United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Bryson City Division
D. Whitney, United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on consideration of
Plaintiff s pro se amended complaint which he filed pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, and Defendants' motion
for summary judgment.
7, 2013, Plaintiff was detained in the Cherokee County
Detention Center (CCDC) within the Western District awaiting
sentencing on a federal drug charge for conspiracy to possess
with intent to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. See
(United States v. Ashe. 2:12-cr-00033-MR-22
(W.D. N.C. 2012)). Plaintiff was housed with seven other
inmates in A-Pod, and at around 5 p.m. on July 7, Officer
Creasman opened the door to Plaintiffs cell in order to allow
Plaintiff and his fellow inmates to eat dinner. Around 5:45
p.m. Officer Creasman notified other officers that assistance
was needed in A-Pod. Officers Beasley, Creasman, Moss and
Sgt. Nicely responded and observed Plaintiff "yelling
and cursing about being assaulted and threatening" the
officers jobs because he had been assaulted by two inmates,
Crowe and Bird. (Doc. Nos. 44-4: Beasley Decl. ¶ 5;
44-5: Moss Decl. ¶ 4). Plaintiff was removed from his
cell and escorted to the booking area and questioned about
the fight. Crowe and Bird were taken from A-Pod and placed in
maximum security cells and Plaintiff was never housed with
them after July 7. Although CCDC has a procedure whereby an
inmate may file a written grievance, Plaintiff never filed a
grievance regarding the July 7 attack. (Id., Doc.
No. 44-2: WatkinsDecl. ¶ 10).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate in cases where there is no genuine
dispute as to a material fact and it appears that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A court is bound to enter summary
judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587. (1986). The "mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between
the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (italics in
original). "If the evidence is merely colorable or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted." Id. at 249-50 (internal citations
Failure to protect
order to "state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show
that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48, (1988) (internal citations omitted). Here,
Plaintiff appears to allege the detention officers that were
on duty when he was assaulted by Bird and Crowe knew the
assailants had a propensity for violence and that the
officers therefore had an obligation to protect him from a
potential assault. (Doc. No. 22: Amended Compl.).
regarding conditions of confinement brought by pretrial
detainees in state custody are examined under the due process
clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bell v.
Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). "The due process
rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the
eighth amendment protections available to the convicted
prisoner . . ." Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d
863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988) (citing City of Revere v.
Massachusetts Gen. Hosp., 463 U.S. 239, 244 (1983)).
"[W]hen the State takes a person into custody and holds
him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it
a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his
safety and general well-being." DeShaney v.
Winnebago Cnty. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189,
199-200 (1989) (internal citation omitted). In Kingsley
v. Hendrickson, the Supreme Court held that with regard
to a pretrial detainees' claim of a due process
violation, the detainee need only show that the officers'
actions were "objectively unreasonable." 135 S.Ct.
2466, 2472-73 (2015).
sure, the Eighth Amendment imposes a duty on prison officials
"to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of
other prisoners." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 833 (1994) (internal citation omitted). To establish a
claim under § 1983 for failure to protect from violence,
an inmate must show; (1) "serious or significant
physical or emotional injury, " De'Lonta v.
Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 634 (4th Cir. 2003); and (2)
that the prison official has a "sufficiently culpable
state of mind." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Simply
put, in order to succeed on a claim of deliberate
indifference to Plaintiffs safety, Plaintiff must show that
the Defendants knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to
Plaintiffs health or safety, were aware of facts from which
the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm existed, and drew that inference. Rich v.
Bruce. 129 F.3d 336, 338 (4th Cir. 1997) (citing Farmer,
511 U.S. 825 at 837).
amended complaint utterly fails to demonstrate that any of
the defendants had knowledge that Bird and Crowe were
dangerous prior to the July 7th assault. In fact, the
evidence before the Court that is presented in the
declarations that were filed by Defendants Watkins, Nicely,
Beasley, and Moss, which are submitted under penalty of
perjury, shows that they had no prior knowledge that either
Bird or Crowe were dangerous or that Plaintiff was in any
danger prior to the July 7th assault. In addition, the Court
notes that after the assault, Bird and Crowe were transferred
to the maximum security section of the CCDC, and Plaintiff
was never housed with them again.
one page response to Defendant's motion for summary
judgment Plaintiff declares he will testify along with an
unnamed witness about "genuine" facts although he
elaborates no further. (Id., Doc. No. 45). After
considering the Defendants' sworn declarations, and
noting that Plaintiff has in no way refuted such declarations
in his response, the Court finds that ...