United States District Court, E.D. Washington
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.
A bench trial was held in this matter on March 23, 2015. Plaintiff was represented by Mitch Harrison. Defendants were represented by Ryan J. Lukson. At the close of Plaintiff's case-in-chief, Defendants made an oral motion for judgment on partial findings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(c). The Court granted the motion. This order supplements the Court's oral ruling.
Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed his original complaint in this matter in July 2012. ECF No. 1. A third amended complaint was filed in March 2014. ECF No. 96. On July 1, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 121. On September 16, 2014, the Court denied in part and granted in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 145. In that order, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs' allegations that Defendants Swift, Garcia, Alvarez, and Corporal Harris provided him with razor blades, or conspired to conceal such an action, were not appropriate for resolution on summary judgment and would proceed to trial. Id. at 2-6. Plaintiff's counsel filed a notice of appearance on December 1, 2014. ECF No. 163. The case proceeded to a bench trial which was held on March 23, 2015. ECF No. 178. At the trial, Plaintiff testified on his own behalf. Plaintiff offered no other evidence before closing his case-in-chief. Defendants moved for judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(c). The Court granted the motion.
During a bench trial, "[i]f a party has been fully heard on an issue... and the court finds against the party on that issue, the court may enter judgment against the party on a claim or defense that, under the controlling law, can be maintained or defeated only with a favorable finding on that issue." Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(c). The Court's judgment "must be supported by findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Rule 52(a)." Id. "In deciding whether to enter judgment on partial findings under Rule 52(c), the district court is not required to draw any inferences in favor of the non-moving party; rather, the district court may make findings in accordance with its own view of the evidence." Ritchie v. United States, 451 F.3d 1019, 1023 (9th Cir. 2006).
FINDINGS OF FACT
Plaintiff was the only witness to offer testimony at the bench trial. No evidence was offered beyond his testimony. Plaintiff has suffered from mental health issues since he was young. He has also struggled with alcoholism. On the morning of April 13, 2010, Plaintiff had an argument with his girlfriend and began drinking. At some point that morning, Plaintiff blacked out and awoke later in Benton County jail. Plaintiff learned from filings in a criminal case that he had been "rampaging" about, stating that he would kill himself. At the time of Plaintiff's booking he executed a mental health screening report that indicated he has never been suicidal.
On April 15, 2010, Plaintiff obtained a razor blade by removing it from a standard-issue razor provided to him by the jail and used it to cut his wrists. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital and later returned to the jail. Plaintiff began to see a mental health specialist at the jail and to receive medication for his depression and anxiety. Plaintiff testified that he variously experienced hallucinations of visual colors, seeing shadows and hearing voices, muttering or low tone whispering. Plaintiff testified that he believed his medications caused various side effects, made him tired, he had trouble keeping track of time, he was laying down all the time and at other times he was sleep deprived. He testified that at times he was so heavily medicated that he was in a cloud and at other times he quit his medication all together.
On October 23, 2010, Plaintiff obtained an altered razor blade from a fellow inmate. He used that razor blade to cut his left wrist. Plaintiff was again taken to the hospital. After returning to the jail, Plaintiff was placed on suicide watch in a padded cell behind the jail's intake booking area. Prior to being placed in the cell, Plaintiff was checked for contraband. The area behind the intake desk was a secure area not accessible by other inmates, except those who bring meals or clean under the supervision of jail security staff. The cell had a small opening under the door of less than an inch. The only items Plaintiff took into the cell with him were his clothing and a blanket.
On October 25, 2010, Plaintiff discovered a razor blade which someone had slid beneath the door to the cell. Plaintiff used it to cut his right wrist. After a time, Defendant Garcia and another officer came into the room and asked Plaintiff what had happened and where he had obtained the razor blade. Plaintiff responded, "You know, you guys should know." After Plaintiff was bandaged, he was left with Defendants Garcia and Alvarez. Garcia was looking at Plaintiff and appeared as if he was about to say something when Alvarez said to Garcia in Spanish, "Don't say nothing." Defendant Harris then allegedly came in and told Garcia and Alvarez, "Don't worry, I got your back, you know what I'm saying."
Present in the area of the padded cell that day were Defendants Alvarez, Garcia, and Harris, along with a couple of other guards Plaintiff did not know and who are not named defendants in this matter. Plaintiff did not see who slide the razor blade under the door. Plaintiff also did not hear anything to indicate who may have done so. Plaintiff testified he "suspected" the blade was placed there by Benton County guard staff "because of the things that were said, you know, from the officers."
Plaintiff testified that he did not believe an investigation of the incident was undertaken at any time. He did not recall any Benton County staff collecting evidence. He saw a small red bag he identified as a hazard bag that caused Plaintiff to believe the staff was disposing of evidence at that time instead of preserving it. He only learned at a later point that pictures had actually been taken. No records of the October 25 event or of any subsequent investigation were introduced as evidence.
While in Benton County jail, Plaintiff filed numerous grievances. He filed at least two grievances prior to the October 25, 2010 incident. Thus, Plaintiff was aware of and knew how to use the grievance system by October 2010. However, Plaintiff did not file a grievance regarding the ...