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Burnett v. Acikgoz

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

July 30, 2015



JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Aykan Acikgoz's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 17) The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.[1] For the following reasons the motion will be granted.


Plaintiff Matthew Burnett, a Missouri inmate, is confined in the St. Charles County Adult Correctional Facility ("Jail"). On October 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, seeking damages against the Jail and Defendant Correctional Officer Aykan Acikgoz ("Defendant"). (Complaint ("Compl."), Doc. No. 1) On March 20, 2014, the Court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims with the exception of his Fourteenth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference in failing to intervene and/or protect Plaintiff from an assault by other inmates. (Doc. No. 9) Defendant contends he is entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff is unable to present sufficient facts or evidence to establish a cause of action and because there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. (Doc. No. 19) In response, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant withheld all evidence to support his claim. He references a video recording which he contends would have proven Defendant failed to intervene or end the assault in a proper and procedural manner. (Doc. No. 23) Defendant replies that Plaintiff has not properly responded to his motion and that his claim of "withheld evidence" is disingenuous because Plaintiff conducted no discovery in this matter. (Doc. No. 24)

Legal standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material fact exists in the case and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The initial burden is placed on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). If the record demonstrates that no genuine issue of fact is in dispute, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must set forth affirmative evidence and specific facts showing a genuine dispute on that issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

Plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from responding to Defendant's motion with specific factual support for his claims to avoid summary judgment, Beck v. Skon, 253 F.3d 330, 333 (8th Cir. 2001), or from complying with local rules, see Schooley v. Kennedy, 712 F.2d 372, 373 (8th Cir. 1983). See also Carman v. Treat, 7 F.3d 1379, 1381 (8th Cir.1993) (failing to allow pro se prisoner to disregard Federal Rules of Civil Procedure). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) ("[An] adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of... [his] pleading, but... [must], by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, ... set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-52 (explaining that nonmovant must offer controverting affidavits or evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in his favor).

In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate in a particular case, 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. Benford v. Correctional Medical Services, 2012 WL 3871948, at *4 (E.D.Mo. Sept. 6, 2012) (citing 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. Id. (citing 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." Id. (quoting Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011)).


On July 23, 2013, at approximately 12:48 p.m., Plaintiff was in housing unit F of the Jail. Defendant was on duty at this time, posted in the housing unit control room. Shortly after 12:48 p.m., Defendant ordered all inmates in the housing unit to return to their cells so they could be locked in their individual cells, a process known as "racking-down." When several inmates refused to rack-down, Defendant repeated his order, turned off the television in the housing unit, and began to flash the lights. Several inmates continued to refuse to rack-down. At this time, Plaintiff and inmates Robert Williams, David Ewing and Byron Mischeaux became involved in a verbal altercation, which then escalated to a physical altercation. Upon observing the altercation, Defendant called central control to report the altercation to a supervisor and request assistance. This report was made at 12:50 p.m. Assistance arrived at the housing unit within fifteen to thirty seconds after the call went out and the fight ended. The entire altercation from the order to rackdown to the end of the fight lasted less than two minutes.


The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials "to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (internal quotation omitted). Although the Eighth Amendment applies directly only to convicted prisoners, the Fourteenth Amendment provides civilly committed individuals and other detainees "at least the same level of constitutional protection as the Eighth Amendment." Nelson v. Shuffman, 603 F.3d 439, 446 n. 3 (8th Cir.2010) (considering failure-to-protect claims brought by a detainee living in a sex offender treatment center under the standards applicable to prisoners' failure-toprotect claims); see also Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 315-16 (1982).

Not every prisoner-inflicted injury amounts to a constitutional violation. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. To establish a failure-to-protect claim under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments, a prisoner or detainee must demonstrate that the defendant officer was "deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm.'" Young v. Selk, 508 F.3d 868, 872 (8th Cir.2007) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828). See also Nelson, 603 F.3d at 446. This requires a plaintiff to make a two-part showing. First, the plaintiff must show that, "viewed objectively, the deprivation of rights was sufficiently serious, " which requires establishing that "the official's failure to protect resulted in the inmate being incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.'" Nelson, 603 F.3d at 446 (quoting Young, 508 F.3d at 872). Second, the plaintiff must show the defendant official was "deliberately ...

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