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Santais v. Jones

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

March 9, 2018

YVES SANTAIS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JONES, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 cause of action to contest Defendant's alleged use of excessive force at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia. (Doc. 1.) Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 28.) Plaintiff filed Responses, (docs. 30, 37), to which Defendant did not Reply. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND that the Court DENY Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         This case concerns Defendant's alleged use of excessive force against Plaintiff by discharging CS spray[2] in the cafeteria of Coffee Correctional Facility on April 7, 2016, at 5:32 p.m. (Doc. 30-2, p. 1.) At frivolity review I found Plaintiff to have stated plausible Eighth Amendment excessive force and state law claims against Defendant, but I denied Plaintiff's claims for compensatory and punitive damages, finding him to have alleged only de minimis injuries stemming from Defendant's alleged use of CS spray. (Doc. 20, p. 7-9, 12.) However, the Court sustained in part Plaintiff's Objections, (doc. 25), and reinstated his claim for compensatory and punitive damages, (doc. 27, p. 5).[3] In the Order amending and adopting my Report and Recommendation as the opinion of the Court, District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood found that Plaintiff's Objections alleged “far more significant injuries than in his original Complaint, ” including an abnormality on the left side of his face, coughing up blood, and long lasting symptoms from the CS spray. (Id. at pp. 3-5.)

         The excessive force at issue occurred when Defendant discharged CS spray in the cafeteria without provocation. (Doc. 30-2, pp. 1-2.) The cafeteria is approximately 2000 square feet and contained four staff members when the use of force occurred: Sergeant James Johnson was near the drink containers; Sergeant Kasonya Johnson, Defendant's niece, was near a window passing out food trays; Officer Carnegay was running the scanner; and Defendant Jones was three or four tables away from Plaintiff. (Id.) Defendant took Kasonya Johnson's CS spray, discharged it into the cafeteria, and then briefly locked Plaintiff along with twenty-five other inmates in the contaminated cafeteria until Johnson opened the back door to allow them to leave. (Id.) As a result, Plaintiff suffered immediate physical injuries-an impacted immune system, severe throat pain, lung and chest pain, and coughing blood-which medical treated the same day. (Id. at pp. 2-3; Doc. 25, p. 4.) Plaintiff continues to cough up blood, has now developed an abnormality on the left side of his face, and has since been seen by medical again. (Doc. 25, pp. 4-5; Doc. 30-2, pp. 2-3.)

         Defendant posits a wholly different set of facts. Defendant contends the use of CS spray occurred in the hallway outside the cafeteria and was discharged, not by him, but by Officers Kasonya Johnson and Kristopher Anguiano. (Doc. 28, p. 5.) Further, the CS spray was discharged on inmate Hicks, not Plaintiff. (Id.) The altercation between Defendant and inmate Hicks began when Hicks walked out of the cafeteria and into the hallway with a second tray of food and refused Defendant's orders. (Id. at pp. 14-15.) When Defendant called for backup, Officers Johnson and Anguiano arrived and eventually sprayed inmate Hicks with CS after he threw his food tray and continued to disobey orders. (Id.) Defendant argues this entire event occurred in the hallway, not the cafeteria, and that Plaintiff could not have been harmed because “CS spray is a topical agent . . . that did not reach the inside of the chow hall.” (Id.) Thus, according to Defendant, Plaintiff's version of events “simply did not happen.” (Id.)

         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. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986), and Verbraeken v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 881 F.2d 1041, 1045 (11th Cir. 1989)).

         The moving party bears the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Williamson Oil Co. v. Philip Morris USA, 346 F.3d 1287, 1298 (11th Cir. 2003). Specifically, the moving party must identify the portions of the record which establish that there are no “genuine dispute[s] as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See Moton v. Cowart, 631 F.3d 1337, 1341 (11th Cir. 2011). When the nonmoving party would have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may discharge his burden by showing that the record lacks evidence to support the nonmoving party's case or that the nonmoving party would be unable to prove his case at trial. See id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). In determining whether a summary judgment motion should be granted, a court must view the record and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Peek-A-Boo Lounge of Bradenton, Inc. v. Manatee County., 630 F.3d 1346, 1353 (11th Cir. 2011) (citing Rodriguez v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 508 F.3d 611, 616 (11th Cir. 2007)).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant sets forth several grounds for summary judgment in his Motion. First, Defendant asserts Plaintiff is not entitled to injunctive relief on his excessive force claim because the facts show Plaintiff was not present where the CS spray was discharged and Defendant did not discharge it. (Id. at pp. 6-7.) Second, Defendant asserts Plaintiff is not entitled to injunctive relief on his state law battery claim because no offensive touching occurred, even assuming Plaintiff's version of events is true. (Id. at pp. 7-8.) Similarly, Defendant argues Plaintiff's false imprisonment claim fails because he was not arrested, and Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim fails because Defendant did nothing toward Plaintiff. (Id. at pp. 8-9.)

         Finally, Defendant contends Plaintiff has not met the standard for injunctive relief in the prison context because “nothing approaching this set of facts has ever occurred.” (Id. at p. 10.)

         In Response, Plaintiff contends Defendant has conspired with witnesses Johnson and Anguiano to “concoct” an untrue story. (Doc. 30-1, p. 5.) Plaintiff states inmates David Hicks and Jassen Reynold are credible witnesses that can corroborate his version of events, but he has been unable to access them for discovery. (Doc. 30.) Additionally, Plaintiff argues video surveillance from the cafeteria on the date in question will prove his version true. (Doc. 30-1, p. 2, 3.) Although both parties have provided competing affidavits, neither has provided the Court with any other evidence, whether it be surveillance video, medical records, incident reports, or otherwise.

         I. Eighth Amendment Claim

         Plaintiff's excessive force claim and Defendant's Motion require analysis of the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment. That proscription governs the amount of force that prison officials are entitled to use against inmates. Campbell v. Sikes, 169 F.3d 1353, 1374 (11th Cir. 1999). An excessive force claim has two requisite parts: an objective and a subjective component. Sims v. Mashburn, 25 F.3d 980, 983 (11th Cir. 1994). In order to satisfy the objective component, the inmate must show that the prison official's conduct was “sufficiently serious.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). The subjective component requires a showing that the force was used “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm” rather than “a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline.” Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320-21 (1986). In order to determine whether the force was used for the malicious and sadistic purpose of causing harm or whether the force was applied in good faith, courts consider the following factors: the need for the exercise of force, the relationship between the need for force and the force applied, the extent of injury that the inmate suffered, the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and other inmates, and any efforts taken to temper the severity of a forceful response. Skelly v. Okaloosa Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs, 456 Fed.Appx. 845, 848 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fennell v. Gilstrap, 559 F.3d 1212, 1217 (11th Cir. 2009)).

         In this case and at this stage, there are too many controverted material facts for the Court to find that Defendant did not use excessive force against Plaintiff. As detailed above, Plaintiff and Defendant posit entirely different versions of the events in question. Defendant claims he never discharged CS spray and that the use of CS spray by other officers on April 7, 2016, took place in the hallway outside the cafeteria rather than in the cafeteria where Plaintiff was located. (Doc. 28, p. 14-15.) Defendant argues the use of CS spray on inmate Hicks did not reach Plaintiff inside the cafeteria. (Id.) Plaintiff disputes Defendant's story at every point. Plaintiff contends Defendant indiscriminately discharged CS spray in the cafeteria and then forced him and other inmates to remain inside the contaminated cafeteria. (Doc. 30-2, p. 1.) Plaintiff further contends that Defendant's use of CS spray in the cafeteria caused him physical harm requiring multiple visits to medical. (Id. at pp. 2-3; Doc. 30-1, ...


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