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Bridget v. Green

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

September 16, 2019




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Motion [45] for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Pelicia Hall, Richard Pennington, Pamela C. Robinson, and Marilyn Sturdivant along with Motion [53] for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Latoya Burden, Justin Green, and MTC. Having carefully considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the Court finds that Motion [45] should be granted and Motion [53] should be granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, is a post-conviction inmate in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Plaintiff filed this civil-rights lawsuit on January 8, 2018 and the Court held a Spears[1] hearing to clarify Plaintiff's claims on October 4, 2018. Plaintiff testified at the hearing and stated that the events he complained of occurred at the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility (WCCF).

         Plaintiff alleges that while incarcerated at Parchman in 2013 he was improperly placed on lockdown due to a false report. This occurred because Defendant Marilyn Sturdivant filed an allegedly false administrative designation recommendation regarding Plaintiff's custody- classifying him as dangerous. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Pamela Robinson violated his due process rights by placing him in long-term administrative segregation. In relation to this incident, Plaintiff also sued Defendant Richard Pennington for failing to adequately investigate Plaintiff's grievances filed through the prison's administrative remedy program (ARP) and Defendant Pelcia Hall because he wrote her about this issue, and she ignored him.

         Plaintiff was later transferred to WCCF. On September 11, 2017, while incarcerated at WCCF, an unknown person emptied a fire extinguisher into Plaintiff's cell. Plaintiff told Captain Justin Green about the fire extinguisher and how he needed medical attention, but Green ignored him. Plaintiff then filed a grievance via the prison's administrative remedy program.

         Plaintiff also alleges that on September 13, 2017, he had a physical altercation with Defendant Green. Plaintiff was taking a shower when Green and Lieutenant Young, who is not a named defendant, approached him and wanted to search his cell. Green and Young then searched Plaintiff's cell, repeatedly hit him, dragged him on the stairs, and yelled racial slurs at him. As a result of this assault, Plaintiff allegedly sustained injuries to his face and a chipped tooth.

         On September 26, 2017, Plaintiff had an asthma attack. A nurse checked his oxygen and recommend that he go to the medical unit for a breathing treatment. Allegedly, Defendant Latoya Burden refused to take Plaintiff for treatment. Burden then ordered Plaintiff to close his tray hole, but he refused. In response, two cans of mace were emptied into Plaintiff's cell. Burden then cut off the water to Plaintiff's cell so he could not clean the mace off of his body. The chemicals on his body caused pain and hair loss.

         Defendants Pamela C. Robinson, Marilyn Sturdivant, Pelicia Hall, and Richard Pennington filed their Motion [45] for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff did not respond to Motion [45]. Additionally, Defendants Latoya Burden, Justin Green, and MTC filed a Motion [53] for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff did file a Response [56] is opposition to Motion [53]. Both motions are now ripe for review.


         Summary Judgment Standard

         “[S]ummary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (internal quotations omitted). 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, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

         Summary judgment is proper “where a party fails to establish the existence of an element essential to his case and on which he bears the burden of proof.” Washington v. Armstrong World Indus., Inc., 839 F.2d 1121, 1122 (5th Cir. 1988). In the absence of proof, the Court does not “assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Little, 37 F.3d 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)).

         Motion [45] for Summary Judgment

         Defendants Hall, Robinson, Sturdivant and Pennington moved for summary judgment on all claims brought against them. Mot. [45]. Plaintiff did not respond to the motion.

         Official Capacity Claims

         Defendants Hall, Robinson, Sturdivant, and Pennington argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on any claim brought against them in their official capacity. These Defendants are employed by MDOC, which is an arm of the State. Claims brought against defendants in their official capacity are essentially claims brought against the State, and “[t]he Eleventh Amendment bars suits in federal court against a state, or one of its agencies or departments, by anyone other than the federal government or another state.” Decker v. Dunbar, 358 Fed. App'x 509, 2009 WL 5095139 at *1 (5th Cir. 2009).[2]

         Without a waiver, the State and its agencies are not subject to suit in federal court due to the protections of the Eleventh Amendment. Cox v. Texas, 354 Fed. App'x 901, 902 (5th Cir. 2009). Mississippi has not waived its immunity in this instance. See Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-5(4) (“Nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed to waive the immunity of the state from suit in federal courts guaranteed by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the Untied States.”) Moreover, State employees acting within their official capacities are not “persons” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983- the vehicle for Plaintiff's claims. See Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); see also Ingle v. Pace, 744 Fed. App'x 883, 884 (5th Cir. 2018). Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff has brought claims against Hall, Robinson, Sturdivant, and Pennington in their official capacities, summary judgment should be granted in Defendants favor.

         Individual Capacity Claims

         Defendants Hall, Robinson, Sturdivant, and Pennington also argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff did not respond to this argument. In Section 1983 actions, courts look to the law of the state in which the cause of action arose to determine the applicable statute of limitations. Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387-88 (2007). Specifically, courts look to a state's statute of limitations for personal-injury torts. Id.; Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-50 (1989). In Mississippi, the ...

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