Correctional Center
("WCC") in November of 2013. (Doc. 1). Plaintiffs
original complaint also named Corrections Corporation of
America ("CCA") and 19 other prison employees as
defendants. (Id). By amended complaint, Plaintiff
voluntarily dismissed all defendants except Anderson, Daniel
Marr and CCA. This court granted a motion for partial summary
judgment filed by defendants and, thereby, dismissed all
claims against defendant Daniel Marr. (Docs. 36, 45, 48).
Plaintiffs remaining claims against SGT. Anderson and CCA,
excessive force in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights
and negligence under Louisiana law, were the subject of the
aforementioned bench trial.
by a prisoner for excessive force implicates the Eighth
Amendment's prohibition of cruel or unusual punishment.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Siglar
v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir.
1997) citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7
(1992). In order to show a violation of his Eighth Amendment
rights by use of excessive force, a prisoner must demonstrate
that, '"force was applied not in a good faith effort
to maintain and restore discipline, but rather that the force
complained of was administered maliciously and sadistically
to cause harm." Rankin v. Klevenhagen, 5 F.3d
103, 107 (5th Cir. 1993); Hudson. 503
U.S. at 6-7. The court will consider the following
non-exhaustive factors in determining whether or not a
prisoner plaintiff has successfully demonstrated an excessive
force claim: (1) the extent of injury suffered; (2) the need
for application offeree; (3) the relationship between the
need and the force used; (4) the threat reasonably perceived
by the responsible officials, and (5) any efforts made to
temper the severity of a forceful response. Moss v.
Brown, 409 Fed.Appx. 732 (5th Cir. 2010)
citing Baldwin v. Stalder, 137 F.3d 836, 839
(5th Cir. 1998). Finally, the Eighth Amendment
requires that a prisoner prove a resulting injury that is
more than de minimis, though the injury need not be
"significant." Gomez v. Chandler, 163 F.3d
921, 925 (5th Cir. 1999); Hudson, 503
U.S. at 9-10.
court finds that Plaintiff failed, at trial, to carry his
burden of proof as described above. Plaintiffs suit alleges
that he was "slammed" to the ground by SGT.
Anderson in retaliation for Plaintiffs insistence on entering
the dining facility to eat. Specifically, Plaintiff testified
that he left Birch dormitory and walked toward the main walk
on his way to the chow hall. (Doc. 67 at 4:5-7). Plaintiff
recalled meeting SGT. Anderson at the entry to the main walk
and that Anderson denied him access to the chow hall because
the time for Birch unit inmates to eat was concluded.
(Id. at 4:7-10). Plaintiff, unsatisfied with
Anderson's refusal, reentered Birch unit and spoke with
the unit manager, Mrs. Rogers, who issued him a pass to go to
the count room. Plaintiff testified that he wanted to go to
the count room to find the ranking officer. (Id., at
5:7-13). When Plaintiff arrived at the count room, a female
corrections employee, later identified as Kim Canderday
("Canderday") explained to Plaintiff that the
Captain on duty was "down the walk." (Id.
at 5:16-18). Plaintiff testified that, based on this
information, he left the count room and began to walk back to
Birch unit. (Id. at 5:18-20). On his walk back to
Birch unit, he encountered SGT. Anderson again and Anderson
asked him why he was on the walk. (Id. at 5:19-22).
Plaintiff recalled that, after explaining to Anderson that he
had a pass to be out of the unit, Anderson told him to turn
around and be restrained, which Plaintiff did immediately.
(Id. at 6:1-13).
uncontroverted testimony concerning what happened next is
that SGT. Anderson cuffed Plaintiff and began to walk him
toward the medical facility to begin the process of placing
Plaintiff in segregation for the offense of aggravated
disobedience. Anderson testified that his decision to detain
Plaintiff was attributable to Plaintiffs allegedly combative
behavior during their second encounter on the walk. Anderson
testified that Plaintiff came toward him, in an agitated
state and shook his cane at Anderson as he approached him.
(Doc. 68 at 17:13-21). Plaintiff and Anderson testified that
Anderson handcuffed Plaintiff and began to walk with him
toward medical, holding his upper left arm, when Plaintiff
fell, hitting his head on the concrete below. (Id.,
at 18:21 - 20:4). After being taken to the WCC infirmary,
Plaintiff was transported to Winn Regional Medical Center,
where he was prescribed Keflex and Motrin to treat a head
laceration. (Doc. 67 at 20:20 - 21:9). Plaintiff also
received sutures, which the prison was instructed to remove
after 10 days. (Id. at 21:10-11).
testified that he warned SGT. Anderson, as he was being
handcuffed, that he would have difficulty walking while
handcuffed. (Doc. 67 at 6:17-20). Plaintiff characterized
SGT. Anderson as next trying to "pull" him, despite
his warning to Anderson that he was limited in his mobility.
(Id. at 7:5-8).
court heard testimony from Douglas Busby, an inmate who
witnessed Plaintiffs fall, in which Busby stated that it
appeared that SGT. Anderson was expecting too much of
Plaintiff, who was widely known to be handicapped. (Doc. 68
at 4:19 - 5:25).
Anderson testified that, though he was aware that Plaintiff
walked with a cane and permitted Plaintiff to retain his cane
once he complied with orders to be restrained, he had no
expectation that Plaintiff would incur any difficulty in
being transported to medical. Specifically, he testified
that, had he known of the nature of Plaintiffs handicap and
its implications for transport, he would have called for
assistance. (Doc. 69 at 21:16-18). Moreover, he denies
intentionally harming Plaintiff or transporting him in a way
he knew to be dangerous. (Id. at 19-21).
the standard applicable to Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment claim,
we find that Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that the motive
behind SGT. Anderson's actions was to cause harm. Rather,
Plaintiff admits that he was argumentative with SGT.
Anderson; essentially "going over his head" to
attempt to escape Anderson's instruction, with which
Plaintiff disagreed. Given this fact, which is
uncontroverted, we find that SGT. Anderson was acting
reasonably, in keeping with the need to manage the facility
and preserve internal order and security. Kingsley v.
Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015) citing Bell
v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979). While his method
was likely negligent, in light of what we deem to be
Plaintiffs clear and widely-acknowledged handicap, negligence
is not cognizable as an Eighth Amendment violation.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994); Hale v.
McLean, 250 Fed.Appx. 89 (5th Cir. 2007).
Moreover, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate that the force at
issue in this case was motivated by an affirmative intent to
harm or undertaken with malice. Thus, Plaintiffs federal
claim fails to satisfy the central inquiry of excessive
force. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986).
the court is entitled to dismiss Plaintiffs state law
negligence claims, we elect to decide these pendent claims
based on our conclusions above and our concern for judicial
economy. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a); United Mine Workers of
America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966). Louisiana
law recognizes a potential claim for negligence by a prisoner
alleging excessive force and such claims are evaluated under
the state's duty/risk analysis. Barlow v. City of New
Orleans, 241 So.2d 501 (La. 1970). "[P]enal
authorities have a duty to use reasonable care in preventing
harm after they have reasonable cause to anticipate it."
State ex rel. Jackson v. Phelps, 672 So.2d 665, 667
or not a duty was breached is a fact question and requires an
analysis of whether or not the alleged tortfeasor exercised
reasonable care under the particular circumstances of each
case. La. Civ. C. Art. 2315, Mundy v. Department of
Health and Human Resources, 620 So.2d 811 (La. 1993)
(internal citations omitted). In order to establish liability
under Louisiana law, Plaintiff must show: (1) the conduct in
question was the cause-in-fact of resulting harm; (2)
Anderson and CCA owed a duty of care to Plaintiff; the
requisite duty was breached by the defendant; and (4) the
risk of harm was within the scope of protection afforded by
the duty breached. Mundy, 620 So.2d at 813 citing
Faucheaux v. Terrebonne Consolidated Government, 615
So.2d 289 (La. 1993).
case, we find that ample evidence demonstrates that SGT.
Anderson's method of transporting Plaintiff was the
cause-in-fact of Plaintiff s fall. Roberts v.
Benoit, 605 So.2d 1032, 1042 (La. 1991). Louisiana law
establishes that both defendants did, in fact, owe a duty of
care to Plaintiff as an inmate in their care. Washington
v. Gusman,183 So.3d 510 (La.App. 4 Cir. 2015).
Additionally, we find that the facts of this case demonstrate
that SGT. Anderson breached the duty of care owed to
Plaintiff as a handicapped inmate. The evidence at trial
showed that Plaintiffs handicap required him to walk with a
cane and that he was using the cane at the time of the
incident in question. (Doc. 69 at 2:22-24). Thus, we find the
handicap was evident and that, in light of Plaintiffs
handicap, SGT Anderson failed to use reasonable precautions
in transporting him while handcuffed. Douglas Busby testified
that Plaintiff was, in fact, the only inmate ...