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Williams v. Shultiz

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

December 18, 2019

SGT. SHULTIZ et al, Defendants.



         The matter comes before the court on plaintiffs unopposed motions for default judgment (DE 168, 170, 172) as to defendant Linette Jordan ("Jordan"). In this posture, the issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the court grants plaintiff s motions for default judgment, and awards plaintiff $10, 000.00 in compensatory damages.


         As set forth in the court's August 30, 2019, order:

On April 9, 2014, plaintiff Charles A. Williams ("plaintiff), a state inmate, filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants Reginald Speller ("Speller") and [Jordan] used excessive force against him in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff additionally alleged a bystander liability claim against defendant Speller, as well as defendants Victor Shultis ("Shultis") and Damion M. Ridley ("Ridley"). [As relief, plaintiff requested "compensatory, nominal, punitive damages $2, 000, 000 million."] On May 12, 2015, the court stayed this case pending the disposition of a parallel action before the North Carolina Industrial Commission in Williams v. C/0 Jordon, No. TA-24669. The court subsequently lifted the stay and resumed this action on May 4, 2018. Then, on October 29, 2018, the court granted plaintiffs motion for entry of default as to defendant Jordan, and the Clerk of Court made an entry of default as to defendant Jordan the next day.
On February 12, 2019, plaintiff filed a motion for partial summary judgment with attached exhibits. On April 1, 2019, defendants Ridley, Shultis, and Speller filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff is unable to establish a constitutional violation. In support of their motion, defendants Ridley, Shultis, and Speller manually filed a video-tape of the alleged use of force incident....

See (DE 166).

         On August 30, 2019, the court entered an order granting defendants' motion for summary judgment and denying plaintiffs partial motion for summary judgment. As a result, the court dismissed all defendants except Jordan. The court also appointed North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services ("NCPLS") to assist plaintiff with moving for default judgment as to defendant Jordan. NCPLS then filed a motion for default judgment, and a corrected motion for entry of default on plaintiffs behalf. On September 11, 2019, plaintiff filed a pro se motion for default judgment, with a supporting affidavit. During this time period, NCPLS also moved to withdraw as counsel, and plaintiff consented to NCPLS's motion. See (DE 174). The court allowed NCPLS to withdraw as counsel for plaintiff.

         On November 15, 2019, the court conducted a hearing on plaintiffs motion for entry of default judgment to establish the truth of plaintiff s allegations and to determine the amount of any damages. At the hearing, plaintiff testified and presented video evidence of the use of force incident.[1] In addition, the summary judgment record contains several exhibits including plaintiffs medical records following the use-of-force incident.


         This action arose out of events that occurred at Bertie Correctional Institution ("Bertie") on April 13, 2013. (Compl. p. 4). At approximately 8:20 a.m. on that date, defendants Speller and Jordan entered the H-Pod to retrieve plaintiff, a maximum control status inmate, from the shower and to escort him back to his cell. (Speller Aff. ¶ 8). When Speller approached plaintiff in the shower, plaintiff stated that he was not ready, and asked for additional time. (Id.) Speller left plaintiff in the shower. (Speller Aff. ¶ 8; Video 1:9:19:24-9:19:47). Shortly thereafter, defendant Jordan approached the shower and stated: "[You] need to speed up [be]fore she take her black stick out and pop the key inside the shower key door and drag [plaintiff] out." (Compl. p. 4: Video 1: 9:20:33). Defendant Jordan then opened the door to the shower, without first applying hand restraints to plaintiff, and slapped plaintiff on the right side of his face. (Compl. p. 4;Video 1: 9:20:41-48; Hrg. Tr. p. 3, 1. 5). Plaintiff and defendant Jordan then got into a "tussle." (Hrg. Tr. p. 3, 1.7; Video 1:9:20:41-9:21:24). Speller and Jordan struggled to gain control over plaintiff. (Video 1:9:20:49-57).

         At one point during the altercation, defendant Jordan attempted to remove her baton from its holster, but was unable to do so. (Id. 9:21:16-20). Jordan then grabbed defendant Speller's baton, raised the baton over her head, and brought it down onto plaintiff several times as Speller was pushing plaintiff back into the enclosed shower area. (Id. 9:21:20-9:21:28). Several correctional officers next arrived to provide assistance, and one officer gave plaintiff a direct order to lay on the ground so that the officers could apply wrist restraints. (Compl. p. 5; Hrg. Tr. p. 3, 1. 14-24). Plaintiff complied. (Id.) At some point after plaintiff was restrained, defendant Jordan entered the shower area, and struck plaintiff with a baton several times while he was restrained. (Id. p. 4, 1. 5-8). Sergeant Wilson next "pulled [defendant Jordan] to stop the assault and push[ed] her out [of] the block." (Compl. p. 5; Video 1: 9:21:53-9:22:03). A correctional officer then proceeded to escort defendant Jordan out of H-Pod. (Video 1: 9:22:05-9:22:11).

         After Jordan was removed from the shower area, correctional officers lifted plaintiff and carried him to Bertie's medical unit. (Hrg. Tr. p. 4, 1.17-19). As the officers were escorting plaintiff to the medical unit, defendant Jordan pushed her way toward plaintiff. (Video 2: 9:23:26). Correctional officers located in the hallway attempted to stop Jordan, and Jordan resisted the officers. (Id. 9:23:26-9:23:39). Jordan continued to resist fellow officers, until one officer physically lifted Jordan and carried her away from plaintiff. (Id. 9:23:57-9:24:24).

         Plaintiff next was examined by Bertie's medical staff. Nurse Leticia Jerkins assessed plaintiff with abrasions to his neck, head, upper left and right arms, right knee, right and left arms, left leg, mid-chest area. (Clark Aff. Ex. C, pp. 6, 25). The nurse additionally noted bruising to plaintiffs upper and lower back, left upper shoulder, and head. (IcLp. 25; (DE 131), pp. 20-21). At the hearing, plaintiff testified that he was prescribed Naproxen, Salsalate, and Tylenol for his injuries. (Hrg. Tr. p. 6, 1. 17; p. 12, 1. 2-6). Plaintiff, additionally, testified that he suffers from ongoing back pain, as well as arthritis in his shoulder. (Ii p. 6, 1. 1-5). Plaintiff stated he has difficulty sitting up at times, and that he suffers from ...

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