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Lester v. Williams

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Statesboro Division

August 17, 2017

LAYTON LESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER C. WILLIAMS, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, contesting certain conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1.) On September 12, 2016, Defendant Officer Curmit Williams (“Defendant”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 18.) The Clerk of Court mailed a Notice to Plaintiff advising him that Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and that a response must be filed by October 6, 2016. (Doc. 19.) That Notice further advised Plaintiff that:

1. If you do not timely respond to this motion . . ., the consequence may be that the Court will deem the motion unopposed, and the Court may enter judgment against you.
2. If your opponent's Statement of Material Facts sets forth facts supported by evidence, the Court may assume that you admit all such facts unless you oppose those facts with your own Statement of Material Facts which also sets forth facts supported by evidence.
3. If a summary judgment motion is properly supported, you may not rest on the allegations in your [Complaint] alone.

(Id.) Plaintiff filed no Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and the Court received no indication this Notice or Defendant's Motion was undeliverable. However, “the district court cannot base the entry of summary judgment on the mere fact that the motion [is] unopposed but, rather, must consider the merits of the motion.” United States v. One Piece of Real Property Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). Specifically, the court “must still review the movant's citations to the record to determine if there is, indeed, no genuine issue of material fact.” Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Based on the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND the Court GRANT Defendant's unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment, DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint WITH PREJUDICE, and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case. In addition, I RECOMMEND the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, a correctional officer at Georgia State Prison, was deliberately indifferent to his safety and serious medical needs on July 8, 2015.[2] (Doc. 1.) Prior to this alleged incident of deliberate indifference, Plaintiff was being disruptive because prison staff had not addressed an ant infestation in his cell. (Doc. 18-1, p. 1.) Specifically, Plaintiff threw feces at officers, prevented officers from closing his tray flap, and tried to snatch an officer's pepper spray. (Doc. 18-1, p. 1.) During this outburst, another commotion arose in the dormitory, and officers again failed to address Plaintiff's request for pest control. Additionally, another officer informed Plaintiff that he and his cellmate would have to wait to receive their lunch. (Id.) Plaintiff told the officer that he and his roommate would “tear up the cell” if they did not receive their lunch.

         When Plaintiff's cellmate did not receive a food tray, Plaintiff and his cellmate “tore their cell up”[3] and started a fire inside the cell between 5:00 p.m. and 5:25 p.m. (Id.) After discovering Plaintiff had set his cell on fire, an officer threw water under the door to extinguish the flames. (Id. at p. 2.) When the fire continued to burn, another officer sprayed a fire extinguisher toward the cell. Plaintiff and his cellmate then ran to the back of the cell to an open window, which allowed for ventilation of the smoke fumes. (Id.) Defendant approached Plaintiff's cell approximately 15 to 20 minutes later.[4] (Id.) At approximately 5:30 p.m., Plaintiff was moved to a strip cell and detained there until 1:30 a.m. the next morning. (Id. at p. 1.)

         Plaintiff alleges he experienced sneezing, headaches, and shortness of breath following his exposure to fire extinguisher fumes.[5] Plaintiff contends he was denied medical attention immediately after officers sprayed his cell with a fire extinguisher and following his transfer to the strip cell. (Doc. 1, p. 7.) Plaintiff eventually received treatment on July 20, 2015, when he complained of headaches and a congested nose. (Doc. 18-1, p. 3.) Medical personnel diagnosed Plaintiff with recurring allergic rhinitis and sinusitis and prescribed Zyrtec and nasal spray. (Id.) Plaintiff continued to seek medical attention for similar issues until May 24, 2016. (Id. at pp. 3- 4.) However, Plaintiff no longer seeks treatment for his breathing issues. (Id.)

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has not presented sufficient evidence to sustain his Eighth Amendment claims. (Doc. 18-2, p. 7.) Additionally, Defendant maintains Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages are barred by the Prison Litigation Reform Act because Plaintiff did not suffer any more than a de minimis injury as a result of Defendant's actions. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Defendant also asserts he is entitled to qualified immunity. (Id. at p. 12.) In moving for summary judgment, Defendant relies on his Statement of Material Facts, a copy of the transcript from Plaintiff's deposition, Plaintiff's medical records, an incident report, and two declarations sworn under penalty of perjury.

         As set forth below, the undersigned agrees that Plaintiff fails to establish a genuine dispute of material fact as to his claims, and Defendant's Motion is due to be granted as a result.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment “shall” be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A dispute about a material fact is genuine and summary judgment is inappropriate if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. However, there must exist a conflict in substantial evidence to pose a jury question.” Hall v. Sunjoy Indus. Grp., Inc., 764 F.Supp.2d 1297, 1301 (M.D. Fla. ...


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