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Carson v. Sharpe

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

December 19, 2017




         Plaintiff, an inmate at Hancock State Prison in Sparta, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this civil rights case concerning events at Wheeler Correctional Facility (“WCF”). Defendant Sharpe moves for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Defendant's motion for summary judgment be GRANTED (doc. no. 40), a final judgment be entered in favor of Defendant, and this civil action be CLOSED.


         Plaintiff originally named three Defendants in his complaint. However, because he is proceeding IFP, the Court screened his complaint and recommended dismissal of two Defendants and all Eighth Amendment claims with respect to the shower provided after the discharge of OC spray forming the basis for the excessive force claim against Defendant Sharpe. (See doc. nos. 9, 10.) After United States District Judge Dudley H. Bowen, Jr., adopted that recommendation as the opinion of the Court, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, naming only Unit Manager Luanne Hamilton as a Defendant. (Doc. nos. 16, 17.) Upon screening the amended complaint, the Court recommended dismissal of the entire case for failure to state a claim because Plaintiff no longer named Ms. Sharpe as a Defendant, and Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against Ms. Hamilton. (Doc. no. 18.)

         However, one day after entry of this recommendation, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend and a second amended complaint arrived at the Clerk of Court. (Doc. nos. 20, 21.) In these papers drafted prior to, but not received until after, the recommendation for dismissal, Plaintiff explained he mistakenly sent the wrong papers to the Court “after he misunderstood the directions given to him by the courts, ” and he requested the Court consider his second amended complaint. (Doc. no. 20, pp. 1-2.) Judge Bowen granted the motion to amend and screened the second amended complaint. He concluded Plaintiff failed to state a claim for relief against Ms. Hamilton, but allowed Plaintiff to proceed with an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force against Ms. Sharpe. (Doc. no. 22, pp. 3-4.) Thus, the only issue before the Court in these summary judgment proceedings is Plaintiff's excessive force claim brought against Defendant Sharpe based on her discharge of OC spray on Plaintiff.

         After the Court issued an Order explaining the requirements of Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985), and granted Plaintiff an extension of time to respond to the summary judgment motion, Plaintiff filed his opposition. (See doc. nos. 42, 46, 47.) Plaintiff's response is supported by a memorandum of law and submission of a copy of the disciplinary report (“DR”) written against him for the events forming the basis of his interaction with Defendant Sharpe at the heart of this lawsuit. (Doc. no. 47.) Because Plaintiff did not contradict Defendant's factual assertions with any affidavits, the Court deems admitted all portions of Defendant's Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute that have evidentiary support in the record and are not contradicted by the DR. See Loc. R. 56.1; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Williams v. Slack, 438 F. App'x 848, 849-50 (11th Cir. 2011) (finding no error in deeming defendants' material facts admitted where pro se prisoner failed to respond with specific citations to evidence and otherwise failed to state valid objections); Scoggins v. Arrow Trucking Co., 92 F.Supp.2d 1372, 1373 n.1 (S.D. Ga. 2000).

         However, this does not automatically entitle Defendant to summary judgment because as the movant, she continues to “shoulder the initial burden of production in demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact.” Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1268 (11th Cir. 2008); see also Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1303 (11th Cir. 2009). Thus, the Court will review the record, including Plaintiff's DR, “to determine if there is, indeed, no genuine issue of material fact.” Mann, 588 F.3d at 1303.

         II. FACTS

         On December 28, 2015, a disturbance occurred in Plaintiff's dormitory, 400A, at WCF. (Doc. no. 21, Am. Compl., p. 2.)[1] Defendant Sharpe, a correctional counselor at WCF, was working in the same unit where Plaintiff was housed and a lockdown had been called because of the disturbance. (Doc. no. 40, Ex. B, Def.'s Decl., ¶¶ 1, 3, 5.) Plaintiff, along with the other inmates in the dormitory, were ordered into their cells as part of the lockdown, and meals were delivered rather than allowing the inmates to go to the prison cafeteria or chow hall. (Id. ¶ 5; Am. Compl., p. 2.) During meal delivery, a correctional officer accused Plaintiff of grabbing a meal tray from her and called for assistance. (Def.'s Decl., ¶ 6; Am. Compl., p. 2.)

         Plaintiff was ordered to come out of his cell and downstairs to the lower tier where Defendant Sharpe was waiting for him. (Def.'s Decl., ¶ 7; Am. Compl., p. 2.) Plaintiff cursed at Defendant - asking who “the f--- you talking to?” - but eventually came downstairs, at which time Defendant ordered him to face the wall to be handcuffed. (Def.'s Decl., ¶ 7; Am. Compl., p. 2.) After Plaintiff cursed and acted aggressively, Defendant Sharpe was concerned about her safety - Plaintiff is 6'5'' tall, 230 pounds, and large in comparison to Defendant - and removed from her belt her personal canister of OC spray, a standard inflammatory agent used in prison. (Def.'s Decl., ¶¶ 4, 7.) Unit Manager Hamilton and one of Plaintiff's fellow inmates warned Plaintiff that Defendant Sharpe would use OC spray on him. (Am. Compl., p. 2.)

         Plaintiff put his hands on the wall, but continued to loudly curse, and suddenly turned off the wall. (Def.'s Decl., ¶ 8; Am. Compl., p. 2.) Plaintiff states he turned toward Defendant to tell her not to spray him because his hands were on the wall, (Am. Compl., p. 2), but Defendant interpreted his sudden movement to mean Plaintiff might be coming at her, (Def.'s Decl., ¶ 8). Defendant sprayed Plaintiff with her OC spray one time in the face. (Id.) Pursuant to standard practice at WCF, Plaintiff was taken to the showers to decontaminate before being examined by medical staff. (Id. ¶ 9; doc. no. 40, Ex. C, Clark Decl., ¶ 4.) The use of force medical report for Plaintiff showed a chemical spray area noted on his face, right rear shoulder, and buttocks area, but no other injuries. (Clark Decl., ¶¶ 3, 5.) The temporary irritation and burning sensation from the OC spray did not require any medical treatment.[2] (Id. ¶ 5.)

         Defendant wrote Plaintiff a DR for “verbal threatening” based on the December 28th encounter. (Doc. no. 47, Ex. A.) The factual statement in support of the DR recounted that after Defendant instructed Plaintiff to put his hands on the wall, Plaintiff “stated directly to [Defendant] in an aggressive manner” that if Defendant came close to him, he was “going to beat your a-- to death.” (Id.) Defendant then administered a one-second blast of OC spray. (Id.) After a guilty finding at a disciplinary hearing, Plaintiff's punishment included, inter alia, fourteen days in isolation. (Id.)


         A. Summary ...

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