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Jarvis v. Watson

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

July 9, 2019




         Thaddeus L. Jarvis [hereinafter “Plaintiff” or “Jarvis”] filed his Complaint on March 28, 2017, and an omnibus hearing was conducted in his case on March 27, 2018. Thereafter, Defendants Kimyuana Jackson and Dr. Mohammed Zein filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [41], and a Report and Recommendation was entered by the undersigned recommending that their motion be granted [63]. By Order entered January 15, 2019, the Court adopted the Report and Recommendation and dismissed the claims against Defendants Jackson and Zein.

         Plaintiff Jarvis filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [47] and the remaining Defendants filed a Cross Motion for Summary Judgment [56], as well as a “Motion in Limine to Exclude Exhibit 1 to Plaintiff's Complaint from Evidence” [50]. All of these motions are before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for Report and Recommendation on the merits.


         Jurisdiction of this case is based upon 42 U.S.C. §1983. Plaintiff was housed as a pretrial detainee at the Madison County Detention Center [MCDC] in Madison, Mississippi, in November 2016, awaiting trial on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, burglary to a dwelling, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and being a habitual offender. He testified that he was from Louisiana and was not affiliated with any Mississippi inmates or gangs. He began having trouble with three inmates, Scott Laquintes, Henry Daniel and Timothy Humphrey, and feared for his safety. According to Plaintiff, on November 14, 2016, he wrote an Inmate Request Form requesting to be moved away from these inmates. He attached this form as an exhibit to the Complaint [1-1, pp. 1-3] as evidence that he notified Defendants of his fear. According to Jarvis, he mailed copies of this form to Defendant Warden Brian Watson and to the special response team, which included the named Defendants. Defendants never moved him, and, on December 4, 2016, he was assaulted by these three inmates. His front tooth was cracked in half; four teeth were chipped; he had a gash on the top of his head; and, his right eye was injured. He now has trouble with his peripheral vision in that eye.

         Plaintiff charged that he did not receive appropriate care from the medical staff, including Defendant Head Nurse Kimyuana Jackson and Dr. Mohammed Zein. Those claims have been dismissed. He also contends that Defendants Warden Watson, Lt. Thomas Strait, Lt. Tamarrius A. Jones, Deputy Jeremiah Thornton, and Officer William Irwin, all failed to protect him from the assault by the other inmates. The full transcript of Plaintiff's testimony is filed as ECF No. 41-1.


         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in relevant part, that summary judgment “shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions 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 a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The United States Supreme Court has held that this language “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing 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, 323 (1986). The substantive law establishes those elements on which a plaintiff bears the burden of proof at trial; only facts relevant to those elements of proof are considered for summary judgment purposes. Id. at 322. There is a genuine factual dispute between the parties only “when a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).


         The applicable facts and law in both Plaintiff's motion and Defendants' motion are inextricably intertwined and will be discussed jointly. In his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [47], Jarvis concludes that he is entitled to judgment because Defendants failed to protect him from serious injury at the hands of other inmates. He contends that there are no undisputed facts, and that Defendants have not denied the facts sworn to by him. He does not address Defendants' qualified immunity defenses in his motion. In their response and cross-motion, Defendants do not deny that Jarvis was assaulted by other prisoners on December 4, 2016, while housed in the Madison County Detention Center. However, they do deny that any of them received notice that Jarvis was in danger prior to the attack. They charge that Jarvis never filed his “Inmate Request Form” dated November 14, 2016, (attached as exhibit 1 to the Complaint), with any Defendant or other Madison County Detention Center official, nor did they receive this form via the mail. In fact, they surmise that Jarvis did not create the request form until after he was assaulted. Defendants filed a motion in limine to exclude Exhibit 1 to Plaintiff's Complaint from being used as evidence in this case [50], utilizing as support a transcript of a telephone conversation between Jarvis and his attorney Jacob Howard. In that conversation, attorney Howard advised Jarvis that defendants must have been made aware of a threat to him prior to the assault and then have purposely disregarded the threat before they could be liable for damages. [50, p. 2; 50-8]. In response, Jarvis objects to the use of the telephone conversation with his attorney for any purpose in this case [59].

         Defendants deny they received any prior actual notice that Jarvis was in danger and they assert that Jarvis has no admissible evidence to dispute this. They conclude that they are protected from any liability through their defense of qualified immunity.

         The doctrine of qualified immunity “shields government officials from civil damages liability unless the official violated a statutory or constitutional right that was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct.” Reichle v. Howards, 132 S.Ct. 2088, 2093 (2012). A right is “clearly established” if it emanates from precedent of the United States Supreme Court. Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042, 2044 (2015).

         Defendants do not dispute that it is clearly established law that prison officials have a duty to protect a pretrial detainee from violence and injury at the hands of other inmates while confined. Hare v. City of Corinth, MS, 74 F.3d 633, 639 (5th Cir. 1996); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 536, n. 16 (1979); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994). A convicted inmate's right comes from the Eighth Amendment, and a pretrial detainee's failure to protect claim arises under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Longoria v. Texas, 473 F.3d 586, 592 (5th Cir. 2006). But, as the Court in Farmer stated, "[n]ot every injury by one prisoner at the hands of another translates into constitutional liability for prison officials responsible for the victim's safety." 511 U.S. at 834.

         In this case, Jarvis alleges an “episodic act or omission” by these Defendants; accordingly, he must show that each of them acted with “deliberate indifference” to a substantial risk of serious harm to him. Hare, 74 F.3d at 636 (citing Farmer, 511 at 828). For an official to act with deliberate indifference, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294');">501 U.S. 294 (1991). In the Fifth Circuit, a “subjective deliberate indifference” standard (as used in criminal law), is applied to all failure to protect claims, regardless of whether the plaintiff is a pretrial detainee or a prisoner. Hare, 74 F.3d at 643; Alderson v. Concordia Par. Corr. Facility, 848 F.3d 415, 419-20 & n. 4 (5th Cir. 2017). Unless Jarvis can show that he did notify these Defendants that he was in danger, and at risk of being seriously harmed by the other inmates, his claims against them fail. Defendants must have known of the risk and then ignored it.

         When a qualified immunity defense is raised at the summary judgment stage, the usual burden of proof is altered. Michalik v. Hermann, 422 F.3d 252, 262 (5th Cir. 2005). The plaintiff must then rebut the defense. Id. “[T]he court looks to the evidence before it (in the light most favorable to the plaintiff) when conducting the [test for qualified immunity].” Miles v. Rich, 576 Fed.Appx. 394, 395 (5th Cir. 2014) (quoting Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996)). “[A] plaintiff seeking to overcome qualified immunity must plead specific facts that both allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the ...

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