United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for
Summary Judgment by Defendants Christy Adams, Linda Corn,
Brian Helton, Neil McDonald, and Jim Player, (Doc. No. 83).
Also pending before the Court is a Motion to Strike Surreply,
filed by the moving Defendants, (Doc. No. 87).
Plaintiff Ricardo Lanier, a North Carolina inmate currently
incarcerated at Albemarle Correctional Institution in Badin,
North Carolina, filed this action, under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, on November 25, 2015, after he was assaulted by fellow
inmates Kendall Rudisill and Deshawn Perry on October 20,
2015, while Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee at the
Henderson County Detention Center (“the Jail”).
November 30, 2015, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's
complaint without prejudice because the only named Defendants
were the Henderson County Detention Center and “Jail
officials.” (Doc. No. 4). Plaintiff filed a First
Amended Complaint on December 14, 2015, alleging claims of
failure to protect, deliberate indifference to serious
medical needs, and unconstitutional conditions of confinement
against the Henderson County Detention Center, Henderson
County Sheriff's Office employees Jim Player, Brian
Helton, Neil McDonald, Linda Corn, and Flora Hernandez, a
nurse at the Jail. (Doc. No. 8).
March 18, 2016, on initial review, this Court held that
Plaintiff sufficiently stated a failure-to-protect claim
against Helton, McDonald, and Corn, a
conditions-of-confinement claim against Player, and a
deliberate indifference claim against Hernandez. (Doc. No.
16). The Court subsequently granted a motion to dismiss filed
by Hernandez, and Hernandez was dismissed as a Defendant.
(Doc. No. 57).
November 29, 2016, Plaintiff amended his complaint to add a
failure-to-intervene claim against Helton and Henderson
County Sheriff's office employee Christy Adams. (Doc.
Nos. 45, 58). This Court entered a scheduling order on
January 11, 2017, setting the deadline for dispositive
motions as June 11, 2017.
9, 2017, Defendants Adams, Corn, Helton, McDonald, and Player
filed the pending summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 83). In
their summary judgment motion, Defendants Corn, Helton, and
McDonald contend that they are entitled to summary judgment
on the failure-to-protect claim because they had no knowledge
that Rudisill and Perry posed a threat to Plaintiff.
Defendant Player contends that he is entitled to summary
judgment on the conditions-of-confinement claim because he
placed Plaintiff in a booking cell used to monitor injured
inmates on orders of the Jail medical staff. Adams and Helton
contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on the
failure-to-intervene claim because they had no opportunity to
intervene in the assault against Plaintiff. Defendants have
attached the following documents to their summary judgment
motion: excerpts from Plaintiff's deposition taken on
April 28, 2017, the sworn Declarations of each of the moving
Defendants, as well as by Defendants' counsel Sean
Perrin, and two CDs containing video footage of the assault
incident and events leading up to the assault incident.
August 14, 2017, this Court entered an order in accordance
with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir.
1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a
response to the motion for summary judgment and of the manner
in which evidence could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No.
91). Plaintiff has responded to the summary judgment motion.
See (Doc. Nos. 84, 93). Attached to Plaintiff's
response are his sworn Declaration, as well as his
deposition, and other exhibits obtained during discovery from
Defendants. This matter is therefore ripe for disposition.
Plaintiff's Relationship with Inmates Rudisill and Perry
While a Pre-trial Detainee at the Henderson County Detention
Center before the Assault
August 1, 2015, Plaintiff was incarcerated as a pre-trial
detainee at the Henderson County Detention Center on pending
charges. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 23:2-4, 20-22; 25:17-20: Pl.
Dep.). At some point before being assaulted, Plaintiff was
cellmates with Kendall Rudisill for a “couple of days,
maybe a week at the most” until a week before the
October 20th incident. (Id. at 26: 20-23,
27:1-2; 35:3-4, 18-20). Rudisill then moved to Deshawn
Perry's cell because Plaintiff and Rudisill were not
“get[ting] along with each other, ” although they
weren't in the cell “about to fight each other. It
wasn't like that.” (Id. at 27:7-9;
35:23-24; 36:1-2). Indeed, both during their time as
cellmates, as well as after the time they were cellmates,
Plaintiff and Rudisill never fought one another until the
incident on October 20. (Id. at 36:15-17). Plaintiff
“never had problems with anybody in there, in that cell
block at all.” (Id. at 40:18-19). Plaintiff
stated “[t]he whole time I was in that pod I've got
along with everybody.” (Id. at 40:23-24).
There is also no indication that Rudisill and Perry were
violent inmates. When asked about them, Plaintiff stated that
he didn't remember them “getting into it the whole
time I was there” or assaulting other inmates.
(Id. at 40:25; 41:1-12).
Plaintiff, the moving Defendants had no knowledge of any
prior assaults committed by Rudisill and Perry against any
other inmates. (Doc. No. 83-3 at ¶ 10: Corn Decl.; Doc.
No. 83-4 at ¶ 6: Helton Decl; Doc. No. 83-5 at ¶ 8:
McDonald Decl.). Plaintiff and Rudisill would also routinely
play cards with one another, along with Perry and another
inmate. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 37: 3-7; 39:17-21). Almost every
day, the group would play “spades . . . the whole rec
period. That's how we would pass our time by.”
(Id. at 37:12, 20-21, 41:16). In fact, the
“majority” of Plaintiff's free time was spent
playing cards with Rudisill, Perry, and the other inmates.
(Id. at 42:1-2). The group never fought or argued
while playing spades, and officers would see them playing
spades. (Id. at 37:23-25; 38:1-6). After the card
games ended, Plaintiff stated that “sometimes we would
sit there and we would talk and laugh because we weren't
on bad terms until this incident… We was all all [sic]
right. To my knowledge we were.” (Id. at
On October 20, Plaintiff Leaves His Cell, Receives His Dinner
Tray, and Is Threatened By Perry
meal time, an inmate's door is opened and all inmates
come downstairs to get a tray, and take it back to their cell
to eat. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 30:16-25). On October 20, 2015,
Helton and McDonald were serving trays to the inmates. (Doc.
No. 83-4 at ¶ 4; Doc. No. 83-5 at ¶ 4). At 5:00
p.m., Plaintiff left his cell, HD212, the fourth cell on the
top left, and walked downstairs to receive a dinner tray.
(Doc. No. 83-6 at ¶ 16: Jim Player Decl.). According to
Plaintiff, when he was going downstairs to get his food for
dinner, Perry started “talking junk and I was talking
junk back to him.” (Doc. No. 83-2 at 33:12-16; 43:6-8).
Perry was walking up the stairs back to Perry's cell when
he told Plaintiff “I'll kill you.”
(Id. at 44:12-13; 16-17). Plaintiff responded,
“You're not going to kill blank, blank, blank,
blank because there's more than one.” (Doc. No.
83-2 at 44:17-24). According to Helton and McDonald, they did
not hear any threats. (Doc. No. 83-4 at ¶ 4; Doc. No.
83-5 at ¶ 6). Plaintiff is unclear what precipitated
Perry's comment because there were no threats before it,
and he was on good terms with both Perry and Rudisill. (Doc.
No. 83-2 at 47:17-21).
didn't “pay attention” to Perry's threat.
(Doc. No. 83-2 at 72:2). In fact, he “didn't
actually know that they were going to actually-how can I
try-try to follow through with it or follow through with
it.” (Id. at 141:5-7). Plaintiff
“didn't take serious, what they were saying.”
(Id. at 57:13-14). Plaintiff elaborated on how he
construed Perry's comments: “When I was saying I
didn't take it serious, it's not that I didn't
take it serious. I thought-that's the exact way. I
thought we were just words…because when you get mad,
you say things.” (Id. at 141:13-16, 18-19).
5:29, Plaintiff received his dinner tray. (Doc. No. 83-6 at
¶ 16). A bun was missing from Plaintiff's tray, so
he was told to have a seat while Helton and McDonald went to
get him an extra hotdog bun. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 48:9-11).
Helton and McDonald left the housing area at 5:58. (Doc. No.
83-6 at ¶ 16). Plaintiff, Rudisill, and Perry began
arguing after Helton and McDonald left. (Doc. No. 83-2 at
48:15-17). No officers were present during this argument.
(Id. at 48:21-24).
to Plaintiff, “theoretically they were probably
threatening me or disrespecting me. I can't quote/
unquote recite what they were saying, but they were talking
junk because if they weren't-if they weren't talking
junk, I wouldn't be talking back to them.” (Doc.
No. 83-2 at 49:1-6). The argument stopped when the officers
came back. (Id. at 49:14-24). At 5:02:50 McDonald
came back to the medium housing unit. (Doc. No. 83-6 at
¶ 17). When he entered the Pod, McDonald heard Plaintiff
talking loud. (Doc. No. 83-5 at ¶ 5). McDonald asked
Plaintiff what was going on, and Plaintiff did not respond.
(Id.). Corn, who was near the female housing unit,
came in with McDonald. (Doc. No. 83-3 at ¶ 4). Corn
asked Plaintiff what was going on, and he did not respond.
(Id. at ¶ 5).
receiving his bun from McDonald, Plaintiff went back to his
cell. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 50:10-11, 18-23). Corn then asked the
inmates on the second floor what was going on, and nobody
responded. (Doc. No. 83-3 at ¶ 6). An inmate on the
second floor stated that somebody was having a heart attack.
(Id.). Corn asked who, but nobody responded.
(Id.). At 5:03:07, Corn went upstairs to talk to the
inmates on the second floor. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 53:2-7). Corn
questioned the occupants of cells HD 205-208, and walked
upstairs and talked to all the cells on the upper right side.
(Doc. No. 83-3 at ¶ 7). After questioning the occupants,
and not getting a response, Corn left the pod at 5:04:12.
(Id. at ¶ 8).
Inmates Rudisill and Perry Attack and Assault
45-50 minutes later, when the inmates finished their meals in
their cells, the cell doors were unlocked for inmates to
place their trays downstairs. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 55:2-10,
23-25; 56:1). When he went to put his tray away at 5:51:21,
Plaintiff passed Rudisill and Perry's cell, but they did
not say anything to him. (Id. at 55:11-13; Doc. No.
83-6 at ¶ 19). Plaintiff also didn't say anything to
Rudisill and Perry at this time. (Doc. No. 83-2 at 61:7-8).
After putting his tray away, Plaintiff sat on a table and saw
Rudisill and Perry by the phone. (Id. at 55:19-22).
Instead of going back to his cell, Plaintiff stayed out in
the common area “because I didn't think-I
didn't think they were going to follow through with what
they said. You know, people talk all the time.”
(Id. at 56:17-19).
time, a Sheriff's Officer, Vicky Moore, was ten feet away
from Plaintiff, but Plaintiff didn't mention anything to
her because “people argue all the time . . . I
didn't know that they were going to actually try to kill
me.” (Id. at 59:12-25, 182:13-18). Plaintiff
“didn't know I needed help at that time.”
(Id. at 60:6-8). After Moore finished her rounds,
Plaintiff went to his cell to take a shower. (Id. at
saw Perry walk up the stairs towards Plaintiff's cell,
but “I'm not really paying him any attention
because I'm not thinking he's coming to me because
he's not talking to me as he's coming up the
stairs.” (Id. at 61:15-16). Another inmate,
Timothy Waters, attempted to block Perry, but Waters got out
of the way when he saw Rudisill with a broom. (Id.
at 61:18-25; 62:1-5).
then came into Plaintiff's cell and started hitting him
with a broom. (Id. at 62:9-11). Plaintiff didn't
know that they were going to assault him and was
“completely . . . taken aback” that they did.
(Id. at 146:6-9, 15-18). Plaintiff defended himself
by hitting Perry, (id. at 67:19-25), and by trying
to get the broom from Rudisill. (Id. at 68:3-5).
Rudisill then grabbed Plaintiff, (id. at 69:12-13),
and Perry grabbed Plaintiff's foot, and threw him over
the railing, thirteen-and-a-half feet from the floor.
(Id. at 70:4-6, 16-17). Plaintiff held on to the
railing and dropped. (Id. at 71:4-8). As ...