Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hamilton v. Russell

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

January 20, 2017

JONNA GRUBBS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendant Broc Gremminger for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The issues are fully briefed.

         Plaintiff James J. Hamilton, an inmate confined at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Missouri, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count I of the fourth amended complaint, plaintiff claims that Gremminger, a corrections officer, failed to protect him from assault by another inmate.

         II. Background

         On January 17, 2014, plaintiff was housed in Wing A of House 3, the “honor house.” [Doc. #123-10 at 24]. Gremminger was one of the corrections officers assigned to House 3. Prisoners in House 3 are often out of their cells at the same time and are permitted to leave their cells to go to the “day area” in the center of each wing. Id. Prisoners in House 3 also can close and lock the doors to their own cells, though they need assistance from a corrections officer to unlock their cell doors.

         Wing A is monitored by a corrections officer stationed in a secured observation “bubble” adjacent to the wing. It is undisputed that at all relevant times a correctional officer was stationed in the bubble. The bubble is located on the same floor as and a few feet away from the day area. It is also 50-60 feet from plaintiff's cell. Prisoners can communicate orally with the officers in the bubble, though they are cautioned not to do so and warned they will receive conduct violations if they do.

         Each cell in Wing A is equipped with an emergency call button. When a prisoner presses the button, an alert is triggered in the bubble, and the officer stationed there can send aid or remotely unlock the prisoner's door. Prisoners in House 3 often press their call buttons for non-emergency reasons-e.g., if they are locked in their cells and simply wish to move into the day area. Plaintiff alleges that corrections officers in the bubble routinely respond to a prisoner's activation of his emergency call button by unlocking that prisoner's cell and assuming the prisoner is not in need of aid.

         A corrections officer is sometimes, but not always, stationed at a desk in the day area. All officers in House 3 have duties throughout the house; no officer is assigned to continuously patrol a single wing. According to plaintiff, officers patrol Wing A approximately every thirty to sixty minutes. Consequently, there are times when no officer is present inside Wing A, though the wing remains monitored from the bubble.

         If a prisoner in Wing A needs assistance, the prisoner is encouraged to speak to an officer located in the wing or to press his emergency call button, rather than attempting to communicate with the officer stationed in the bubble. A prisoner in House 3 also has access to the entire house; he is free to leave his wing to seek assistance from any of the officers patrolling House 3.

         Around noon on January 17, plaintiff was approached in the day area by another inmate, John Broyles, who demanded canteen items from him. Plaintiff refused, and Broyles threatened to physically harm him. Plaintiff walked to the desk in the day area but saw no officer there. He did not attempt to communicate with the officer in the bubble. As plaintiff began walking back to his cell, Broyles struck him on the shoulder and plaintiff hit Broyles in the jaw. Plaintiff looked at the bubble to see if the officer had seen the altercation, but she was “busy.” Id. at 21. Plaintiff walked back to the desk to look for an officer, but the desk was unstaffed.

         Plaintiff did not contact the officer in the bubble. Instead, he returned to his cell. Plaintiff left the cell door partially open, although he could have closed it completely and locked it. When plaintiff saw Broyles walking around in Wing A in an angry manner, he pushed the emergency call button in his cell. He heard a click in response, indicating the officer in the bubble was attempting to unlock the already-open door. He pressed the button again. The officer again triggered the door. Even though his attempt to solicit aid via the call button was unsuccessful, plaintiff did not close and lock his cell door, nor did he exit the cell to seek assistance from the officer in the bubble.

         Approximately fifteen minutes later, Broyles entered plaintiff's cell and again assaulted him, injuring his head, face, and chest. After Broyles left, plaintiff walked to the day room desk. When he did not see an officer there, he returned to his cell. He did not press the call button, he did not attempt to seek assistance from the bubble staff, and he did not leave Wing A to seek assistance elsewhere.

         Approximately 20 minutes later, after another inmate reported the assault, corrections officers came to plaintiff's cell. Gremminger, who was assigned to House 3 on January 17, was among the officers who responded after learning of the assault. It is undisputed Gremminger had duties throughout House 3; however, he was not assigned to continuously patrol Wing A. The only evidence of record suggests Gremminger was carrying out his other duties elsewhere in House 3 at the time of the assaults. Plaintiff admits that he does not know where Gremminger was during the one-hour period between the first and second assaults.

         Plaintiff had no history of being threatened or assaulted by Broyles or by other inmates prior to January 17. Plaintiff also never informed Gremminger that he had been threatened or was in danger of being assaulted. Plaintiff has presented no evidence of a pattern of inmate-on-inmate assaults or threats of assaults in Wing A, or in House 3 generally, or that Gremminger was aware of any such pattern. Finally, plaintiff does not allege that Gremminger knew about the threats Broyles made to plaintiff or about the assaults until well ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.