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Costlow v. Lockett

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

January 19, 2018

JAMES A. COSTLOW, Plaintiff,

         Proceedings Under 42 U.S.C. §1983 Before the U.S. Magistrate Judge


          Charles H. Weigle United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff James A. Costlow (Doc. 74), and Defendant Corey Lockett (Doc. 62). Based on the analysis below, it is RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Motion be DENIED, that the Defendant's Motion be GRANTED, and that summary judgment be entered in the Defendant's favor.


         Plaintiff James A. Costlow, a prisoner, alleges that Defendant Corey Lockett, a corrections officer, failed to protect Plaintiff from harm at the hands of another prisoner named Donald McCrimmon. By Plaintiff's account, Defendant Lockett allowed McCrimmon to serve as a prisoner-orderly, responsible for delivering meals to prisoners in the H-1 dormitory of Macon State Prison, where Plaintiff was then housed. McCrimmon served meals by sliding food trays through “tray flaps, ” or small openings in the doors to individual cells. When McCrimmon served Plaintiff, an altercation ensued. During this altercation, Plaintiff wedged his elbow through the tray flap toward McCrimmon, and McCrimmon responded by repeatedly slamming the tray flap down onto Plaintiff's elbow, resulting in contusions that required stitches. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Lockett was deliberately indifferent to the risk posed by McCrimmon, and that his deliberate indifference amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.


         Plaintiff filed a second complaint (Doc. 57) over three months after the Defendant filed his Answer (Doc. 42), and around ten months after the Defendant filed his Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 26). Plaintiff did not move for leave to file this second complaint, and Plaintiff does not satisfy the conditions for amendment as a matter of course under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because Plaintiff filed no motion, the Defendant filed no response. As Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, however, the Court is bound to liberally construe Plaintiff's filing. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Therefore, it is ORDERED that Plaintiff's second complaint is construed as a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff's motion, however, is DENIED.

         In his second or amended complaint, Plaintiff does not seek to assert any new claims. Furthermore, while Plaintiff's amended complaint provides a more detailed description of the events leading up to the prisoner-on-prisoner attack that is the subject of this action, Plaintiff's new factual allegations are duplicative of information now available elsewhere in the record, and in particular, from Plaintiff's deposition.

         The most significant change Plaintiff seeks to work by his amended complaint is to broaden the type of relief he requests. In addition to the damages he originally sought (Doc. 1, p. 6), Plaintiff now also asks for an injunction ordering his transfer to a different facility, as well as a declaration that his rights were violated. (Doc. 57, p. 8). Plaintiff's request for an injunction appears to have nothing to do with the harm at issue in this action. Plaintiff asks for an order requiring his transfer due to “continuous harassment, threats, & actions [taken] against Plaintiff such as illegal search & seizure of legal material thus violating Plaintiff's 4th Amendment.” (Id.). These allegations are unrelated to the Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim at issue here, and they are therefore properly asserted in a separate action. More importantly, because Plaintiff is no longer housed at Macon State Prison where the alleged prisoner-on-prisoner attack occurred, but rather is now housed at Smith State Prison, Plaintiff's requests for injunctive and declaratory relief are moot. Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d 1169, 1173-74 (11th Cir. 1985) (“an inmate's claim for injunctive and declaratory relief in a section 1983 action fails to present a case or controversy once the inmate has been transferred”).

         Given Plaintiff's delay in filing, his failure to raise any new claims or allege any new, non-duplicative facts, and given that Plaintiff is not entitled to the new relief he requests, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint is denied. See Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001) (listing undue delay and futility as grounds for declining to grant leave to amend).


         Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is proper “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.” The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of informing the Court of the basis for its motion, and of citing “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” that support summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). In resolving motions for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (“The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor”).


         Plaintiff moves for summary judgment based not on the merits of his claim, but rather as a sanction for the Defendant's refusal to comply with this Court's October 17, 2017 Order compelling the Defendant to produce “Standard Operating Procedures related to the feeding of inmates in administrative segregation or protective custody.” (Doc. 73, pp. 2-3; Doc. 74). Plaintiff asserts that he was housed in protective custody at the time of McCrimmon's attack due to gang-related threats, (Doc. 62-3, p. 18), and Plaintiff alleges that the “SOPs” would have demonstrated that Plaintiff “was not supposed to come into contact [with] any other inmates.” (Doc. 76, p. 3). The Defendant acknowledges his inadvertent failure to give these documents to Plaintiff within the time provided by the Court, but the Defendant affirms to the Court that he has since turned the documents over. (Doc. 75, pp. 1-2). The record indicates that Plaintiff did not have access to these documents when drafting his Response to the Defendant's pending Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 76, pp. 2-3).

         Rule 37(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides courts with ample discretion to enforce discovery orders, and Rule 37(b)(2)(A), in particular, lists the following as ...

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