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Daniels v. Leslie

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

July 2, 2018

ASBERRY DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
NICKOLAS LESLIE and HERB BRIGHTON, Defendants.

          Anthony P. Patti United States Magistrate Judge.

         OPINION AND ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS (ECF NO. 14); (2) ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S NOVEMBER 30, 2017 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION (ECF NO. 13); AND (3) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR DISMISSAL AND/OR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 10)

          Paul D. Borman, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Asberry Daniels alleges that Defendants Nickolas Leslie and Herb Brighton violated his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., as well as the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, when they handcuffed him while he was suffering an epileptic seizure in his prison cell. Defendants subsequently moved for dismissal of both claims under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 56(a).

         In a Report and Recommendation issued on November 30, 2017, Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti recommended that this Court dismiss Plaintiff's ADA claim for failure to state a legally cognizable claim under Rule 12(b)(6), but deny Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim. Only the first of these two determinations has been challenged, in a set of objections Plaintiff has filed to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. For the reasons that follow, the Court will overrule Plaintiff's objections, adopt the Magistrate Judge's November 30, 2017 Report and Recommendation, grant Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff's ADA claim, and deny Defendants' motion as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at the Michigan Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) Gus Harrison Correctional Facility, filed this pro se civil-rights action on January 26, 2017. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from epilepsy, and that he experienced a grand mal seizure in his cell on September 9, 2016. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 10.) Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Leslie and Brighton (both MDOC corrections officers) entered his cell in response to his seizure, followed shortly thereafter by MDOC health care staff, who brought a wheelchair and a stretcher. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) Defendant Leslie directed Defendant Brighton to place handcuffs on Plaintiff while he was still in the throes of the seizure, according to the Complaint, and rather than using the wheelchair or the stretcher to convey Plaintiff to the health care services department, Defendant Leslie then “directed that Plaintiff be placed in a restraint chair that, under MDOC policy, is reserved for minatory and extremely violent prisoners.” (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Brighton handcuffed him “so tightly that Plaintiff suffered deep scarring around the circumference of both of [his] wrists, these scars appearing deeper than the dermis and resulting in the loss of significant motor function in both of Plaintiff's hands, [and] rendering him unable to, inter alia, grasp eating and writing utensils properly.” (Id. ¶ 17.) Based on these allegations, Plaintiff asserts one claim of discrimination under the ADA in Count I of the Complaint (id. ¶¶ 18-25), and one claim of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in Count II of the Complaint (id. ¶¶ 26-30).

         The Court referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti for all pretrial proceedings on March 3, 2017. (ECF No. 7.) Shortly thereafter, on April 26, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Dismissal and/or Summary Judgment, seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's ADA claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and summary judgment as to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). (ECF No. 10, Defs.' Mot.) The Magistrate Judge ordered Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' Motion on May 4, 2017 (ECF No. 11), and Plaintiff filed a timely Response on May 31, 2017 (ECF No. 12, Pl.'s Resp.). Defendants did not file a Reply.

         The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation concerning Defendants' Motion on November 30, 2017, recommending that this Court grant the Motion as to Plaintiff's ADA claim and deny the Motion as to his Eighth Amendment claim. (ECF No. 13, Report and Recommendation.)

         Regarding the ADA claim, the Magistrate Judge construed the Complaint as asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 12132 of the ADA, which provides in full that “[s]ubject to the provisions of this subchapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” (Report and Recommendation at 6, Pg ID 159 (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132).) Turning to Defendants' arguments for dismissal, the Magistrate Judge first rejected their contention that Plaintiff's ADA claim must fail because the Defendants are not “public entities” under the statute, noting that Plaintiff sued Defendants in their official capacities, which makes his claim cognizable under the ADA. (Report and Recommendation at 8, Pg ID 161 (collecting authorities).)

         At the same time, the Magistrate Judge determined that the conduct alleged by Plaintiff in the Complaint does not violate 42 U.S.C. § 12132.[1] To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under that provision, a plaintiff must plead or prove that “(1) she has a disability; (2) she is otherwise qualified; and (3) she is being excluded from participation in, being denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under the program . . . because of her disability.” (Report and Recommendation at 8-9, Pg ID 161-62 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Tucker v. Tennessee, 539 F.3d 526, 532 (6th Cir. 2008), abrogated on other grounds by Anderson v. City of Blue Ash, 798 F.3d 338 (6th Cir. 2015)).) “Further, the plaintiff must show that the discrimination was intentionally directed toward him or her in particular.” (Id. at 9, Pg ID 162 (emphasis in original) (quoting Tucker, 539 F.3d at 532).) Under this standard, the Magistrate Judge found, Plaintiff's assertion that “Defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his epileptic condition by denying him ‘the right to proper treatment, medical and otherwise,' and that they did so by their ‘individual and collusive treatment of him during his medical episode . . . [, ]” does not constitute an allegation of a Title II violation. Instead, as the Magistrate Judge explained, that allegation

rings in terms of an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim. That Plaintiff is challenging the reasonableness of Defendants' response to a particular seizure is evident in the other paragraphs of this cause of action, where he questions “the intensity and the degree of the restraints . . . [, ]” and makes other allegations about what these defendants “knew or should have known . . . [.]” In fact, the “general allegations” portion of Plaintiff's complaint admits that Health Care Services brought a wheelchair and a stretcher but then alleges that Defendants did not use these items. In so doing, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against these Defendants seems limited to the manner in which he was restrained at a particular moment in time, during a specific medical event, rather than alleging that Defendants generally impeded Plaintiff's ability to obtain medical treatment or accommodation for his disability in violation of 42 U.S.C.A. § 12112(b)(5)(A), [2] or that Defendants excluded him from participation in, denied him the benefits of, or subjected him to discrimination under a service, program or activity - e.g. treatment by Health Care Services - because of his disability. Tucker, 539 F.3d at 532; 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

(Report and Recommendation at 9-10, Pg ID 162-63 (emphases in original) (citations omitted).)

         On the other hand, the Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged an excessive-force claim under the Eighth Amendment, and recommended that this Court deny Defendants' Motion as to that claim. The Magistrate Judge based this recommendation on his finding that Defendants have not demonstrated that they are entitled to qualified immunity as to the Eighth Amendment claim, as well as his finding that the record evidences a genuine issue ...


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