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Raiford v. County of Forrest

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

January 31, 2019

ROBERT EARL RAIFORD, #07425-043 PLAINTIFF
v.
COUNTY OF FORREST, MISSISSIPPI, et al. DEFENDANTS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MICHAEL T. PARKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [104]. Having considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that the Motion for Summary Judgment [104] be granted and the remaining Defendants and claims be dismissed with prejudice.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Robert Earl Raiford, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is a post-conviction inmate in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons currently housed at Federal Correctional Institution Talladega. Plaintiff was previously housed at the Forrest County Detention Facility for a short period of time during a transition in custody from the Mississippi Department of Corrections to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. While at the Forrest County Jail, Plaintiff, a diabetic, received insulin shots that he administered himself. On October 5, 2013, Plaintiff accidently injected himself with a used needle or syringe that was provided to him by Deputy Greg Anderson. The needle-stick incident gave rise to the present litigation in which Plaintiff brought both tort and civil rights claims against a myriad of Defendants. Plaintiff is seeking monetary damages.

         There are three remaining Defendants: Forrest County, Mississippi, Sheriff Billy McGee in his official capacity, and Greg Anderson in his individual capacity. Defendants filed their Summary Judgment Motion [104] on July 20, 2018. Plaintiff filed his Response [117] on September 10, 2018. Defendants then filed their Reply [120] on September 17, 2018. This matter is fully briefed and ripe for consideration.

         ANALYSIS

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper ‘if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admission on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004). If the moving party meets its burden, the “nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1066 (5th Cir. 1994). In the absence of proof, the Court does not “assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Id. at 1075 (emphasis omitted). “It is improper for the district court to ‘resolve factual disputes by weighing conflicting evidence, … since it is the province of the jury to assess the probative value of the evidence.'” McDonald v. Entergy Operations, Inc., 2005 WL 2474701, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Apr. 29, 2005) (quoting Kennett-Murray Corp. v. Bone, 622 F.2d 887, 892 (5th Cir. 1980)).

         Defendant Greg Anderson's Motion for Summary Judgment [104]

         Plaintiff brings this § 1983 claim against Defendant Anderson in his individual capacity for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Order [50] at 3. Plaintiff alleges that Anderson provided him with the used needle, which Plaintiff then injected himself with, and that Anderson did not use “all available means to protect the best interest of the Plaintiff.” Resp. [117] at 7. Anderson filed the instant Motion arguing that he is entitled to qualified immunity. Defendant Anderson asserts that under the qualified immunity standard summary judgment should be granted in his favor because Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any substantial medical injury from the alleged needle-stick incident.

         Qualified immunity protects government officials “from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). “The protection of qualified immunity applies regardless of whether the government official's error is ‘a mistake of law, a mistake of fact, or a mistake based on a mixed question of law and fact.'” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 567 (2004) (Kennedy, J. dissenting)). To succeed with a § 1983 action, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a clearly established constitutional right was violated by a government official. See McClendon v. City of Columbia, 305 F.3d 314, 322-23 (5th Cir. 2002).

         Plaintiff sued Defendant Anderson for deliberate indifference to his medical needs. He testified at the Spears[1] hearing that Defendant Anderson mistakenly handed him an empty, used syringe and that he thought Defendant Anderson was hungover. Order [50] at 2. Plaintiff then injected himself with the empty needle.[2]

         To establish deliberate indifference a plaintiff must present evidence to show (1) that the defendant was subjectively aware of facts that would allow him to infer a substantial risk, (2) that the defendant drew the inference, and (3) that the defendants response demonstrated that he subjectively intended the harm to occur. Tamez v. Manthey, 589 F.3d 764, 770 (5th Cir. 2009). The facts pled and offered by Plaintiff, however, amount to negligence on the part of Defendant Anderson, and mere negligence does not create § 1983 liability. Patterson v. City of McComb, Mississippi, 2018 WL 4956123, at *6 (S.D.Miss. Oct. 12, 2018) (holding “it is well settled that negligence, even gross negligence, does not implicate the Constitution and does not provide a basis for Section 1983 claims.”). Plaintiff himself describes this as a negligence matter. Reply [117] at 2. Qualified immunity applies in a situation such as this where the officer was mistaken as to a fact - that the needle provided to Plaintiff did not contain his insulin. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231.

         Plaintiff has not come forward with any evidence that Defendant Anderson was subjectively aware that he handed Plaintiff a used needle, or even that Anderson was presented with facts that should have led him to infer a risk to Plaintiff. In fact, Plaintiff testified that Anderson apologized about the used needle and offered to get the proper needle. Order [50] at 2. Simply providing the needle, which Plaintiff then took and used to inject himself, does not ...


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