United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JAMES J. HAMILTON, Plaintiff,
JONNA GRUBBS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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