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Brown v. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 8, 2018

KEVIN A BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          David W. Christel, United States Magistrate Judge.

         The District Court referred this action, filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, to United States Magistrate Judge David W. Christel. Presently pending before the Court is Defendants Department of Corrections, Christina Brule, Mark Stigall, John Campbell, Z. Fiscuss, Ryan Pfaff, Ron Haynes, Katherine Jenson, Christian Dieker, Brandon Heimbigner, and John Hamon's Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. 58.[1]

         After reviewing the relevant record, the Court finds Plaintiff Kevin A. Brown has failed to overcome Defendants' summary judgment showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact in regarding his Eighth Amendment failure to protect and cruel and unusual punishment claims. Further, Plaintiff has failed to state a supervisory liability claim. Therefore, the Court recommends Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 58) be granted and this case be closed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, an inmate currently housed at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, alleges Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they failed to protect him. Dkt. 8. Plaintiff, first, alleges Defendants Brule, Stigall, Campbell, and Pfaff failed to protect Plaintiff when they transferred Plaintiff to Clallam Bay Corrections Center (“CBCC”) after Plaintiff's fiancée notified Defendant Brule that Plaintiff would be harmed at CBCC. Id. Second, Plaintiff contends Defendants Jenson, Dieker, Heimbigner, Harmon, and Fiscuss failed to protect Plaintiff from being assaulted by seven inmates when he was housed at CBCC. Id. Plaintiff also alleges Defendants Campbell and Haynes are liable under § 1983 because they supervise Defendants Brule, Stigall, Pfaff, Jenson, Dieker, Heimbigner, Harmon, and Fiscuss. Id.

         Defendants filed the Motion on April 10, 2018. Dkt. 58. Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion on April 24, 2018. Dkt. 75. Defendants filed their Reply on May 11, 2018. Dkt. 76.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper only if the pleadings, discovery, and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law when the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of a claim in the case on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). There is no genuine issue of fact for trial where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (nonmoving party must present specific, significant probative evidence, not simply “some metaphysical doubt”); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Conversely, a genuine dispute over a material fact exists if there is sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute, requiring a judge or jury to resolve the differing versions of the truth. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 253 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants contend they are entitled to summary judgment regarding Plaintiff's claims that Defendants failed to protect him. Dkt. 58. Defendants also assert Plaintiff's allegations against Defendants Campbell and Haynes fail to state a claim under § 1983. Id. The Court agrees. The Court also finds Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to Defendant Department of Corrections and Plaintiff's allegations that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

         A. Failure to Protect

         Defendants allege there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Defendants failed to protect Plaintiff when Plaintiff was (1) transferred to CBCC and (2) assaulted at CBCC. Dkt. 58.

         The Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of prisoners. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Prison officials have a duty to protect prisoners from violence suffered at the hands of other prisoners. Id. at 833. However, not every injury suffered by a prisoner at the hands of another is a violation of a prisoner's constitutional rights. Id. at 834.

         In cases alleging an Eighth Amendment violation based on a failure to prevent harm, the plaintiff must first meet an objective component by showing “he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id.; see Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa, 591 F.3d 1232, 1242 (9th Cir. 2010). The plaintiff must also meet a subjective component by showing the prison official acted with deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 33 (1993) (“[A] claim that a prisoner's confinement violate[s] the Eighth Amendment requires an inquiry into the prison officials' state of mind.”). “[A] prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment . . . unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 832; see Wallis v. Baldwin, 70 F.3d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1995). A prison “official's failure to alleviate a significant risk he should have perceived but did not, ” therefore, cannot “be condemned as the infliction of punishment.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 838.

         1. Transfer to CBCC

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants Brule, Stigall, and Pfaff failed to protect Plaintiff when they transferred him to CBCC after Plaintiff's fiancée called Defendant Brule and expressed concern over Plaintiff's safety at CBCC. Dkt. 8.

         a. Evidence

         Plaintiff's evidence[2] shows Defendant was housed at Washington State Penitentiary (“WSP”) in January of 2017. Dkt. 75-1, p. 12, Brown Dec. Plaintiff was placed in a unit consisting of “whites and Sur[e]ños, ” with whom Plaintiff has issues. Id. Plaintiff informed non-party correctional officers of his “issues, ” but he was still placed in the unit. Id. After three days, he was removed from the unit and placed in involuntary protective custody because a threat was made on his life. Id. Plaintiff informed his fiancée, Jessyca Swatman, he was going to be transferred to CBCC and that if he was sent to CBCC something would happen to him because the “whites and Sur[e]ños” had put “a green lite (sic)” on him. Id.

         Ms. Swatman spoke with Defendant Brule at least five times between February 2017 and March 2017. Dkt. 75-1, p. 7, Swatman Dec. Ms. Swatman informed Defendant Brule that CBCC was not a safe placement for Plaintiff because he previously had confrontations with groups of Caucasian and Mexican inmates at WSP who had been transferred to CBCC. Id. Ms. Swatman requested Plaintiff be transferred to Airway Heights Corrections Center (“AHCC”) Safe Harbor Unit. Id. Defendant Brule told Ms. Swatman she would override the points Plaintiff needed to be classified as “medium custody” and send him to AHCC. Id.

         Defendant Brule disregarded Ms. Swatman's warning and sent Plaintiff to CBCC. Dkt. 75-1, p. 13, Brown Dec. Plaintiff states Defendant Brule made the final decision to send Plaintiff to CBCC. Id. Plaintiff arrived at CBCC on March 15, 2017. Id. On April 29, 2017, Plaintiff was assaulted by five “white boys” and two “Sureños.” Id.

         Defendants' evidence shows there are two close custody facilities within the Washington State Department of Corrections (“DOC”), WSP and CBCC. Dkt. 67, Haynes Dec., ¶ 9. Plaintiff was classified as a close custody inmate during the period in question; and therefore could be housed only at WSP or CBCC. See id.; Dkt. 60, Campbell Dec., ¶ 5. “According to DOC records, Plaintiff was placed in protective custody at [WSP] due to a report that his life might be in danger due to other offenders acting strangely around him at that facility.” Dkt. 59, Brule Dec., ¶ 4. In 2017, Plaintiff “had no separatees (other listed ...


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