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Pitts v. Buda

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

April 26, 2019

RAYMOND DELANO PITTS #633348, Plaintiff,
STEVEN BUDA et al., Defendants.




         This is a civil rights action brought by state prisoner Raymond Delano Pitts pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Steven Buda, Steven Lehto, and Andrew Mettler violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 69.) Plaintiff did not file a response. For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the Court grant Defendants' motion.


         On March 12, 2015, Plaintiff was involved in a fight with four other prisoners at the Ojibway Correctional Facility (OCF). Defendant Buda, a lieutenant at OCF, was one of the first officers to respond to the incident. Defendants Lehto and Mettler arrived shortly thereafter. When Defendant Buda arrived on the scene, he ordered Plaintiff to get on the ground. Plaintiff complied. Defendant Buda then proceeded to put Plaintiff in handcuffs. When Defendant Buda attempted to place Plaintiff's right arm behind his back, Plaintiff resisted. In an attempt to get Plaintiff to stop resisting, Defendant Buda increased the pressure on Plaintiff's left wrist. Defendant Buda then heard a pop in Plaintiff's left wrist and immediately released the pressure on Plaintiff's arm. As a result, Plaintiff suffered an injury to his left wrist or forearm.[1]

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals that there are no genuine issues as to any material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Kocak v. Cmty. Health Partners of Ohio, Inc., 400 F.3d 466, 468 (6th Cir. 2005); Thomas v. City of Chattanooga, 398 F.3d 426, 429 (6th Cir. 2005). The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. McGowan, 421 F.3d 433, 436 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)); Tucker v. Union of Needletrades Indus. & Textile Employees, 407 F.3d 784, 787 (6th Cir. 2005). The court must consider all pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and admissions on file, and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Twin City Fire Ins. Co. v. Adkins, 400 F.3d 293, 296 (6th Cir. 2005).

         In addition, when a party does not file a response to a summary judgment motion, the motion is not automatically granted. Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483, 486 (2d Cir. 1996). Instead, the court is required to “intelligently and carefully review the legitimacy of such unresponded-to motion.” Guarino v. Brookfield Township Trustees, 980 F.2d 399, 407 (6th Cir. 1992). However, the court should not “sua sponte comb the record from the partisan perspective of an advocate for the non-moving party.” Id. at 410.


         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Buda's conduct amounted to excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Lehto and Mettler violated the Eighth Amendment when they failed to intervene and protect Plaintiff from Defendant Buda.

         I. Excessive Force - Defendant Buda

         The Eighth Amendment embodies a constitutional limitation on the power of the states to punish those convicted of a crime. Punishment may not be “barbarous” nor may it contravene society's “evolving standards of decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345-46 (1981); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958). The Eighth Amendment also prohibits conditions of confinement which, although not physically barbarous, “involve the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346. Among unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain are those that are “totally without penological justification.” Id. “To make out a claim under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must satisfy both an objective and a subjective component.” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (citing Moore v. Holbrook, 2 F.3d 697, 700 (6th Cir. 1993)).

         “The subjective component focuses on the state of mind of the prison officials.” Id. In the excessive force context, “the relevant inquiry is ‘whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.'” Id. (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). When determining whether the subjective component is met, courts must consider the following factors: (1) the need for the application of force; (2) the relationship between such need and the force used; (3) the threat reasonably perceived by the prison official; and (4) any efforts undertaken to temper the severity of the response. Id. (citing Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7).

         “The objective component requires the pain inflicted to be ‘sufficiently serious.'” Id. (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). “This component requires a ‘contextual' investigation, one that is ‘responsive to contemporary standards of decency.'” Cordell v. McKinney, 759 F.3d 573, 580-81 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8). “While the extent of a prisoner's injury may help determine the amount of force used by the prison official, it is not dispositive of whether an Eighth Amendment violation has occurred.” Id. at 580-81 (citing Wilkins v. Gaddy,559 U.S. 34, 37 (2010)). “When prison officials maliciously and ...

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