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Taylor v. Null

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 22, 2015

DAVID NULL, et al., Defendants.


CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendants Bruce Milburn, David Null, and Kenneth Ruble for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The plaintiff has filed a response, and the issues are fully briefed.

I. Background

Plaintiff Samuel Lewis Taylor brings this action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, asserting a claim of excessive use of force. At the time of the events giving rise to his complaint, plaintiff was an inmate at the Potosi Correctional Center (PCC). Defendants Milburn, Null, and Ruble were employed at PCC as corrections officers.

Viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the facts are as follows: Shortly before midnight on June 3, 2012, defendants Milburn and Ruble arrived at plaintiff's cell in the general population wing. Once there, they ordered plaintiff to perform a work assignment. When plaintiff refused, Milburn ordered him to "lock down" in his cell for failure to obey the order. Plaintiff complied with the lockdown order; he never threatened the guards and he never gave any indication that he was not fully complying. Milburn and Ruble then left the area.

Approximately twenty minutes later, Milburn and Ruble returned and ordered plaintiff out of his cell and onto the main floor of the cellblock. Plaintiff complied without resistance. He was issued a conduct violation for failure to obey the order to perform his work assignment; he was also to be transferred to administrative segregation. Milburn or Ruble then handcuffed plaintiff to a restraint bench. Plaintiff did not threaten the guards or resist being handcuffed to the bench. Ruble then walked away, positioning himself in a control center at the other end of the cellblock, where he was able to see plaintiff. Milburn picked up a metal lock that was attached by a chain to the restraint bench and proceeded to strike plaintiff's right hand near the middle finger. There is no contention that plaintiff resisted or threatened Milburn or Ruble before or after being hit with the lock. Plaintiff's finger was not broken, but he suffered bruising, soreness, and swelling of his hand.

Null arrived after the lock incident and escorted plaintiff to the prison medical facility. Upon arrival plaintiff told the nurse that Milburn had struck him, but the nurse denied that the incident occurred and refused to note plaintiff's injuries.

Null then escorted plaintiff from the medical facility to the administrative segregation unit. As they were walking through a corridor, Null placed his hand on plaintiff's head and shoved plaintiff's face into a concrete wall. The force of the shove was sufficient to crack three of plaintiff's teeth and cause his mouth to bleed. Plaintiff was not threatening Null or resisting prior to that use of force. After placing plaintiff in a cell, Null conducted a strip search. Plaintiff remained handcuffed throughout the search and did not resist. Nevertheless, Null punched plaintiff twice in the jaw, causing it to swell. Null then left plaintiff alone in the cell.

Shortly before dawn on June 4, plaintiff obtained a medical service request form (MSR) which he used to request treatment for the injuries to his finger, face, and teeth. On June 5, in response to the MSR, a nurse came to plaintiff's cell and observed him through a glass window. The nurse did not remove plaintiff from the cell for evaluation at the nurses' station and she could only see plaintiff's face through the window. She did not open the food tray port, from which she could have evaluated plaintiff's finger injury. Yet, the nurse reported performing a visual inspection, concluding that plaintiff had no signs of injury and that his teeth were intact.

Plaintiff filed a second MSR, after which he was seen by a different nurse on June 8. That nurse determined that plaintiff's right middle finger was swollen and tender to touch. She gave him Motrin and referred him to a dentist for his teeth and to a doctor for his finger. On June 14, plaintiff was seen by a dentist, whose examination revealed that three of his teeth were slightly chipped-injuries that were not present at plaintiff's previous dental examinations. On June 27, twentyfour days after being hit with the lock, plaintiff was examined by a doctor. The doctor reported no remaining soft tissue swelling or discoloration of plaintiff's finger.

PCC's response to the intra-prison grievance plaintiff filed reveals that video records exist of the areas in which the incidents allegedly occurred and for the timeframe in which they happened. Plaintiff requested preservation of and access to those video records. The video records have not been submitted in support of the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. Legal Standard

Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be entered if the moving party shows "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." In ruling on a motion for summary judgment the court is required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts. Agristor Leasing v. Farrow, 826 F.2d 732, 734 (8th Cir. 1987). The moving party bears the burden of showing both the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations of his pleadings but must set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co. v. Honea, 458 F.3d 788, 791 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary ...

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