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Ricard v. Nail

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

February 11, 2019






         Jeremy Ricard (“Plaintiff”) is a self-represented convicted inmate who is housed at the David Wade Correctional Center (“DWCC”). He filed this civil rights action against five DWCC correctional officers based on allegations that (1) some of them used chemical spray on Plaintiff without cause and (2) others used excessive physical force. Before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 65) filed by Defendants. For the reasons that follow, it is recommended that the motion be denied.

         Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if there is sufficient evidence so that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party. Anderson, supra; Hamilton v. Segue Software Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000).

         The party seeking summary judgment has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). If the moving party carries his initial burden, the burden then falls upon the nonmoving party to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of a material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1355-56 (1986).

         Excessive Force

         A convicted inmate's claim of excessive force is governed by the Eighth Amendment. “[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, 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.” Hudson v. McMillian, 112 S.Ct. 995, 999 (1992).

         The focus of the standard is on the corrections official's subjective intent to punish, and his intent is determined by reference to certain well established Hudson factors: (1) the extent of the injury suffered, (2) the need for the application of force, (3) the relationship between the need and the amount of force used, (4) the threat reasonably perceived by the responsible official, and (5) any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response. Cowart v. Erwin, 837 F.3d 444, 453 (5th Cir. 2016). “A plaintiff need not show significant injury, although the extent of the injury may supply insight as to the amount of force applied.” Id., citing Wilkins v. Gaddy, 130 S.Ct. 1175 (2010).

         The Hudson standard applies with equal force to claims that prison officials used a chemical agent on an inmate. Baldwin v. Stalder, 137 F.3d 836, 840-41 (5th Cir. 1998); Davis v. Cannon, 91 Fed.Appx. 327 (5th Cir. 2004). Each case is judged on its own facts, after considering the non-exclusive factors listed above. Baldwin, 137 F.3d at 839.

         Vincent Coleman

         Plaintiff alleges that he was on suicide watch when Officer Vincent Coleman used chemical spray on him without cause or warning and in violation of prison policy. Officer Coleman moves for summary judgment and offers affidavit testimony from himself (Doc. 67-3) and two witnesses. Coleman testifies that Plaintiff was on standard suicide watch on the afternoon of August 12, 2016 when Officer Keith Coleman informed Vincent Coleman that Plaintiff was using an object to scratch his wrist. Vincent Coleman testifies that he immediately went to Plaintiff's cell and saw Plaintiff scratching his left wrist.

         Vincent Coleman testifies that he gave Plaintiff several direct verbal orders to cease his actions. Plaintiff refused to comply, and he placed the object to his throat and threatened to cut himself. Coleman then administered a short burst of chemical agent to Plaintiff's face and head in an attempt to prevent him from causing further injury to himself. Plaintiff ceased his actions after the chemical agent was applied, and he then walked over to his toilet and flushed the object. Officers were able to get Plaintiff to submit to restraints, and medical personnel treated Plaintiff for his injuries. Plaintiff was offered an eye wash and shower, but he refused. ...

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