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Gibson v. Harrison

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

September 18, 2017



          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (DE 56) and plaintiff's letter motion (DE 79). The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, this court grants defendants' motion and plaintiff's motion.


         On March 4, 2015, plaintiff, a state inmate, filed this civil rights action, pro se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his verified complaint, plaintiff named the following as defendants: Donnie Harrison (“Harrison”), Officer K. Meyer (“Meyer”), Dr. Umesi (“Dr. Umesi”), Major P. Williams (“Williams”), Assistant Director Higdon (“Higdon”), D. Bowen (“Bowen”), State of North Carolina, Wake County Sheriff Department, and Wake County Detention Center.

         On October 23, 2015, this court conducted a frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. At that time, this court dismissed the Wake County Detention Center and the State of North Carolina for failure to state a claim against them. Plaintiff was allowed to proceed against the remaining defendants.

         On November 30, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to appoint counsel, which was denied. On December 10, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion for discovery. Plaintiff's motion for discovery was denied as premature. On February 3, 2016, plaintiff filed another motion to appoint counsel, and the motion was denied. On March 1, 2016, this court entered a case management order.

         On April 20, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for an investigator and a motion to change or amend prayer for relief. On May 20, 2016, plaintiff's motion seeking an investigator was denied. On that same day, plaintiff's motion to change or amend his prayer for relief was granted.

         On June 8, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for investigator, motion for warrants, and a motion to appoint counsel. The motions were denied. On August 29, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion to request all information discovery. This court construed the filing as a motion to compel discovery and granted the motion.

         On September 20, 2016, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, memorandum in support (DE 57), and statement of material facts (DE 58). In support of their motion to summary judgment, defendants filed the following: defendant Higdon's affidavit (DE 56-2); defendant Meyer's affidavit (DE 56-3); Heidi Steinbeck's (“Steinbeck) affidavit (DE 56-4); defendant Dr. Umesi's affidavit (DE 56-5); April 17, 2012, incident report (DE 56-6); July 27, 2012, incident report (DE 56-7); November 3, 2012, incident report (DE 56-8); defendant Higdon's notes and letter (DE 56-9); jail inspector documents (DE 56-10); N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-135.2A (DE 56-11); J. Evans's witness statement (DE 56-12); Inmate Richard Hinton's (“Inmate Hinton”) disciplinary report (DE 56-13); plaintiff's safekeeping request (DE 56-14); and plaintiff's safekeeping order (DE 56-15). On May 26, 2017, defendants were directed to re-file the memorandum in support of their motion for summary judgment, defendant Dr. Umesi's affidavit, and plaintiff's applicable medical records. On June 16, 2017, defendants re-filed a revised memorandum in support (DE 77), plaintiff's medical records (DE 77-1) and defendant Dr. Umesi's revised affidavit (DE 77-2).

         In the meantime, on October 12, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for additional discovery. On October 20, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion for copies. Both motions were denied.

         On November 17, 2016, plaintiff filed a response to defendant's motion for summary judgment, which is supported by the following: plaintiff's verified complaint (DE 1), a response to defendants' memorandum of law (DE 73-1), a response to defendants' statement of material facts (DE 73-2), a response to defendants' appendix (DE 73-3), a response to Steinbeck's affidavit (DE 73-4), a response to defendant Dr. Umesi's affidavit (DE 73-5), a cover letter (DE 73-6), and exhibits (DE 73-7). On June 16, 2017, plaintiff filed a supplemental response to defendants' motion for summary judgment. That same day, plaintiff filed his letter motion seeking the return of documents.


         Except as otherwise noted below, the facts viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff may be summarized as follows:

         A. First Incident

         On April 17, 2012, between 4:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., plaintiff and three other inmates[2] were being transported from court back to the Wake County Detention Center. (See Compl. (DE 1) at 4;[3]Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 3 ¶ 5, Ex. 6). Defendant Meyer was driving the detention transport van “as in Nascar.”[4] (See Compl. (DE 1) at 5). In particular, Defendant Meyer was driving careless and reckless and exceeding the posted speed limit by 20 miles per hour. (See id .) The inmates attempted to stop defendant Meyer, but they were unsuccessful. (See id.)

         Defendant Meyer was hitting the gas real hard and then hitting the brake equally hard. See id. The inmates were not in seat belts.[5] (See id.) Many of the seat belts in the van were non-operational, and the inmates could not access the operational seat belts. (See id.) All of a sudden, the van hit “something” with a great deal of force.[6] (See id.)

         Defendant Meyer recalls one inmate saying he “may” be hurt. (See Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 3 ¶ 16). Defendant Meyer went the short distance to the Wake County Detention Center, which could provide any necessary medical assistance. (See id.) Plaintiff recalls defendant Meyer laughing and telling jokes all the way to the Wake County Detention Center.[7] (See Compl. (DE 1) at 5). Moreover, defendant Meyer did not show guilt or remorse for what he had done. (See id.)

         Defendant Meyer did not want to “write up” the accident in an incident report, but the sergeant made him do so. (See id.) Defendant Meyer filled out a Wake County Jail Incident Report for each inmate in the van. (See Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 3 ¶ 20).

         Plaintiff sustained injuries. (See Compl. (DE 1) at 5). Some of the injuries went away, but most did not. See id. Plaintiff asked to be moved downstairs or to a medical pod over the next few months, but all of his requests were denied. (See id.)

         Plaintiff heard from both officers and inmates that defendant Meyer was saying that those inmates involved in the van accident were “faking.” (See Compl. (DE 1) at 6). Prison officials got rid of the old van and moved defendant Meyer to “armed transport” with a car, so that he would “stop messing up or injuring people.” (See id.)

         Plaintiff suffered minor injuries to his head, and on April 17, 2012, he was evaluated by Nurse Kivuit. (See Rev. Mem. Supp. (DE 77) Ex. 2 ¶ 4; Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 6). Nurse Kivuit discovered a scratch on plaintiff's left hand, and she ordered Motrin 800mg TID for 7 days. (See Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 6; Rev. Mem. Supp. (DE 77) Ex. 2 ¶ 4).

         The next day, April 18, 2012, plaintiff returned to the jail medical clinic complaining of headaches and soreness to his right shoulder. (See Rev. Mem. Supp. (DE 77) Ex. 2 ¶ 5). Plaintiff was seen by PA Bethea and given Flexeril 10mg BID for two weeks, and plaintiff was directed to continue with the Motrin as needed. (See id.) On April 25, 2012, plaintiff filed a medical sick call complaining of migraines and eye issues and made a request for stronger medication due to “[c]ar accident a week ago.” (See id. ¶ 6).

         On April 27, 2012, plaintiff refused a medical sick call and treatment. (See i d .) During May and June 2012, plaintiff was seen by jail medical staff for complaints on multiple occasions, and his medications were adjusted as necessary. (See id. ¶¶ 7-10).

         On both July 3, 2012 and July 5, 2012, plaintiff refused to respond to and attend two sick call requests he submitted. (See id. ¶ 11). On July 18, 2012, plaintiff reported migraines, blood in his stool, back pain, left-sided numbness, and a decrease in weight.[8] (See id. ¶ 12).

         B. Second Incident

         On July 27, 2012, between 10:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.[9], plaintiff experienced a muscle spasm, which was an issue he had been having since the April 17, 2012, van accident. (See Compl. (DE 1) ¶ IV at 6). Plaintiff also felt dizzy. See id. Plaintiff tried holding onto the handrail but could not keep holding on.[10] (S e e i d.) Plaintiff fell and landed on his neck. (See id.) Plaintiff could have been paralyzed or even killed. (See id.)

         Nurses Jordan and Harris responded immediately. (See Rev. Mem. Supp. (DE 77) Ex. 2 ¶ 13; Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 7). Captain Alford and Officer Wingfield also promptly responded. (See Mot. Summ. J. (DE 56) Ex. 7). Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”) transported plaintiff to Wake Med Hospital Emergency Center for treatment. (See Compl. (DE 1) ¶ IV at 6; Rev. Mem. Supp. (DE 77) Ex. 2 ¶ 13). Wake Orthopedics determined that plaintiff had fractured his left ankle and had five to six broken bones.[11] (See Compl. (DE 1) ¶ IV at 6).

         On July 28, 2012, plaintiff was seen by PA Bethea in the jail medical clinic. (See Mem. Supp. (DE 77) Ex. 2 ¶ 14). A splint was in place on plaintiff's fractured left ankle, and no new complaints were noted. (Id.) In August of 2012, plaintiff continued to be seen both at the ...

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