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Roy v. Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 25, 2018




         Plaintiff, Errol Anthony Roy, was an inmate at the time he filed this federal civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his original complaint, he sued only the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, claiming that jail officials failed to protect him from violence.[1] He thereafter amended the complaint on numerous occasions.[2] Through those amendments, he added the following additional defendants: Sheriff Marlin Gusman, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, the “Orleans Parish Prison Health Care Authority, ” Kentrisha Davis, Tyrone Roussel, and Chief Earl Weaver, Jr.

         In October of 2015, former United States Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan issued a report recommending that all of plaintiff's claims be dismissed except for his claims against Gusman, Weaver, and Davis.[3] On December 1, 2015, United States District Judge Sarah Vance adopted that recommendation and dismissed all claims except those against Gusman, Weaver, and Davis.[4]

         Upon Magistrate Judge Shushan's retirement, this matter was reassigned to the undersigned.[5] A preliminary conference was then scheduled for September 12, 2016, and plaintiff, who had been released from incarceration, was expressly warned that his claims could be dismissed for failure to prosecute if he failed to participate in that conference.[6] Despite that warning, plaintiff did not participate, and the conference could not be held.[7] On September 14, 2016, the undersigned issued a report recommending that plaintiff's remaining claims therefore be dismissed for failure to prosecute.[8] Plaintiff objected to the Report and Recommendation, citing to various health and family issues.[9] On April 12, 2017, Judge Vance rejected the undersigned's recommendation in light of plaintiff's objection and referred the matter back for further proceedings; however, Judge Vance expressly warned: “[P]laintiff is on notice that the Court will not indulge further failures to follow its orders.”[10]

         Subsequently, all parties consent to trial by magistrate judge, and, on July 11, 2017, Judge Vance order entered an order authorizing the undersigned to conduct any and all further proceedings in this matter.[11] At the preliminary conference conducted in the case, the parties were ordered to file witness and exhibit lists on or before September 8, 2017, and a jury trial was scheduled for January 8, 2018.[12] The defendants filed their witness and exhibit lists;[13] however, plaintiff ignored the Court's order to file his lists.

         Ultimately, due to difficulties experienced by the defendants in completing discovery as a result of plaintiff's subsequent reincarceration, the Court granted additional time for discovery, canceled the trial, and set a new deadline for dispositive motions.[14]

         The defendants then noticed plaintiff's deposition for December 7, 2017.[15] However, plaintiff, who had once again been released from incarceration, did not appear for that deposition.[16]

         On January 8, 2018, defendant Davis filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[17] Plaintiff was ordered to respond to that motion on or before January 24, 2018.[18] Once again, plaintiff ignored the Court's order and filed no opposition.

         In light of the foregoing, the Court finds that it is now appropriate to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for want of prosecution. The authority of a federal trial court to dismiss a plaintiff's action because of failure to prosecute is clear. Link v. Wabash R.R., 370 U.S. 626 (1962); McCullough v. Lynaugh, 835 F.2d 1126 (5th Cir. 1988). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure specifically provide that a court may, in its discretion, dismiss a plaintiff's action for failure to prosecute or for failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or any order of the court and that such a dismissal is considered to be an adjudication on the merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(b). The Court's power to dismiss for want of prosecution should be used sparingly, although it may be exercised sua sponte whenever necessary to achieve the orderly and expeditious disposition of cases. Ramsay v. Bailey, 531 F.2d 706, 707 (5th Cir. 1976).

         Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court need only consider his conduct in determining whether dismissal is proper under Rule 41(b). As noted, plaintiff has repeatedly flouted this Court's orders, and his continued contumacious behavior has caused unnecessary delays in this case. Moreover, despite indicating that he wished to proceed to trial in this case, he filed no witness and exhibit lists indicating any effort whatsoever to prepare for trial. In addition, by failing to appear for his deposition, he has deprived the defendants of their opportunity to investigate the case and mount a defense. Finally, he has not even bothered to respond to the motion for summary judgment despite being expressly ordered to do so. Such blatant disregard for the Court and the remaining parties need no longer be countenanced. Accordingly, all of plaintiff's remaining claims against all remaining defendants are hereby dismissed with prejudice for failure to prosecute.

         Out of an abundance of caution, the Court also alternatively grants defendant Kentrisha Davis's unopposed motion for summary judgment for the following reasons.

         In the instant case, plaintiff claims that Davis failed to protect him from violence at the hands of another inmate. The law with respect to such failure-to-protect claims is clear: “[T]he State owes the same duty under the Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment to provide both pretrial detainees and convicted inmates with basic human needs, including ... protection from harm, during their confinement.” Hare v. City of Corinth, 74 F.3d 633, 650 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc). However:

To establish a failure-to-protect claim under § 1983, [an inmate] must show that he was incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his need for protection. In order to act with deliberate indifference, the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.

Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d 530, 533 (5th Cir. 1995) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis added). Therefore, “[a]ctual knowledge and appreciation of the risk are required.” Smith v. Jaramillo, 394 Fed. App'x 183, 185 (5th Cir. 2010). Moreover, “[d]eliberate indifference must be viewed from [the defendant's] perspective at the time in question, not with hindsight's perfect vision.” Jackson v. Everett, 140 F.3d 1149, 1152 (8th Cir. 1998); accord Dangerfield v. Dyson, Civ. Action No. 05-0650, 2008 WL 718114, at *3 (E.D. La. Mar. 14, 2008).

         In the instant case, plaintiff alleges that, during the jail intake and medical screening process on November 13, 2014, he told Davis that he had mental and physical disabilities. Despite his disabilities, Davis nevertheless assigned him to the general population, where he was subsequently attacked and injured by a fellow inmate on January 3, 2015. Plaintiff alleges that he was unable to defend himself in that attack due to his disabilities.

         Davis filed a motion for summary judgment, and she supported her motion with her own declaration and the jail's screening ...

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