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Walters v. Division of Youth Services

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

July 28, 2015

CODY WALTERS, Plaintiff,
v.
DIVISION OF YOUTH SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

RONNIE L. WHITE, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 122) and Defendants' Motion to Strike Expert Report and Exclude Testimony of Anne McCulloch Nelson (ECF No. 124). These motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND

On April 23, 2011, Plaintiff Cody Walters ("Walters") was a 16 year old resident assigned to the Alpha Group at the W.E. Sears Youth Center ("Sears") in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. (Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts ("DSUMF"), ECF No. 123-1, ¶ 1). Sears is a residential facility of the Division of Youth Services ("DYS") of the State of Missouri, which provides treatment and services for young men between the ages of 12-17 or 14-18. (DSUMF, ¶ 2); (Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted Material Facts ("RSUMF"), ¶ 2).

Defendant DYS is an agency of the State of Missouri, which at all relevant times, owned, maintained, controlled and/or operated Sears and the Hillsboro Treatment Center ("Hillsboro"). (DSUMF, ¶ 2). Defendant Richard Stewart has been the Facility Manager at Sears since 2008. (DSUMF, ¶ 8). Defendant Brian Hicks has been the Assistant Facility Manager at Sears since either 2008 or 2009 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 10). Defendant Kevin Cooper was the Group Leader for the Alpha group at Sears from approximately October 2008 through April 2014. (DSUMF, ¶ 12). Defendant Austin Armes was a Youth Specialist II at Sears for the Alpha group from 2010 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 15). Defendant Ashley Bryant was a Youth Specialist II at Sears for the Alpha group from 2010 through 2013. (DSUMF, ¶ 16). Defendant Mike Burchard was a Youth Specialist II at Sears for the Alpha group from 2010 through 2012. (DSUMF, ¶ 17). Defendant Greg Adams was a Youth Specialist II at Sears for the Alpha group from 2006 through October 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 18). Defendant Jerry Cooper was a Youth Specialist II at Sears for the Alpha group from 2002 through December 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 19). Defendant Maison Jackson was a Youth Specialist II at Sears for the Omega group from 2011 through the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 22). Defendant Paula Shaw was been the Regional Administrator for the Southeast Region of the DYS from 1997 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 24). Defendant Donna Nichols was the Assistant Regional Administrator working in the Southeast Regional Office from 2008 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 28). Defendant Elaine Barbee was the Assistant Regional Administrator for the St. Louis Region of DYS from 2011 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 30). Defendant Janet Smiley has been the Service Coordinator Supervisor for the St. Louis Region of DYS from 1997 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 32). Defendant Kimberly Gosney was a Service Coordinator for the St. Louis Region of DYS from 1997 to the present. (DSUMF, ¶ 34). Defendant Pokorny was the Regional Administrator for the St. Louis Region of DYS from 2011 to 2013. (DSUMF, ¶ 36). Defendant Scott Barron was the Facility Manager II at Hillsboro in the St. Louis Region of DYS. (DSUMF, ¶ 38). Defendant Tim Decker was the Director of DYS in April 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 40).

J.L. was a youth committed to DYS in February 2010 at the age of 13. (DSUMF, ¶ 44; Plaintiffs' Statement of Additional Material Facts "PSAMF", ECF No. 132, ¶ 1)). J.L. was initially placed at Hillsboro, a secure facility in February 2010. (DSUMF, ¶ 45; PSAMF, ¶ 4). Hillsboro is a 30 to 36 bed secure program facility in the St. Louis region that has greater security measures than Sears, including more staff coverage, video surveillance, metal detectors, and perimeter fencing. (PSAMF, ¶ 10). In September 2010, J.L. underwent a 12 day psychological evaluation at St. Joseph's Hospital. (PSAMF, ¶ 12). While at Hillsboro, J.L. was involved in several documented altercations. (DSUMF, ¶ 46). A monthly progress note stated that J.L. and another youth attacked a group member. (DSUMF, ¶ 47). On October 19, 2010, J.L. flipped over furniture and threw items at staff. (DSUMF, ¶ 48). On that same day, J.L. punched a staff member in the back of the head, causing the staff member to suffer a bruise. (DSUMF, ¶ ¶ 49-50). J.L. was physically restrained for twenty minutes after that incident. (PSAMF, ¶ 14). On that same day, J.L. attempted to assault staff again. (DSUMF, ¶ 51). J.L. was physically restrained for ten minutes and mechanically restrained for another twenty minutes. (PSAMF, ¶ 14). Physical restraint is a method to control behavior injurious to self or others whereby the youth is physically held or confined. (PSAMF, ¶ 15). Mechanical restraint is the method to control behavior to self or others whereby a youth's movement is physically restricted by mechanical devices (such as waist/chain belts, handcuffs, bracelets/shackles). (PSAMF, ¶ 16). An advocate note stated that, on November 11, 2010, J.L. assaulted two boys and pulled a fire alarm. (DSUMF, ¶ 52).[1] On January 26, 2011, J.L. locked himself in a room, broke a coffee pot, and threatened to cut himself with a pole, but no injuries were sustained. (DSUMF, ¶ 53). On January 26, 2011, J.L. was mechanically restrained for 24 hours because he locked himself in a bathroom and threatened to assault staff with a pole. (PSAMF, ¶ 20). On February 1, 2011, J.L. pulled the fire extinguishers, sprayed staff, threw the extinguishers at staff, and ran away. (DSUMF, ¶ 54). J.L. was physically restrained for twenty minutes for this behavior. (PSAMF, ¶ 21).

J.L. was transferred to Sears on February 7, 2011. Defendant Pokorny approved J.L.'s transfer from Hillsboro to Sears because J.L. was a youth classified for a moderate care facility. (DSUMF, ¶ ¶ 64-65).

Defendant Shaw did not receive any information regarding J.L. before he was transferred to Sears. (DSUMF, ¶ 72). Defendant Nichols approved the place of J.L. at Sears. (DSUMF, ¶ 74). J.L. was transferred to Sears on February 7, 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 75).

J.L. was involved in some documented altercations at Sears prior to April 23, 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 76). On February 23, 2011, J.L. punched another youth several times in the head but the youth was not injured. (DSUMF, ¶ 77). On March 7, 2011, J.L. grabbed another youth's legs and started to struggle. (DSUMF, ¶ 78). On March 17, 2011, J.L. hit another youth in the face with a clenched fist one to three times. (DSUMF, ¶ 79). The other youth suffered a nose bleed and his left eye was swollen and bruised. (DSUMF, ¶ 79). On April 18, 2011, J.L. punched Walters in the back of the head. (DSUMF, ¶ 81). After J.L. punched him, Walters got J.L.'s arms from both sides, picked him up, and laid him on the ground until the group could restrain him. (DSUMF, ¶ 82).[2] On April 19, 2011, J.L. attempted to bite another youth's leg. (DSUMF, ¶ 84).

On April 20, 2011, Defendant Bryant reported that J.L. asked Defendant Bryant what would happen if J.L. set a staff member on fire. (DSUMF, ¶ 114). J.L. testified that he asked what would happen if he set DYS property on fire. (DSUMF, ¶ 115). Defendant Bryant wrote J.L.'s comment down in the log book, which was reviewed by Defendants Burchard, Adams, Armes, Kevin Cooper, and Jerry Cooper. (DSUMF, ¶ 121). Defendant Bryant confronted J.L. regarding the comment and J.L. stated that it was what he came up with "in his mixed up mind." (DSUMF, ¶ 122). Defendant Burchard and Defendant Adams also confronted J.L. on April 23, 2011 in front of the group regarding his comment. (DSUMF, ¶ ¶ 126, 128). As a result of the comment, J.L. was placed on high awareness for a week. (DSUMF, ¶ 123).

On April 21, 2011, a youth reported to Defendant Armes that J.L. smelled like cigarettes. (DSUMF, ¶ 132). Defendant Armes searched the bathroom but did not note any smell of cigarettes. (DSUMF, ¶ 133).

On April 23, 2011, in the late afternoon, the Alpha Group was doing their weekly inventory and J.L. refused to inventory his locker, which entailed removing all clothing from the locker to show staff. (DSUMF, ¶ 134). After J.L. refused to participate in the inventory, Defendant Armes took all of J.L.'s clothes and put them in a bag and locked them in the staff closet. (DSUMF, ¶ 135). Defendants claim that J.L.'s bed was also checked that evening. (DSUMF, ¶ 136). Defendant Armes maintains that he searched J.L.'s clothes due to his comment to Defendant Bryant. (DSUMF, ¶ 137). Walters, however, maintains that J.L.'s clothes and bed were not searched on July 23, 2011. (PSAMF, ¶ ¶ 157-58). On April 23, 2011, Defendant Armes was supervising the Alpha Group because Defendant Bryant had left once all of the youth were in bed at approximately 10:00 p.m. (DSUMF, ¶ 138). It was common practice for one staff member to leave at 10:00 p.m., even though the Sears/DYS written policy required two staff members to supervise from 4:00 p.m. until 12:00 a.m. (DSUMF, ¶ 139). At some point near bedtime, the roof began to leak and J.L's bed became very wet. (DSUMF, ¶ 140). As a result, Armes moved J.L. into a bunk above Walter's bunk. (DSUMF, ¶ 141). At approximately 11:00 p.m., as Defendant Jackson was about to leave for the evening from the Oak Cottage, which was in the same building as the Alpha cottage, he offered to watch the Alpha group in order to allow Defendant Armes to go to the bathroom. (DSUMF, ¶ 143). Armes accepted Jackson's offer and went into the bathroom which was a few feet away. (DSUMF, ¶ 144). While Armes was in the bathroom, the lights went out for 5-10 seconds. (DSUMF, ¶ 116, 145). Shortly thereafter, the safety lights came on. (DSUMF, ¶ 146). When he returned to the Alpha Cottage, Armes saw J.L. standing up on the side of the bunk bed. (DSUMF, ¶ 150). J.L. poured gas on Walters, who was on the lower bunk. (DSUMF, ¶ ¶ 117-118, 151-52). J.L. lit the side of his locker and "everything went up in flames." (DSUMF, ¶ 118). Defendant Jackson and Armes were 12-16 feet away from J.L. when he started the fire. (DSUMF, ¶ 154).

J.L. was approximately 14 years old on April 23, 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 98). J.L. obtained the lighter he used in the incident while on highway duty within two weeks of being at Sears. (DSUMF, ¶ 103). J.L. did not know who was on duty when he obtained the lighter. (DSUMF, ¶ 104). J.L. obtained the gasoline used in the incident from a lawnmower in the shed while he was supposed to be cutting grass. (DSUMF, ¶ 105). J.L. did not know which staff member was working that day. (DSUMF, ¶ 107). J.L. said that he initially hid the bottle in his locker and then moved it near a dumpster behind the cafeteria to the cottage, where he kept it until April 23, 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ ¶ 108-09). On April 23, 2011, J.L. retrieved the bottle after dinner. He hid it in his pocket and brought it back to the cottage undetected. (DSUMF, ¶ 110). After two months at Sears, J.L. was placed into a secure program at Montgomery City. (PSAMF, ¶ 6).

Walters lived at Sears from September 2009 until April 23, 2011. (DSUMF, ¶ 92). Walters testified that he never saw a youth in possession of a weapon while he was at Sears. (DSUMF, ¶ 93).

In Count I, Walters alleges a claim against Defendants Stewart, Hicks, Kevin Cooper, Armes, Bryant, Burchard, Adams, Jerry Cooper, Jackson, Shaw, Nichols, Barbee, Smiley, Gosney, Barron, Pokorny, Decker and John/Jane Doe 1-10 in their individual capacities pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for damages for Defendants' deprivation of Walters' constitutionally protected rights by reason of Defendants' failure to protect Walters in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. (Second Amended Complaint ("SAC"), ECF No. 83, ¶ 24).[3] Count I is not directed towards DYS. ( Id. ). In Count II, Walters alleges a negligence claim against Defendants DYS, Stewart, Hicks, Kevin Cooper, Arms, Bryant, Burchard, Adams, Jerry Cooper, Jackson, Shaw, Nichols, Barbee, Smiley Gosney, Barron, Pokorny, Decker, and John/Jane Doe 1-10. (SAC, ¶ 49).[4]

DISCUSSION

I. Motion for Summary Judgment

A. Standard of Review

The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Citrate, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011). The substantive law determines which facts are critical and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome will properly preclude summary judgment. Id. Summary judgment is not proper if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.

A moving party always bears the burden of informing the Court of the basis of its motion. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts demonstrating that there is a dispute as to a genuine issue of material fact, not the "mere existence of some alleged factual dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of his pleading. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 258.

In passing on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 331. The Court's function is not to weigh the evidence but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge.'" Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

B. 1983 Claim

In the Second Amended Complaint, Walters alleges that Defendants Stewart, Hicks, Shaw, Nichols, Barbee, Smiley, Gosney, Barron, Pokorny, Decker and John/Jane Doe 1-10 failed to act reasonably and were deliberately indifferent to the rights of Walters in that said Defendants:

• Failed to implement and/or enforce adequate policies and procedures for the care, supervision, placement, and safety of residents, including Walters;
• Caused, permitted, and allowed a custom and practice of continued and persistent deviations from the aforesaid policies and procedures;
• Failed to train and/or instruct Youth Center employees, agents and servants to properly search, supervise, and monitor youth residents;
• Allowed hazardous or dangerous items including gasoline and lighters to be and remain on the premises and in possession of youth residents; caused and/or permitted a violent resident with access to a hazardous or dangerous substance and dangerous items to be housed with other residents, including Walters;
• Failed to segregate a known violent and assaultive resident from other residents;
• Failed to implement and enforce existing policies and procedures for the entry and/or placement ...

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