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Bowen v. Humphrey

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division

February 17, 2015

WALKER D. BOWEN, as the administrator of the estate of TERRANCE DESMOND BOWEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CARL HUMPHREY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

MARC T. TREADWELL, District Judge.

Terrance Bowen was beaten to death by his prison cellmate at Baldwin State Prison. This lawsuit, brought by Bowen's estate pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges the Defendants violated Bowen's Eighth Amendment rights when they placed him in a cell with Carl Merkerson, the man who killed him. The Defendants are Carl Humphrey, warden of Baldwin State Prison; Doug Underwood, deputy warden of security at the prison; Cager Edward Davis, a corrections officer at the prison who supervised inmates in the unit where Bowen and Merkerson lived (collectively the "DOC Defendants"); and Bruce Rex Schoolcraft, D.O., a contract psychiatrist who treated inmates' mental illnesses. The Court previously denied Defendant Schoolcraft's motion to dismiss.[1] (Doc. 78).

The DOC Defendants have moved to dismiss (Doc. 86) the Plaintiff's second amended complaint (Doc. 83). For the following reasons, the Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND[2]

After nearly two years of incarceration, Merkerson, a convicted murderer, was moved to Baldwin State Prison on February 18, 2010. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 16-18). He was a Level III mental health inmate. (Doc. 83, ¶ 19). According to the "Prison's manual, " a Level III mental health inmate has a "tenuous mental status that is easily overwhelmed by everyday pressures, demands and frustrations resulting in... impulsive behavior, poor judgment, a deterioration of emotional controls, loosening of associations, delusional thinking and/or hallucinations." (Doc. 83, ¶ 21).

On February 26, 2010, Merkerson assaulted his cellmate, John Williams. (Doc. 83, ¶ 23). The resulting disciplinary report characterized Merkerson's conduct as "High-Assault without a weapon." (Doc. 83, ¶ 27). Merkerson was required to be segregated from other inmates in an isolation cell because of his assault on Williams and because he was a mental health inmate. (Doc. 83, ¶ 28). Merkerson was then moved to a cell by himself in Unit K-3, "the lock-down segregation unit for disciplinary, protected custody, and mental health inmates." (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 28, 36). Merkerson remained alone in his cell until March 7, 2010, when Bowen was placed in the cell with him despite the "Placement Guidelines" requirement that mental health inmates like Merkerson be housed alone. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 39, 46). Defendants Underwood and Davis were aware of this requirement. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 177, 241). Nevertheless, Merkerson and Bowen were housed together because Warden Humphrey had "instituted a policy of double-celling inmates." (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 145, 149).[3]

Underwood and Davis were aware that Merkerson and Bowen were double celled because they had read a population chart in the Unit's office that stated Bowen and Merkerson were housed together. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 61-62). This chart also revealed that "Merkerson was a Mental Health inmate, convicted of murder, who recently had assaulted a cell mate." (Doc. 83, ¶ 63). Underwood and Davis had also read the segregation/isolation checklist ("checklist") attached to the outside of Merkerson and Bowen's cell door. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 64, 190, 221, 223). This checklist indicated the unit from which Merkerson was transferred, that Merkerson was a mental health inmate, that he had been convicted of murder, and that he was in the cell for assaulting another inmate. (Doc. 83, ¶ 190).

On March 8, 2010, Bowen asked to be removed from the cell "because of Merkerson, " but the request was denied, allegedly because of Warden Humphrey's double-celling policy. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 151-54). The complaint does not allege Bowen asked to be moved because Merkerson had threatened him or that Bowen for any reason feared for his safety if he remained in the cell with Merkerson. Nor does the Plaintiff allege Underwood and Davis knew about Bowen's request.

During the morning of March 9, 2010, two days after Bowen was moved to Merkerson's cell, Underwood inspected their cell and saw the two inmates housed together. (Doc. 83, ¶ 181). That same morning, Davis signed the checklist outside the cell door and saw the population chart in the Unit's office. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 221, 235). Later that day, officers found Bowen with his head stuffed in the toilet and his body limp, brutally beaten, and unmoving. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 99-102). Merkerson had assaulted him. (Doc. 83, ¶ 100). Bowen was transported to the Medical Center of Central Georgia, where he died a few hours later. (Doc. 83, ¶¶ 90, 95).

The DOC Defendants moved to dismiss the Plaintiff's initial complaint, contending that the complaint failed to state a claim and that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The Court recognized that this put the Plaintiff at somewhat of a disadvantage. Bowen was not available to tell his version of events, and the Plaintiff had limited access to information relevant to Bowen's death. Accordingly, the Court allowed the Plaintiff to conduct limited discovery and amend his complaint to allege additional facts to support his allegation that the DOC Defendants had subjective knowledge that Merkerson posed a substantial risk of serious harm to Bowen. That discovery has been completed, and the Plaintiff has filed his second amended complaint. The DOC Defendants again moved to dismiss.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

To avoid dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "At the motion to dismiss stage, all well-pleaded facts are accepted as true, and the reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Garfield v. NDC Health Corp., 466 F.3d 1255, 1261 (11th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, "where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). "[C]onclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal." Oxford Asset Mgmt., ...


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