United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
TIMOTHY P. GREELEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a civil rights action brought by former state prisoner James
Lindsey pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts
various constitutional and state-law claims against Michigan
Department of Corrections (MDOC) employees Rick Wertanen, Ty
Hyatt, and Jody Karppinen. Defendants have moved for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a).
(ECF No. 60). Plaintiff has responded. (ECF No. 62). This
matter is now ready for decision.
2014, Plaintiff was incarcerated at Baraga Correctional
Facility (AMF). On June 12, 2014, Defendant Wertanen
announced on the loud speaker that Plaintiff had a dental
call out. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Karppinen called
Plaintiff a “baby raper” and told him they were
going to “get him.” Shortly thereafter,
Defendants Wertanen and Hyatt went to Plaintiff's cell,
placed him in belly chains, and began to escort him to the
call out. While Plaintiff was being escorted, he encountered
Defendant Karppinen and an altercation ensued. Plaintiff
alleges that someone yelled, “let's do it, ”
and then Defendants attacked him. Specifically, Plaintiff
claims that Defendant Hyatt pulled him back by the restraints
and slammed him to the ground, while Defendant Wertanen
kicked him in the face. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant
Wertanen sprayed him with pepper spray. As a result,
Plaintiff suffered a cut on his face and had several bruises.
dispute Plaintiff's version of events. They contend that
the altercation started after Plaintiff shouted,
“I'm going to get you now bitch, ” and lunged
at Defendant Karppinen. Plaintiff also began kicking and
attempting to bite Defendants. When Plaintiff refused to
comply with Defendants' orders to get on the ground,
Defendant Hyatt took him to the ground by pulling on his
restraints and Defendant Wertanen sprayed him with pepper
spray. Defendants Wertanen and Hyatt were treated for minor
injuries stemming from the altercation.
the altercation, Plaintiff was charged with three
misconducts-one charge for threatening Defendant Karppinen,
one charge for assaulting Defendant Wertanen, and one charge
for assaulting Defendant Hyatt. At a Class I misconduct
hearing, the hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of
threatening Defendant Karppinen and assaulting Defendant
Wertanen, However, the hearing officer dismissed the charge
of assaulting Defendant Hyatt because the evidence did not
establish that Plaintiff made physical contact with Defendant
Hyatt. Plaintiff was also subsequently criminally charged
with three counts of assault on a prison employee; however,
it is unclear how those charges were ultimately
judgment is appropriate only if the moving party establishes
that there is no genuine issue of material fact for trial and
that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If the movant carries the burden of
showing there is an absence of evidence to support a claim or
defense, then the party opposing the motion must demonstrate
by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, that there is a genuine issue of material
fact for trial. Id. at 324-25. The nonmoving party
cannot rest on its pleadings but must present “specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Thus, any direct evidence
offered by the plaintiff in response to a summary judgment
motion must be accepted as true. Muhammad v. Close,
379 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Adams v.
Metiva, 31 F.3d 375, 382 (6th Cir. 1994)). “[T]he
mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the
parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be
no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 247-48. Ultimately, the court must determine
whether there is sufficient “evidence on which the jury
could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id.
at 252; see also Leahy v. Trans Jones, Inc., 996
F.2d 136, 139 (6th Cir. 1993) (single affidavit, in presence
of other evidence to the contrary, failed to present genuine
issue of fact); cf. Moore, Owen, Thomas & Co. v.
Coffey, 992 F.2d 1439, 1448 (6th Cir. 1993) (single
affidavit concerning state of mind created factual issue).
assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity.
Government officials, performing discretionary functions,
generally are shielded 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. Dietrich v. Burrows, 167
F.3d 1007, 1012 (6th Cir. 1999); Turner v. Scott,
119 F.3d 425, 429 (6th Cir. 1997); Noble v. Schmitt,
87 F.3d 157, 160 (6th Cir. 1996); Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). An
“objective reasonableness” test is used to
determine whether the official could reasonably have believed
his conduct was lawful. Dietrich, 167 F.3d at 1012;
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641 (1987).
“Qualified immunity balances two important
interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when
they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield
officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when
they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). In making a
qualified immunity determination, the court must decide
whether the facts as alleged or shown make out a
constitutional violation or whether the right that was
allegedly violated was a clearly established right at the
time of the alleged misconduct. Id. at 232. If the
court can conclude that either no constitutional violation
occurred or that the right was not clearly established,
qualified immunity is warranted. The court may consider
either approach without regard to sequence. Id.
first asserts an excessive force claim against Defendants.
The parties appear to dispute whether the excessive force
claim should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment or the
Eighth Amendment. In Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d
462, 472 (6th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted), the Sixth
Circuit clarified that, “[t]he Fourth Amendment's
prohibition against unreasonable seizures bars excessive
force against free citizens, . . . while the Eighth
Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment bars
excessive force against convicted persons.” Because
Plaintiff's excessive force claim arose while he was
serving a sentence on a criminal conviction, the undersigned
will apply the Eighth Amendment framework to his excessive
Eighth Amendment proscribes the unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain against prisoners.” Williams v.
Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011). An Eighth
Amendment claim consists of a subjective and an objective
component. Cordell v. McKinney, 759 F.3d 573, 580
(6th Cir. 2014). In the excessive force context, the relevant
inquiry for the subjective component is “whether force
was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore
discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause
harm.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7
(1992). “The objective component requires the pain
inflicted to be ‘sufficiently serious.'”
Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Wilson v.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)).
argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because the
evidence “clearly demonstrate[s] that the Plaintiff was
being assaultive and combative during the escort and that the
use of force was necessary and reasonable to regain control
of the prisoner.” (ECF No. 61, PageID.286). As
Defendants correctly point out, the critical incident report,
the misconduct report, the sworn statements of Defendants,
and the sworn statement of another prison employee all
support their version of events-that Plaintiff lunged at
Defendant Karppinen and that Plaintiff refused to obey
Defendants' commands. Defendants also contend that
“Plaintiff has provided no evidence that would support
his bogus allegations that the Defendants assaulted or
unnecessarily administered force against him.”
(Id.) However, in his sworn deposition, Plaintiff
So I came out, and once I got to the door, that's when
everything took place. That's when everything took place.
They rushed me. Karppinen told them to get me and everything
and it was massive, a whole bunch of commotion. I was
handicapped in cuffs. Wertanen started stomping me. Well,
first Hyatt slammed me -- he grabbed me, picked me up, and
just slammed me. Hyatt real big so he grabbed me, picked me
up, and just slammed me on my head like mmmm. And then
Wertanen ran over there and just start boom, boom, boom,
hitting me in my face.
So I tried to turn like this and by Hyatt being on me, I
can't move at all because he's so big. He covered my
whole body and his face like on this side. So since he
couldn't kick me no more on my face, he came on this side
and then he bent down and just started hitting me in my face
like mmm, mmm, mmm, three more times, and as soon as he did
that he pulled out his mace and just started spraying me for
no reason, just started spraying for no reason, this is how
you do things. He just started doing it, spraying the whole
bottle like it was shampoo, he started spraying me.
(ECF No. 62-2, PageID.432).
course, if Defendants attacked Plaintiff, then Defendants
could not have been making a good-faith effort to maintain or
restore discipline. However, if Plaintiff initiated the
attack and continued to resist and kick Defendants, then
Defendants likely would have been making a good-faith effort
to maintain or restore discipline. Ultimately, this is a
question of fact that must be decided at trial. Even assuming
that Plaintiff initiated the altercation, there is a question
of fact as to whether Defendants' use of force was still
excessive. In addition, whether Defendants' conduct
violated clearly established law turns on these factual
determinations. “[I]f genuine issues of material fact
exist as to whether the officer committed acts that would
violate a clearly established right, then summary judgment is
improper.” Bletz v. Gribble, 641 F.3d 743, ...