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Hanson v. Moniteau County

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

September 8, 2015

RICHARD MICHAEL HANSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MONITEAU COUNTY, MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING CASE

NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, District Judge.

Plaintiff, who currently is incarcerated at the Farmington Correctional Center in Farmington, Missouri, has filed pro se this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking relief for claimed violations of his federally protected rights while he was confined in Moniteau County, Missouri. Defendants are Moniteau County and the following Moniteau County officials: Sheriff Jeptha Gump, former Jail Administrator Harry Curtis, and former Deputy Jailer Sharon Gathercol.

Previously, this Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss certain claims. Doc. 28. Plaintiff's two remaining claims are as follows: (1) Defendant Curtis retaliated against him for a prior lawsuit by placing him in solitary confinement, and (2) Defendant Curtis used excessive force against Plaintiff, which Defendant Gump ordered and Defendant Gathercol witnessed but failed to stop. Currently pending before this Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment and suggestions in support thereof (Docs. 41, 42) and Plaintiff's response thereto (Doc. 48).

Standard of Review

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), a movant is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only if he has made a showing that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [he] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See generally Van Wyhe v. Reisch, 581 F.3d 639, 648 (8th Cir. 2009); Mason v. Correction Medical Services, Inc., 559 F.3d 880, 884-85 (8th Cir. 2009). In applying this standard, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, giving that party the benefit of all inferences that may be reasonably drawn from the evidence. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Recio v. Creighton University, 521 F.3d 934, 938 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

The inquiry performed is whether "there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). "The nonmoving party must show the existence of facts on the record which create a genuine issue." Larson v. Kempker, 414 F.3d 936, 939 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)). An "adverse party may not rely merely on allegations or denials, but must set out specific facts - by affidavits or other evidence - showing [a] genuine issue for trial." Tweeton v. Frandrup, 287 F.Appx. 541, 541 (8th Cir. 2008) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

Undisputed Issues of Fact

On January 6, 2011, Plaintiff filed a prior lawsuit against Defendants while he was confined at the Morgan County Jail. Case No. 11-4015-CV-C-NKL-P, Doc. 1. While that case was pending, Plaintiff was again confined in the Moniteau County Jail in March and April of 2011. Doc. 1, p. 9; Doc. 42, p. 2. Defendant Curtis was employed by Moniteau County, Missouri, as the Jail Administrator until April 2012. Doc. 42, p. 2. Defendant Gathercol was employed by Moniteau County as a deputy jailer until her retirement in May 2012. Id. Defendant Gump is the Sheriff of Moniteau County. Id.

During Plaintiff's confinement at the Moniteau County Jail in March and April of 2011, Plaintiff was placed in a cell at the front of the jail used for inmates with special needs or increased monitoring. Doc. 42-2, p. 1. Due to complaints by Plaintiff about his cell, on April 13, 2011, Plaintiff was transferred to the Morgan County Detention Center (MCDC), which was considered to be better equipped to deal with inmates with increased medical needs. Doc. 42, p. 3; Doc. 42-2, p. 2. Defendant Curtis transported Plaintiff to the MCDC. Doc. 1, pp. 11-12; Doc. 42, p. 3.

Discussion

I. Defendants Gump, Gathercol, and Curtis are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's retaliation claim.

As to Plaintiff's claim that he was placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for filing a previous lawsuit, "[l]iability under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the deprivation of rights." Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990) (citing Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-71 (1976)). Plaintiff, therefore, must present specific allegations of fact as to either direct personal involvement, direction of others, or a knowing failure to supervise or act, which resulted in Plaintiff's injuries. See generally Mark v. Nix, 983 F.2d 138, 139-40 (8th Cir. 1993) (Section 1983 liability requires some personal involvement or responsibility); Ronnei v. Butler, 597 F.2d 564 (8th Cir. 1979).

Furthermore, in order to prevail on his Section 1983 retaliation claim, Plaintiff must prove that "but for" his previous claims against prison officials, Defendant Curtis would not have taken the alleged actions against Plaintiff. Goff v. Burton, 91 F.3d 1188, 1191 (8th Cir. 1996). To avoid liability on a claim of retaliatory discipline, Defendants simply must prove that there was "some evidence" in support of their decision to place Plaintiff in the cell. See id. Broad and conclusory allegations of retaliation are not sufficient to support a Section 1983 claim for a violation of constitutional rights. Flittie v. Solem, 827 F.2d 276, 281 (8th Cir. 1987).

Plaintiff neither alleges nor presents evidence that Defendants Gump and Gathercol were personally involved in his placement in solitary confinement. Insofar as Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Curtis placed him in the cell in retaliation for filing a prior lawsuit, Plaintiff does not present evidence disputing that the cell was at the front of the jail and was used for inmates with special needs or increased monitoring. Plaintiff also does not present evidence disputing that he was transferred to MCDC due to his complaints about the cell and that the transfer occurred because it was believed that MCDC was considered to be better equipped to deal with inmates with increased medical needs. Therefore, Defendants have presented "some evidence" in support of the decision to ...


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