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Deal v. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

October 11, 2018

ALFRED DEAL
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 42) filed by Defendants Master Sergeant Bobby Earl, Master Sergeant Brian Nettles, Colonel Orville Lamartiniere, and Lieutenant Melvin McDowell. Plaintiff Alfred Deal did not file an opposition. For the reasons that follow, the Motion (Doc. 42) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises from a fight between inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. (Doc. 1, ¶ 1). Plaintiff is an inmate at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. (Doc. 1, ¶ 8). Defendants are prison security officials. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 9-16). Plaintiff sued Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after Defendants failed to stop inmate Myles Allen from stabbing Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 15). The undisputed facts follow.

         On December 11, 2012, Plaintiff and inmate Myles Allen argued over control of a prison television. (Doc. 42-4, p. 37). Allen told Plaintiff to "[w]ait until tomorrow" because Allen was "going to kill" Plaintiff. (Id. at p. 39). The next morning, Master Sergeant Earl escorted Allen from his cell to the transitional unit yard.[1] (Doc. 42-3, p. 4). Master Sergeant Earl did not check Allen for weapons before he escorted Allen to the transitional unit yard pen near Plaintiff. (Id.). When Allen reached the transitional unit yard, he broke free of his restraints and stabbed Plaintiff with a homemade knife. (Doc. 42-4, p. 32).

         The officer assigned to the transitional unit yard, Sergeant Terry LeBlanc, saw the attack and called for help. (Doc. 42*3, p. 3). According to Plaintiff, Sergeant LeBlanc "was fighting, just trying to keep [Allen] away" until help arrived. (Doc. 42-4, p. 51). About 20 to 25 minutes after the attack began, Colonel Lamartiniere, Lieutenant McDowell, and Master Sergeant Nettles responded and broke up the attack. (Doc. 42-4, p. 59). The attack was the first fight between Plaintiff and Allen. (Id. at p. 31).

         On January 29, 2016, Plaintiff invoked the Court's federal question jurisdiction and sued Defendants, in their individual and official capacities, for negligence and violations of § 1983. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 28-36). The Court dismissed all but one of Plaintiffs federal claims-a § 1983 failure-to-protect claim against Master Sergeant Earl-at the motion to dismiss stage. (Doc. 23). Defendants now move for summary judgment, asking the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs lone federal claim and decline jurisdiction over Plaintiffs state-law claims. (Doc. 42).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper if Defendants show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The Court cannot grant summary judgment simply because Defendants' motion is unopposed; Defendants must point to the absence of a material factual dispute. Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 50 F.3d 360, 362 n.3 (5th Cir. 1995). In deciding whether Defendants have done so, the Court views facts and draws reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs favor. Vann v. City of Southaven, Miss., 884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 2018). Because Plaintiff failed to file a response, Defendants' properly-supported assertions of fact are undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Federal Claim

         Plaintiffs only remaining federal claim is a § 1983 failure-to-protect claim against Master Sergeant Earl. (Doc. 23). Plaintiff alleges that Master Sergeant Earl violated Plaintiffs rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments when Master Sergeant Earl failed to stop Allen from stabbing Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 32-36). Because the legal standards governing Plaintiffs right to protection under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments are "virtually identical," the Court "construe[s] Plaintiffs Complaint as raising a claim under only the Eighth Amendment." Austin v. Johnson, 328 F.3d 204, 210 n.10 (5th Cir. 2003).

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment." U.S. CONST. amend. VIII. That prohibition extends to prison officials, who "have a constitutional duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of their fellow inmates." Longoria v. Texas, 473 F.3d 586, 592 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994)). To recover on his Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim, Plaintiff must show that (1) he was "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm," and (2) Master Sergeant Earl was "deliberately indifferent" to this risk. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.

         The Court assumes that Plaintiff was "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm," and turns to the deliberate indifference requirement. Id. Deliberate indifference is "an extremely high standard to meet." Domino v. Teocas Dep't of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752, 756 (5th Cir. 2001). It requires proof that the prison official "is both 'aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of harm exists,' and that official actually draws that inference." Norton v. Cockrell, 70 F.3d 397, 401 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837).

         Plaintiff offers no facts showing that Master Sergeant Earl was "deliberately indifferent" to the "substantial risk of serious harm" Allen posed. By contrast, Defendants point to sworn testimony showing that Master Sergeant Earl neither knew nor had reason to know that Allen posed a "substantial risk of serious harm" to Plaintiff before the December 12, 2012 attack. (Doc. 42-1, p. 12). Allen was not listed on Deal's "enemy list" before the attack. (Doc. 42-6, pp. 1-11). And Master Sergeant Earl attests that he did not know that Allen had threatened Deal. (Doc. 42-5, ¶¶ 12-15). So it is undisputed that Master Sergeant Earl was not aware of any facts from which he could have inferred that Allen posed a substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff before December 12, 2012. (Doc. 42-1). The Court therefore GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiffs § 1983 claim against Master Sergeant Earl.

         B. ...


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