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Moore v. Wright

United States District Court, D. Delaware

February 24, 2017

EARL D. MOORE, III, Plaintiff,
v.
LAMONT WRIGHT, et al., Defendants.

          Earl D. Moore, III, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Ophelia Michelle Waters, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants Lamont Wright and Stephen Brackett.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. Judge.

         Plaintiff Earl D. Moore, an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 3). When he commenced this action, Plaintiff was a pre-trial detainee housed at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington, Delaware. Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Defendants Lamont Wright and Stephen Brackett move to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.[1] (D.I. 28). Briefing is complete.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The Complaint alleges that on July 3, 2014, Wright maced Plaintiff through a door flap for the actions of another inmate. (D.I. 3). Plaintiff alleges that the next day, Brackett saw Plaintiff falling flat on his stomach and unable to move. Brackett stepped over Plaintiffs body and conducted a cell check, stepped back over Plaintiff, and left the cell. (Id.).

         According to the evidence submitted, on June 26, 2014, while a pre-trial detainee at the HRYCI, Plaintiff and two other offenders refused to remove their blankets during a headcount on the housing unit. (D.I. 29 at Ex. A p.4). Prison standard operating procedures require the correctional officer to see "Living, Breath, Flesh." (Id.). Plaintiff testified that he did not comply with the order, and he received a disciplinary write-up after refusing to obey several direct commands to remove his blanket. (Id.; D.I. 29 at Ex. H p.23). Plaintiff was removed from his cell by the Quick Response Team, taken to the disciplinary housing unit, and charged with disorderly or threatening behavior. (D.I. 29 at Ex. Ap.1).

         On July 3, 2014, while still housed in the disciplinary unit, Plaintiff and another inmate were violently kicking their cell doors. (Id. at Ex. B). Plaintiff was kicking the door because he wanted his legal papers that were in his property bag. (Id.). Plaintiff admits that he kicked the door. (D.I. 29 at Ex. H p.41). A correctional officer went to the cell and saw damage to one of the cell doors. (D.I. 29 at Ex. B). Plaintiff was ordered to stop kicking the door. (Id.). Wright spoke to both inmates and told them their behavior would not be tolerated. (Id.). According to the disciplinary report, as Wright left to contact Lt. Emig, both inmates began kicking the doors again. (Id.). Emig ordered Wright to spray both inmates with Vexor if the kicking commenced. (Id.). Plaintiff testified that he was warned he would be maced if he kicked again. (D.I. 29 at Ex. H p.45). According to the disciplinary report, when both inmates again kicked the doors, Wright sprayed a two to three second burst of Vexor into each of their cells, and Plaintiff stopped kicking the door. (D.I. 29 at Ex. B). Plaintiff testified that he did not continue to kick the door and was maced "for nothing". (D.I. 29 at Ex. B; Ex. H at p. 45). Plaintiff was charged with disorderly or threatening behavior. (D.I. 29 at Ex. B). Medical records indicate that Plaintiff was seen on July 3, 2014 after he was sprayed and had no complaints except burning due to the spray. (D.I. 30 at p.6).

         Plaintiff testified that the next morning, July 4, 2014, Brackett told Plaintiff to get out of bed and cuff up. (D.I. 29 at Ex. H p.85). Plaintiff testified that he tried to get out of bed and fell on the floor. (Id.). Plaintiff was seen by medical staff the next day. (D.I. 30, p. 19). He told medical staff that he had noticed pain in the afternoon and evening of July 3, 2014, and he was offered a sick call slip around 1:00 p.m. on July 4, 2014. (Id.). He was next seen on July 10, 2014. (Id. at pp.6 & 14). He complained of back pain on July 17, 2014, and was given medication to treat the pain. (Id.).

         On July 9, 2014, Plaintiff was found guilty of disorderly or threatening behavior and sanctioned to isolated confinement for 45 days. (Id. at Ex. C). Plaintiff appealed, and the decision was reviewed and affirmed. (Id. at Ex. D).

         STANDARDS OF LAW

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuinely disputed material fact relative to the claims in question. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). Material facts are those "that could affect the outcome" of the proceeding, and "a dispute about a material fact is 'genuine' if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The burden on the moving party may be discharged by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Bee. Indus, v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989). A non-moving party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must support such an assertion by: "(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited [by the opposing party] do not establish the absence ... of a genuine dispute .. .." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). A dispute is "genuine" only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-49. If the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case with respect to which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.

         Once Defendants filed their motion and Plaintiff had not timely responded, the Court issued an order for Plaintiff to file an answering brief. (D.I. 32). Plaintiff's opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment consists of the sole statement, "Plaintiff hereby move[s] this Honorable Court to uphold the complaint pursuant [to] Fed. Rules Civ. Proc. Rule 15(a), 28 U.S.C.A." (D.I. 35). Attached to that sentence is Plaintiffs proposed order, which states Defendants used unjustified force, their conduct was unprofessional and inappropriate, and ...


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