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Smith v. Kurth

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

June 27, 2019

SAMPSON LEE SMITH #240397, Plaintiff,
v.
D. KURTH, et al., Defendants.

          Hon. Gordon J. Quist U.S. District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MAARTEN VERMAAT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Introduction

         This is a civil rights action brought by state prisoner Sampson Lee Smith pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff asserts an excessive-force Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants D. Kurth, Unknown Vandershake and Unknown Party #1.[1]Defendants Kurth and Vadershake have filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) and argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity. (ECF No. 15.) Plaintiff has responded. (ECF No. 23.) Because Defendants have not met their burden of showing that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the Court deny Defendant's motion.

         Factual Allegations

         The events alleged in the complaint occurred while Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Alger Correctional Facility (LMF). In the morning of May 3, 2017, Plaintiff was “exhibiting disruptive behavior.” He admits to kicking and pounding on his cell door. He refused to comply with staff instructions to stop. Thus, the deputy warden authorized a “move team” to enter Plaintiff's cell and put him in soft restraints. After the restraints were put on Plaintiff, a registered nurse checked and approved the tightness of the restraints. Plaintiff remained in the soft restraints the entire day.

         The next morning, at a little after 7:00 a.m., Plaintiff states that Defendants Kurth, Vandershake, and an unknown lieutenant, ordered Plaintiff out of his cell, forced him to the ground, and tightened the restraints causing him severe pain. Plaintiff claims that Defendants sole purpose for tightening the restraints was to cause pain. Plaintiff further states that he remained in the restraints until a nurse removed them at 7:00 p.m. Plaintiff claims that the restraints caused a subdural hematoma that will require surgery to remove.

         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; Kocak v. Comty. 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).

         Analysis

         Plaintiff asserts an excessive-force Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants. Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's claim.

         I. 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 ...


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