United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division
Godbay Wood, Judge
before the Court are Plaintiff's Objections, dkt. no. 25,
to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation dated
January 30, 2017, dkt. no. 20. After an independent and de
novo review of the entire record, the Court SUSTAINS
in part and OVERRULES in part Plaintiff's Objections, and
ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation, as amended herein, as
the opinion of the Court.
filed this cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
to contest certain conditions of his confinement while housed
at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia. Dkt.
No. 1. In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
Officer Jones discharged pepper spray in the cafeteria of
Coffee Correctional Facility and then blocked over 25
prisoners, including Plaintiff, from exiting the cafeteria-
Id., at p. 6. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of
his exposure to pepper spray, his immune system was
"impacted, " and he suffered chest pain and coughed
up blood. Id.
Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended
that the Court dismiss all of Plaintiff's claims against
Defendants Corrections Corporation of America,
("CCA"), Coffee Correctional Facility, and Warden
Hilton Hall, as well as Plaintiff's claims for
compensatory and punitive damages and his deliberate
indifference claims. Dkt. No. 20, p. 1. The Magistrate Judge
further recommended the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for
Preliminary Injunction. Id. However, the Magistrate
Judge recommended that Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment
excessive force claim against Defendant Jones proceed.
Id. Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report and
Recommendation on February 13, 2017, dkt. no. 25.
Objections, Plaintiff contends the Court should reject the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the Court dismiss
Plaintiff's claims for compensatory and punitive damages.
Plaintiff alleges he suffered more than "de
minimis" injury as a result of Defendant
Jones' actions and that he is, therefore, entitled to
compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at p. 4.
Plaintiff's Objection clarifies that, following
Plaintiff's exposure to pepper spray, "something not
normal appeared on [his] left side, and he continue[s] to
cough[ ] blood 2 or 3 times [per] week." Id. at
pp. 4-5. Accordingly, Plaintiff contends he has suffered
"lasting effects" as a result of his exposure to
pepper spray, contrary to the Magistrate Judge's
Magistrate Judge noted in the Report and Recommendation,
"[i]n order to avoid dismissal under § 1997e(e), a
prisoner's claims for emotional or mental injury must be
accompanied by allegations of physical injuries that are
greater than de minimis." Mitchell v. Brown &
Williamson Tobacco Corp., 294 F.3d 1309, 1312-13 (11th
Cir. 2002). Several courts have held that the typical effects
associated with pepper spray, such as temporary burning of
the skin and difficulty breathing, are not sufficient to
satisfy Section 1997(e)'s physical injury requirement.
See, e.g., Jennings v. Mitchell, 93
F.App'x 723, 725 (6th Cir. 2004} (finding that prisoner
who suffered the discomfort of pepper spray had shown only
de minimis injury, insufficient to satisfy §
1997e(e)); Kirkland v. Everglades Corr. Inst., No.
12-22302-CIV, 2014 WL 1333212, at *6 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 31,
2014) ("If [plaintiff] experienced temporary chemical
burns and minor respiratory problems from exposure to a
chemical agent, he then sustained only minor, physical
injuries from the chemical spray."); Maqwood v.
Tucker, No. 3:12cvl40/RV/CJK, 2012 WL 5944686, at *5
(N.D. Fla. Nov. 14, 2012) (prisoner failed to show more than
a de minimis physical injury resulting from
officer's use of chemical agent where he alleged he
suffered bloody nose and bloody phlegm); Osterback v.
Ingram, No. 3:96cv580/LAC/SMN, 2000 WL 297840, at *10
(N.D. Fla. Jan.12, 2000) (plaintiff unable to recover
compensatory or punitive damages with respect to injuries
caused by placement in disciplinary confinement or close
management, pursuant to § 1997e(e), where
plaintiff's physical injuries, including "extreme
pain and suffering from being exposed to residual chemical
fumes" which caused him to suffer a "serious,
debilitating sinus condition, " and "overall loss
of muscle tone, a gaining of body fat, a loss of
cardiovascular and pulmonary health, developed skin and scalp
conditions, . . . migraine headaches, bouts of sleeplessness
and listless[ness], among other things, " were not more
than de minimis).
Plaintiff's Objections, he alleges far more significant
injuries than in his original Complaint. Specifically, he
claims that he developed an abnormality on his left side, and
that he has coughed up blood two to three times per week.
Dkt. No. 25, p. 5. He contends that he continues to
experience these symptoms as of February 13, 2017, months
after Jones sprayed him with pepper spray on April 7, 2016.
Id. Accepting Plaintiff's claims as true, he has
now alleged more than de minimis injuries. See
Stephenson v. Ellis, No. 3:llcv455-RV/CJK, 2016 WL
3900780, at M (N.D. Fla. May 31, 2016) (finding that
Plaintiff suffered more than de minimis injury
following his exposure to chemical agents because he
continued to experience symptoms two weeks later); Watson
v. Edelen, 76 F.Supp.3d 1332, 1362, 1378-79 (N.D. Fla.
2015) (finding that Plaintiff suffered more than de
minimis injury based upon evidence that he suffered
"a burning sensation for at least one week"
following his exposure to pepper spray); cf. Chaney v.
Hassett, No. 3:11cv801-J-32JBT, 2014 WL 1364639, at *1,
5 (M.D. Fla. Apr. 7, 2014) (prisoner's allegation that he
suffered physical pain, difficulty breathing, and burning of
the eyes and skin for approximately 45 to 50 minutes was de
minimis injury). Therefore, the Court SUSTAINS this
portion of Plaintiff's Objections, and his claims for
compensatory and punitive damages will proceed against
remaining objections concern the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's
supervisory liability claims against Defendant Hall and the
Magistrate Judge's denial of Plaintiff's Motion for
Production, dkt. no. 12. For the reasons stated in the Report
and Recommendation, the Court OVERRULES these objections.
reasons discussed above, the Court SUSTAINS in part and
OVERRULES in part Plaintiff's Objections, diet. no. 25,
and ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation, as amended herein, as the opinion of the
Court. The Court DISMISSES Plaintiff's claims against
Defendants Corrections Corporation of America,
("CCA")/ Coffee Correctional Facility, and Warden
Hilton Hall, as well as Plaintiff's deliberate
indifference claims. The Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion
for Preliminary Injunction.
Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims for excessive force
against Defendant Jones, including his claims for