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Cothran v. Russell

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

February 26, 2019

DEANDRE JEROD COTHRAN Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES RUSSELL, Defendant.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant James Russell moves, for the second time, for summary judgment on plaintiff DeAndre Cothran's claim for violation of his right to be free from excessive force under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Mr. Cothran's claim revolves around Mr. Russell's shooting of pepper spray into a cell in which Mr. Cothran was confined. For the reasons discussed below, the Court again denies Mr. Russell's motion for summary judgment.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On April 24, 2016, Mr. Cothran, a Missouri Department of Corrections inmate, was confined in a cell in the wing including the Administration Segregation Unit (“Ad Seg”) of the Western Missouri Correctional Center. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Facts (Doc. 89), p. 2. Mr. Cothran shared that cell with another inmate, Dywon Newell. Id., p. 3.

         Mr. Russell was a correctional officer assigned to Ad Seg when, around 8:00 p.m., Mr. Newell twice struck the door of his cell in an effort to secure Mr. Russell's attention to request that Mr. Russell turn the lights on in his and Mr. Cothran's cell. Id., pp. 2-3. Mr. Russell claims that the cell door was “shaking, ” and that, in his experience, this presented a “security threat.” Id., p. 4. Mr. Cothran denies that the cell door shook. Id. There is no dispute that Mr. Cothran himself was not kicking his cell door or otherwise causing a disturbance. Responses to Plaintiff's Additional Facts (Doc. 93), p. 2. Mr. Cothran has stated that he then heard Mr. Russell, who had been speaking to another inmate, say something to the effect of, “Wait a minute, I got to go spray somebody.” Doc. 89, p. 5. However, Mr. Russell has denied saying anything of the kind. Deposition of James Lester Russell, dated November 28, 2018 (Doc. 78-3), Tr. 94:19-24. Mr. Russell then walked across the wing to Mr. Cothran's cell, bent over, opened the food port of the cell door, and shot pepper spray directly into the cell. Doc. 89, pp. 5-6. Mr. Cothran maintains that Mr. Russell pushed Mr. Newell aside and intentionally directed the pepper spray at Mr. Cothran, without warning. Id., p. 6. Mr. Russell denies that he intentionally directed the spray at Mr. Cothran, but he concedes that, had he done so, it would have constituted excessive use of force. Doc. 93, p. 2.

         After shooting the pepper spray, Mr. Russell “immediately walked away from” Mr. Cothran's cell and left the Ad Seg wing. Doc. 89, p. 6.

         Mr. Cothran was left in a cell without functioning water facilities for several days. Doc. 93, p. 3. Mr. Russell denies that Mr. Cothran suffered pain and suffering as the result of being pepper sprayed. Id., pp. 2-3.

         Mr. Russell subsequently retired from the Missouri Department of Corrections during a pending investigation into allegedly unprofessional conduct during a use of force. Id., p. 3.

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is warranted where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must determine 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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511 (1986).

         The Court must “view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1774 (2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Mr. Russell's second motion for summary judgment is based on the same premises as the first: the arguments that Mr. Cothran failed to establish an excessive force claim against Mr. Russell and that Mr. Russell is entitled to qualified immunity. Doc. 35.

         a. Whether the Undisputed Evidence Establishes as a Matter of Law that There ...


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