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Hagerman v. Macomb

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 29, 2017



          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge, United States District Court

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Deborah Hagerman (“Hagerman”) is the personal representative of Ryan Hagerman's Estate. Hagerman filed this civil rights suit as result of the brutal death of her son, at the hands of another inmate while detained in the Macomb County Jail. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and/or Dismissal. (Doc # 33) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is Granted in Part and Denied in Part.

         On May 27, 2014, Warren Police Officers Stuart Krueger (“Krueger”) and Frank Gasser (“Gasser”) transported Ryan Hagerman to the Macomb County Jail for booking. During the intake process, he indicated that he was suicidal. (Doc # 33-5, Pg ID 240; Doc # 33-14, Pg ID 281) Ryan Hagerman was eventually classified as “High Observation - Green, ” which is the highest observation status at the jail, and placed in cell MH03 in the mental health unit. Defendants contend that, once notified of Ryan Hagerman's suicidal thoughts, they followed Macomb County Jail policy by properly classifying him, writing a report, and placing him in the mental health unit. (Doc # 33-14, Pg ID 281-82) Ryan Hagerman's mental health report did not indicate that he should be housed alone. (Doc # 33-17, Pg ID 290-91)

         Also on May 27, 2014, Krueger and Gasser transported Mark Cowans (“Cowans”) to the Macomb County Jail for booking. When Cowans arrived at Macomb County Jail he was in leg shackles. At his deposition, Krueger testified that leg shackles are used when prisoners are assaultive or considered a flight risk, and that having to use the leg shackles was “pretty rare” and happened with approximately “1 in 50” prisoners. (Doc # 38-2, Pg ID 491-92) Krueger testified that Cowans was in leg shackles because he had been assaultive to another prisoner and had tried to escape from his cell at the Warren Jail. Krueger further testified that Cowans had to be wrestled to the floor by a Michigan State Patrol trooper while at the Warren Jail. Krueger testified that upon arrival at the Macomb County Jail, he informed the Macomb County booking officers that Cowans was combative, had assaulted another prisoner, and had wrestled with a Michigan State Police trooper. Id. at 493. At his deposition, Gasser testified that he remembers that Krueger informed the Macomb County booking officers that Cowans was combative, had assaulted another prisoner, and had wrestled with a Michigan State Police trooper. Doc # 38-3, Pg ID 512, 514-15; see also Doc # 38-4. Defendant Deputy Steven Marschke (“Marschke”), on the other hand, testified that he remembers when Krueger and Gasser dropped off Ryan Hagerman and Cowans at Macomb County Jail, and that he was the first booking officer to receive them, but that Cowans was not in leg shackles and no information was conveyed about Cowans. (Doc # 38-6, Pg ID 534, 536) Defendant Deputy Keith Pethke (“Pethke”) was also working in booking at the time and testified that the Warren Police Officers provided no information about Cowans.

         During screening, Cowans did not report any medical or mental health problems. He was initially placed in general population, but a few hours later Cowans indicated to Deputy Bradley Krueger that he felt suicidal. Cowans was taken to the mental health unit for evaluation. According to Defendants, Cowans' mental health report indicated that he felt suicidal, answered questions in a calm manner, and did not act aggressively, which failed to indicate that he was a danger to anyone other than himself. Defendants did not place Cowans on a status to be housed alone.

         Cowans was also classified as “High Observation - Green” and placed in cell MH03 - the same mental health cell as Ryan Hagerman. Mental health cells, such as MH03, are high observational units that are supposed to be monitored nearly continuously. They contain cameras which give the mental health duty station desk a live feed of all activity that happens in the cells. Cell MH03 cell is approximately ten feet away from the mental health duty station.

         Ryan Hagerman and Cowans remained peacefully in the cell for 14 hours. On May 28, 2014, Cowans suddenly attacked Ryan Hagerman. Cowans was on the bottom bunk and Ryan Hagerman was on the top bunk. Cowans pulled Ryan Hagerman's arm, causing him to fall from the top bunk to the concrete floor. Cowans punched Ryan Hagerman, and then proceeded to stomp on Ryan Hagerman's head. Cowans occasionally stopped stomping on Ryan Hagerman's head, but only to look out the cell window into the hallway. The attack lasted for approximately a minute and a half.

         During the attack, Defendants Deputy Brian Pingilley (“Pingilley”) and Deputy Amy Franks (“Franks”) were in the mental health duty station. Pingilley testified that he was on the intercom responding to another inmate, which prevented him from monitoring the activity in cell MH03. Once he finished his conversation, he sat down and resumed viewing the monitors. He noticed, in the MH03 live feed, that Cowans was nudging Ryan Hagerman who was lying on the floor. According to Pingilley, he asked Franks to hold off on completing her security round so that he could investigate the activity in cell MH03. Pingilley entered the cell, and Franks initiated the intercom in the cell in order to communicate with Pingilley. Pingilley asked Cowans what happened to Ryan Hagerman, and Cowans allegedly stated that he fell off his bunk. Pingilley attended to Ryan Hagerman, and Franks called for medical assistance.

         Ryan Hagerman was transported to the hospital where he died three weeks later as a result of the beating. Macomb County Jail staff eventually viewed the video of the attack, and Cowans was convicted of Ryan Hagerman's murder. Hagerman filed suit alleging three causes of action: (1) Deliberate Indifference; (2) a Monell claim against Macomb County and Sheriff Anthony M. Wickersham; and (3) Gross Negligence.


         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures provides for a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). This type of motion tests the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. Davey v. Tomlinson, 627 F.Supp. 1458, 1463 (E.D. Mich. 1986). When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Directv Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). A court, however, need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby Cnty., 220 F.3d 443, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). “[L]egal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not suffice.” Edison v. State of Tenn. Dep't of Children's Servs., 510 F.3d 631, 634 (6th Cir. 2007).

         As the Supreme Court has explained, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level… .” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted); see LULAC v. Bresdesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007). To survive dismissal, the plaintiff must offer sufficient factual allegations to make the asserted claim plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         The Court will grant summary judgment if “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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the case based on the governing substantive law. Id. at 248. A dispute about a material fact is genuine if, on review of the evidence, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Id.

         The moving party bears the initial burden to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets this burden, the nonmoving party must “go beyond the pleadings and … designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. The Court may grant a motion for summary judgment if the nonmoving party who has the burden of proof at trial fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element that is essential to that party's case. See Muncie Power Prods., Inc. v. United Tech. Auto., Inc., 328 F.3d 870, 873 (6th Cir. 2003). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “Conclusory allegations do not create a genuine issue of material fact which precludes summary judgment.” Johari v. Big Easy Restaurants, Inc., 78 F. App'x 546, 548 (6th Cir. 2003).

         When reviewing a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the evidence and all inferences drawn from it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Kochins v. Linden-Alimak, Inc., 799 F.2d 1128, 1133 (6th Cir. 1986). The Court “need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court's function at the summary judgment stage “is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Qualified Immunity

         Defendants contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity because Hagerman failed to establish a constitutional right, to be housed alone in a cell or continuously monitored in a cell, that was clearly established.

         Qualified immunity protects state actors sued under Section 1983 from damages liability “insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231(2009) (quotation marks omitted). The determination of whether a government official is entitled to qualified immunity is a two-step inquiry: “First, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, has the plaintiff shown that a constitutional violation has occurred? Second, was the right clearly established at the time of the violation?” Miller v. Sanilac Cnty., 606 F.3d 240, 247 (6th Cir.2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). These steps may be addressed in any order. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236.

         The Court does not construe Hagerman's Fourteenth Amendment claims as narrowly as Defendants. Hagerman asserts a deliberate indifference claim regarding a inmate's right to be free from violence at the hands of his cellmate. That he was not housed alone and was not continuously monitored are two of the ways in which Ryan Hagerman's right to be free from violence at the hands of his cellmate was allegedly violated. The Court finds that Hagerman has asserted a constitutional claim on behalf of Ryan Hagerman. The right to be free from violence at the hands of other inmates was clearly established by the Supreme Court in Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). See Richko v. Wayne Cnty., 819 F.3d 907, 915 (6th Cir. 2016). Defendants are not entitled qualified immunity on the basis of failure to identify a clearly established constitutional right that was violated.

         B. Deliberate Indifference Claim

         Hagerman claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Ryan Hagerman's right to be free from a substantial risk of violence at the hands of another inmate.

         Pretrial detainees are not protected under the Eighth Amendment; rather, the constitutional protections afforded to pretrial detainee stem from the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Roberts v. City of Troy, 773 F.2d 720, 723 (6th Cir. 1985). See also Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 545 (1979) (“pretrial detainees, who have not been convicted of any crimes, retain at least those constitutional rights that we have held are enjoyed by convicted prisoners.”). To ...

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