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Manuel v. Atkins

United States District Court, D. Delaware

June 5, 2013

KARL B. MANUEL, Plaintiff,

Karl B. Manuel, Wilmington Delaware. Pro se.

Marc P. Niedzielski, Deputy Attorney General, State of Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants Adkins, Oettel, and Delaware Department of Transportation.


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Sue L. Robinson, Judge.


Plaintiff Karl B. Manuel is a Delaware prison inmate housed at the Sussex Violation of Probation (" SVOP" ) center in Georgetown, Delaware at all times relevant to his claim. On November 9, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint and motion to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sergeant Adkins (" Adkins" ),[1] State of Delaware Department of Transportation (" DelDOT" ) employee John Doe, and Correctional Medical Services, Inc. (" CMS" ) employee Jane Doe, alleging Eighth Amendment violations. (D.I. 1, 2) On March 14, 2011, the court dismissed the case without prejudice for failure to return an authorization form. (D.I. 9) On April 8, 2011, attorney Stephan Price Norman entered his appearance for the plaintiff and moved to reopen the case. (D.I. 10, 11) On April 25, 2011, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint, adding a First Amendment violation by Warden William Oettel (" Oettel" ), a gross negligence claim against Adkins, and seeking to hold DelDOT vicariously liable for John Doe's actions.[2] (D.I. 13) On May 7, 2012, plaintiff's counsel moved to withdraw; the motion was granted on May 31, 2012. (D.I. 51, 52) The court has subject matter jurisdiction over the claims asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Currently before the court is defendants Oettel, Adkins, and DelDOT's (collectively, " defendants" ) motion for summary judgment on all claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a)[3] (D.I. 94), plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (D.I. 101), and plaintiff's motion for expert witness. (D.I. 109)


On February 17, 2010, plaintiff was assigned to a road crew with approximately eleven other people detained at SVOP awaiting sentencing. (D.I. 13 at 5) The road crew was cutting down trees and branches overhanging power lines after a recent blizzard. ( Id. ) The road crews were provided with chain saws, pole saws, safety helmets with face shields, orange chaps, and headphones. (D.I. 95, ex 1, Manuel Dep. 31:14-15, Sept. 25, 2012) Adkins provided security to ensure none of the road crew attempted to escape. (Manuel Dep. 47:8-11) Plaintiff was assigned to cut tree branches with a pole saw, standing in the back of a DelDOT dump truck that also contained salt and sand. (D.I. 13 at 6) While refueling his pole saw in the back of the dump truck, he overheard John Doe telling some of the road crew to cut down a tree. ( Id. ) Soon after, the tree came crashing down towards the plaintiff in the back of the dump truck. ( Id. ) While plaintiff attempted to get out of the way, he slipped on the sand, and ended up pinned underneath the tree. ( Id. ) The dump

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truck absorbed most of the force of the falling tree, but there was still sufficient force to knock him unconscious for approximately five minutes. ( Id. ) While unconscious, all individuals in the area attempted to move the tree off plaintiff. ( Id. ) After waking, plaintiff clearly stated he was in pain, not to touch him, and to call 911. (Manuel Dep. 54:7-10) Disregarding his wishes, Adkins and John Doe removed his work chaps, moved him from the dump truck bed to the front seat of the Department of Correction work van, and drove him back to the SVOP center. (D.I. 13 at 7)

Once back at SVOP, plaintiff was placed into a wheelchair and taken to Jane Doe at a nursing station run by CMS. ( Id. ) Jane Doe confirmed there was no bowel or bladder problems, then called a doctor. (Manuel Dep. 56:20-24) She stated the plaintiff was to receive two vicodin and could not work for two weeks; she also provided a bag of ice. ( Id. at 57:21-22) Despite plaintiff's complaints of pain, he was told " you're not hurt" and was sent back to his tier without assistance. (D.I. 13 at 8) Approximately six hours passed with no medical personnel checking on his status, at which point plaintiff was unable to move and asked a tiermate to summon medical help. ( Id. ) A different nurse arrived, noted his pain, and had plaintiff taken to Beebe Medical Center. ( Id. ) At Beebe Medical Center, he was diagnosed with several herniated discs. ( Id. ) Once back at SVOP, the pain persisted; plaintiff attempted to get medical help but, aside from a single X-ray taken on February 18, 2010, never received medical help. ( Id. at 9) On or around February 19, ...

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