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Skinner v. Hinds County

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

January 29, 2014

WILLIAM B. SKINNER, Plaintiff,
v.
HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This § 1983 action is before the Court on a number of dispositive motions: the City of Jackson Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [154], Keith Booth's Motion for Summary Judgment [158], the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Hinds County Defendants [162], and the Hinds County Defendants' Motion to Strike and/or Exclude Articles from News Media [165]. Because the Court finds genuine issues of fact for trial on Skinner's excessive-force claim against Booth, his motion is granted in part but otherwise denied. Similarly, the motion to strike is granted in part. But because Skinner has not established any basis for municipal liability, the City of Jackson's and Hinds County's motions for summary judgment are granted.

I. Facts and Procedural History

This case involves various alleged constitutional violations that occurred between July 1 and August 23, 2007. On July 1, 2007, the Jackson Police Department received a call on a domestic dispute, and Officers Keith Booth and Anthony Gagnard responded. When the officers arrived at the home where Plaintiff William B. Skinner was living with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Darlene Sumrall, they encountered Sumrall outside the residence. Sumrall told the officers that she and Skinner had been in an argument, and the officers observed that it appeared she had been assaulted. Sumrall also disclosed that Skinner was in the bedroom at the back of the house and that he had multiple guns with him. The officers entered the house, where they noticed lamps and furniture knocked over and in disarray, and proceeded to Skinner's bedroom.

Upon approaching Skinner's bedroom, Booth and Gagnard noticed Skinner sitting on his bed with a shotgun in his hand. Skinner, who admits that he had been drinking on July 1 and was intoxicated at the time of his arrest, says he had been cleaning the shotgun when the officers approached. Booth testified that Skinner "raised his shotgun at" Booth, and at that time, Booth and Gagnard drew their weapons. Booth Dep. [156-1] 26. For his part, Skinner denies that he pointed the gun at the officers, instead explaining that the gun "was up in the air." Skinner Dep. [156-2] 93. In any event, Booth instructed Skinner to put down the weapon, and Skinner complied, though the parties dispute how quickly.

Booth claims that he then began "leading [Skinner] outside" and "Skinner got irate, got to snatching, " so Gagnard sprayed Skinner with pepper spray and the officers "subdued him" and placed him in handcuffs. Id. at 41. Again, Skinner tells a different story. According to him, once he relinquished the gun, he "was forcibly taken down to the ground where [he] was hogtied, " unnecessarily sprayed with mace, and beaten though he did nothing to resist arrest. Skinner Dep. [156-2] 12, 93.

Booth arrested Skinner on charges of felon in possession of a firearm, simple assault, and domestic violence. Booth then transported Skinner to the Hinds County Detention Center ("HCDC"). Upon arriving at HCDC, Booth warned Hinds County Deputy Lurenza Clincy to be careful with Skinner, whom Booth described as "combative, " informed Clincy that Skinner had pointed a shotgun at police at his home, removed Skinner's handcuffs, and left Skinner in Clincy's custody for intake.

During intake, Skinner allegedly yelled racial slurs at Clincy, a struggle ensued, Deputy Milton Reed sprayed Skinner with mace, and Clincy and Reed physically restrained Skinner. They then placed Skinner in a general-population cell where he hurled racial slurs at other detainees and was beaten. Clincy and Reed removed Skinner from the holding cell and placed him in isolation and eventually in a suicide-watch cell.

At some point on July 1, 2007, Skinner filled out a health-services request form, indicating that he had suffered head trauma. The following morning, Skinner was seen by medical at HCDC and complained of a headache and a skin abrasion on his knee. Skinner testified that over the next several days, his leg injury worsened and by July 6, his knee was swollen and he was unable to walk. He was seen by nurses during this time, but by the morning of July 17, 2007, HCDC medical personnel transferred Skinner to Central Mississippi Medical Center ("CMMC") where he was diagnosed with necrotizing faciitis and underwent treatment for same, including debridement surgery. Skinner remained at CMMC until his discharge back to HCDF on August 22, 2007.

On June 28, 2010, Skinner filed this lawsuit against Hinds County, the Hinds County Sheriff Department, Sheriff Malcolm McMillan in his official and individual capacities, the City of Jackson, Deputies Reed and Clincy in their official and individual capacities, and Officer Booth in his official and individual capacities. Skinner brought the following claims related to his arrest and detention: § 1983 claims asserting violation of his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights; a § 1985 conspiracy claim; a claim against the Hinds County Defendants for failure to prevent conspiracy; a claim against the Hinds County Defendants for failure to train and/or supervise; and state claims for battery, assault, civil conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duty, the tort of outrage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and slander and slander per se.

Following some immunity-related discovery, on September 29, 2011, the Court dismissed the individual-capacity claims against McMillan. On September 7, 2012, the Court granted in part a motion for summary judgment brought by Reed and Clincy in their individual capacities, dismissing the state-law and excessive-force claims against those defendants but denying qualified immunity as to the failure-to-protect claim. After an unsuccessful interlocutory appeal of the partial denial of qualified immunity, on October 17, 2013, the Court entered an order dismissing the state-law and punitive-damages claims against Hinds County, as well as all claims against the Hinds County Sheriff Department.

After disposition of the foregoing motions, the claims that remain include: Skinner's § 1983 failure-to-protect claim against Reed and Clincy in their individual capacities; the federal claims against the Hinds County Defendants;[1] and the state and federal claims against the City of Jackson and Booth in his official and individual capacities. On November 15, 2013, the instant dispositive motions were filed. The matters raised have been fully briefed, and the Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

II. Standard

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 323. The nonmoving party must then "go beyond the pleadings" and "designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324 (citation omitted). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments are not an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).

Rule 56(c)(1) states that a party asserting that a fact "is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." (emphasis added). And Rule 56(c)(3) now states that "[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Finally, "[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact... the court may... grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).

Skinner has violated Rule 56(c) in essentially every summary-judgment response he has filed, prompting the Court to twice warn him that factual assertions must be supported with cites to the particular parts of the record under Rule 56(c). See Sept. 29, 2011 Order [93] at 3-4; Sept. 7, 2012 Order [99] at 4. Yet despite those warnings, all three of Skinner's memoranda addressed in this Order suffer from the same lack of cited record evidence. As more precisely addressed below, the Court will again overlook the deficiency as to one of the motions, but as to other motions, the Court will now enforce Rules 56(c)(3) and 56(e)(3) and grant summary judgment.

III. Analysis

A. Booth's Motion

Booth, in his individual capacity, has moved for summary judgment on the claims against him. He seeks qualified immunity on the federal claims and immunity under the ...


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