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Walker v. Owens

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

October 7, 2016

SHAWN OWENS, et al., Defendants,



         Plaintiff, an inmate in custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), brought the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendant correctional officers alleging excessive force was used against him while incarcerated at Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”). Defendants have moved for summary judgment (#51) on May 16, 2016. Although plaintiff has not responded to the motion, the time for doing so has long passed.

         I. Background

         Defendants Shawn Owens, Jermiah Richardson, and David Shipley were at all relevant times correctional officers at ERDCC. On October 25, 2012, plaintiff, who was then an inmate at ERDCC, was being loud and disruptive during recreation time. Defendant Owens told him to lower his voice and return to his cell. Plaintiff continued his loud and disruptive behavior in his cell. Owens ordered him to cease his loud and disruptive behavior. Plaintiff continued that behavior, however, and Owens gave him a final warning, at which time plaintiff assumed an “aggressive stance.” Owens ordered plaintiff to submit to wrist restraints. Plaintiff refused and then struck Owens in the face with a closed fist. Plaintiff struck Owens a second time. In response to the attack by plaintiff, defendants Owens, defendant Richardson, and nonparty Correctional Officer Tessa McEntire wrestled plaintiff to the ground in an attempt to prevent further assaults and to gain control over the offender. McEntire and nonparty Correctional Officer Christel Duncan sprayed pepper spray at plaintiff's face; Duncan then exited the cell to place a 10-5 call (i.e., officer in need of assistance) over the radio. More correctional officers arrived in response to the call, including defendant Shipley. They were able to gain control of plaintiff and put wrist restraints on him. At that point, defendants were able to see facial injuries plaintiff sustained during the struggle. Defendant Owens and McEntire assisted plaintiff to his feet and escorted him to administrative segregation. At some point during that escort, another nonparty officer took defendant Owens's place, ending Owens's involvement in the incident.

         During the escorted walk to administrative segregation, plaintiff continued to resist and struggle, resulting in the officers placing plaintiff on the ground again in order to regain control. In response to the plaintiff's attempt to spit blood on officers during the escort, defendant Shipley struck the plaintiff in the face one time. Plaintiff was assessed by a nurse in administrative segregation and taken to the medical unit.

         Plaintiff was criminally charged with battery against a correctional officer and sentenced for his attack on defendant Owens.

         Plaintiff filed his complaint on September 18, 2014, claiming his constitutional rights were violated when the defendants used excessive force against him.

         II. Legal Standard

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a district court may grant a motion for summary judgment if all of the information before the court demonstrates that “there is no genuine issue as to material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962). The burden is on the moving party. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v. Assoc. Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th Cir. 1988). After the moving party discharges this burden, the nonmoving party must do more than show that there is some doubt as to the facts. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         Instead, the nonmoving party bears the burden of setting forth specific facts showing that there is sufficient evidence in its favor to allow a jury to return a verdict for it. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion and give that party the benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those facts. Buller v. Buechler, 706 F.2d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 1983). The court is required to resolve all conflicts of evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Robert Johnson Grain Co. v. Chem. Interchange Co., 541 F.2d 207, 210 (8th Cir. 1976). With these principles in mind, the Court turns to the discussion.

         III. Discussion

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that plaintiff did not respond to the motion or to defendants' statement of undisputed facts. Therefore, the Court must deem all of the defendants' facts admitted because plaintiff did not specifically admit or deny defendants' facts. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Local Rule 7-4.01(E); Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); Hernandez v. Jarman, 340 F.3d 617, 622 (8th Cir. 2003).

         Plaintiff's claim is that his right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment was violated by the defendants' acts on October 25, 2012. The “Eighth Amendment bars correctional officers from imposing unnecessary and wanton pain on inmates.” Johnson v. Blaukat, 453 F.3d 1108, 1112 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992)). “Officers may reasonably use force in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline but may not apply force maliciously and ...

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