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Alexander v. Calzetta

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

March 30, 2018

NICHOLAS CALZETTA, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff D'Andre Marquis Alexander brought this civil rights action against eighteen defendants, alleging violations of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and state law claims for negligence, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). See Compl. (Dkt. 1). Fifteen defendants (the “State Defendants”) filed a motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 46). Defendant Dr. Terry Meden, a psychiatrist, also filed a separate motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 53). On February 26, 2018, Magistrate Judge Anthony Patti issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), in which he recommended granting in part and dismissing in part each of the motions for summary judgment. See 2/26/2018 R&R (Dkt. 93). The State Defendants, Dr. Meden, and Alexander timely filed objections to the R&R (Dkts. 95-97). For the following reasons, the Court adopts in part and rejects in part the R&R (Dkt. 93); overrules Dr. Meden's objections (Dkt. 96); sustains in part and overrules in part the State Defendants' objections (Dkt. 95); overrules Alexander's objections (Dkt. 97); grants in part and denies in part Dr. Meden's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 53); and grants in part and denies in part the State Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 46).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The factual and procedural background has been adequately set forth by the magistrate judge and need not be repeated here in full. In brief summary, Alexander, who was formerly incarcerated in the Marquette Branch Prison (“MBP”), alleges that he was involved in a fight on February 2, 2015 and was taken to segregation. While in segregation, Alexander alleges that MBP staff intentionally allowed his television to be stolen in retaliation for filing grievances and a lawsuit. Alexander alleges that he was later released from segregation and learned who had stolen his television; when he informed prison staff, he was labeled a “snitch, ” a hit was ordered, and he was targeted by fellow prisoners. Between May 6 and August 11, 2015, Alexander alleges that he informed various State Defendants employed at MBP - specifically, Defendants Erica Huss, Mandi Salmi, Fred Govern, Kristine Giesen, Chad LaCount and Kenneth Niemisto - of his safety concerns, and requested to be placed in MBP F-Block's ICP (Intermediate Care Program). Alexander describes F-block as “a secure unit where prisoners ha[v]e no direct opportunities to have physical contact with each other.” Compl. ¶ 17. Each of these defendants allegedly refused to place him in MBP F-Block. The State Defendants either deny that Alexander asked for protection, or do not recall him requesting such protection.

         Alexander alleges that in July 2015, he drafted a request for a declaratory ruling, which was sent to the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) Director's office sometime in August or September 2015. Defendant Daphne Johnson, the Administrator of the MDOC Office of Legal Affairs, responded to three requests from Alexander for a declaratory ruling, but said that she was not personally involved in any decisions regarding his placement. Alexander claims that he filed a grievance against Johnson on August 27, 2015, but that the grievance was confiscated on December 21, 2015, and he, therefore, cannot produce it.

         On July 6, 2015, Alexander was treated by Dr. Meden. Alexander alleges that he asked Dr. Meden to place him in F-block, and Dr. Meden agreed. Dr. Meden conducted a psychiatric evaluation of Alexander and diagnosed him with brief Psychotic Disorder, Polysubstance Dependence, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and a history of noncompliance. Dr. Meden placed Alexander on a waitlist for transfer to an Interim Care Program.

         Alexander was eventually placed in the F-Block ICP from August 11, 2015 through December 24, 2015; after that point, he was placed back into segregation. On January 26, 2016, Alexander was treated by Dr. Meden, who offered to have him sent to Woodland Center Correctional Facility (“WCC”) Acute Care. Alexander alleges that he informed Dr. Meden that he was not comfortable with a transfer and Dr. Meden stated that he would not send Alexander to WCC. However, according to Alexander's treatment note, Dr. Meden “was able to get Alexander's agreement with WCC placement.” See Pl's Medical Mgmt. Report, Ex. 2 to Def. Mot. (Dkt. 54-2). On January 27, 2016, Alexander was informed that he would be transferred to WCC.

         Alexander alleges that at his first treatment team meeting after his transfer to WCC, he informed the WCC staff about the hit placed on him, and that he feared for his safety. On February 3, 2016, he alleges that a fellow inmate heard him speaking to another prisoner about the hit on him, and that inmate then “announced himself as a member of the gang that put the hit on [Alexander] and then attacked” him. Compl. ¶ 33 (Dkt. 1). Alexander alleges that he later expressed his safety concerns to State Defendants employed at WCC - Defendants Hanna Saad, Dr. Rosen, Melvin Watkins, John Lewis, and Rodney Lee - but they refused to accommodate his need. On February 9, 2016, Alexander filed a grievance against Defendants Huss, Govern, Darrin Viitala, Nicholas Calzetta, Samli, Niemisto, Giesen, LaCount, and Dr. Meden (i.e., all MBP employees). See Prisoner/Parolee Grievance Form, Ex. 17 to State Def. Mot., at 25 (cm/ecf page) (Dkt. 46-18).

         Alexander alleges that he was assaulted again on February 12, 2016 by a different inmate. He claims that he sought protection from Defendants Kyle Slaughter and Bobby Houston, but they refused to act. This same day, he also filed a grievance against State Defendants at both MBP and WCC stating that he “was attacked for the 2nd time by virtue of the hit thats [sic] on me. All above defendnents [sic] knew about the safety risk and protection request but failed to place me on PC.” See Prisoner/Parolee Grievance Form, Ex. 6 to Pl. Resp., at 25 (cm/ecf page) (Dkt. 88). On February 16, 2016, Alexander allegedly informed Defendant Richard Idemudia of the situation and requested protection; he allegedly did not take any action and instead threatened retaliation.

         The magistrate judge recommended (i) resolving the issue of exhaustion of claims against the WCC-based State Defendants at a bench trial or evidentiary hearing; (ii) dismissing Alexander's claims against Defendant Johnson; (iii) dismissing the Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Govern, Giesen, LaCount, Niemisto, and Huss, but proceeding against Defendants Salmi, Calzetta, Viitala, and Dr. Meden; (iv) dismissing the retaliation claims against the MBP-based State Defendants; (v) dismissing the equal protection claim against all defendants; (vi) allowing the 42 U.S.C. § 1985 conspiracy claim to proceed; (vii) dismissing the negligence, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) claims against Dr. Meden but allowing them to proceed against the MBP-based State Defendants; (viii) dismissing Alexander's claims for declaratory relief against the MBP-based State Defendants; and (ix) dismissing the claims for money damages against Defendants Calzetta, Govern, Giesen, Viitala, LaCount, Niemisto, Huss, and Johnson. See R&R at 55-56.


         The Court reviews de novo any portion of the R&R to which a specific objection has been made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); Alspaugh v. McConnell, 643 F.3d 162, 166 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Only those specific objections to the magistrate's report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review; making some objections but failing to raise others will not preserve all the objections a party may have.”). Any arguments made for the first time in objections to an R&R are deemed waived. Uduko v. Cozzens, 975 F.Supp.2d 750, 757 (E.D. Mich. 2013).

         A motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 shall be granted “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). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when there are “disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[F]acts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)

         Once the movant satisfies its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing a triable issue of material fact. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586), as the “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment, ” id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-248) (emphasis in original); see also Babcock & Wilcox Co. v. Cormetech, Inc., 848 F.3d 754, 758 (6th Cir. 2017) (“A mere scintilla of evidence or some metaphysical doubt as to a material fact is insufficient to forestall summary judgment.”).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Dr. Meden, the State Defendants, and Alexander all filed objections to the R&R. The Court will address each in turn.

         a. Dr. Meden's First Objection: Exhaustion

         Dr. Meden first argues that the magistrate judge erred in concluding that Alexander had exhausted his administrative remedies as to his Eighth Amendment claims. Magistrate Judge Patti concluded that, because Alexander's February 9, 2016 grievance against Dr. Meden and the State Defendants at MBP was “reviewed and considered” on Step III appeal, it was “considered on its merits” and “not denied as untimely, or on some other procedural basis.” R&R at 22.

         Dr. Meden again argues that Alexander's grievance was untimely, since the incident in question - his transfer to WCC - occurred on January 26 or 27, 2016, and Alexander would, therefore, need to file a grievance by February 3, 2016. However, Magistrate Judge Patti did not dispute that Alexander's original filing may have been untimely; rather, he noted that the State did not reject it as such. “When prison officials decline to enforce their own procedural requirements and opt to consider otherwise-defaulted claims on the ...

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