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Mengesha v. Stokes

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

November 22, 2017

MARCUS J. STOKES, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on ECF No. 39, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, [1] and ECF No. 46, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 53.)[2] Defendants, however, have not filed a response to Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint and the time for doing so has expired.[3] The motions are therefore ripe for review. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint is granted and it is respectfully recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff filed his motion for leave to file an amended complaint while Defendants' motion for summary judgment was pending. (ECF No. 46.) Defendants have not filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's motion. The Court therefore considers the motion for leave to amend to be unopposed.

         Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint names the same five Defendants as the original complaint. The proposed amended complaint clarifies that the claims are asserted against Defendants in their official and individual capacities. The factual allegations are substantially the same. Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint also contains the same claims as the original complaint, except that he has combined his two excessive force claims into one excessive force claim in the proposed amended complaint.[4] Finally, Plaintiff seeks the same amount in compensatory damages and punitive damages. The only difference is that the proposed amended complaint contains a request for the Court to “[g]rant such other relief as it may appear that the Plaintiff is entitled.” (ECF No. 46 at 7.)

         The proposed amended complaint does not affect the substantive resolution of the pending motion for summary judgment because the Defendants and claims are identical to those in the original complaint. Additionally, Defendants have not objected to Plaintiff's motion for leave to file the proposed amended complaint. Finally, although Plaintiff's new request for any other relief the Court deems proper (i.e., nominal damages) goes directly to several arguments set forth in Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the interests of justice and efficiency weigh in favor of granting Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2).

         Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for leave to file the amended complaint is granted and the amended complaint, ECF No. 46, shall become the operative complaint in this matter. The motion for summary judgment is therefore carried over to Plaintiff's amended complaint. See Reflectone, Inc. v. Farrand Optical Co., 862 F.2d 841, 846 (11th Cir. 1989) (affirming district court's decision to carry pending motion for summary judgment over to an amended complaint when the allegations in the amended complaint did not affect arguments in the summary judgment motion); Scroggins v. LifePoint Health, No. 2:16-CV-338-WKW, 2016 WL 9275449, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Aug. 3, 2016) (carrying over motion for summary judgment to amended complaint filed while motion for summary judgment was pending because amended complaint did not affect the substantive resolution of the motion for summary judgment).


         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDOC”) at Santa Rosa Correctional Institution (“Santa Rosa CI”), initiated this case by filing a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims Defendants-all employees of the FDOC at Santa Rosa CI-violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by discriminating against him and making degrading racial comments to Plaintiff. He also claims Defendants used excessive force against Plaintiff on February 25, 2016, and sexually assaulted him in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[5]

         B. EVIDENCE

         1. Medical History

         Plaintiff has a history of shoulder dislocations. To start, on November 26, 2013, Plaintiff reported to medical with complaints of right shoulder dislocation while exercising. (ECF No. 39-1 at 87 (“MR/Maier Dec.”).) Plaintiff stated he heard a pop sound while doing push ups. (Id.) Plaintiff was issued health passes for a low/bottom bunk and an arm sling. (Id. at 107.)

         Plaintiff also presented to Medical on January 23, 2014, and February 6, 2014, with complaints of left shoulder pain, reporting that he had a history of front left shoulder dislocation dating back to 2007. (Id. at 112-13.) X-rays of Plaintiff's left shoulder on February 19, 2014, revealed post-traumatic osteolysis of the distal clavicle, but no fractures, dislocation, or subluxation. (Id. at 111.)

         Plaintiff returned to medical on October 20, 2014, with complaints of left shoulder pain, again reporting a history of left shoulder pain. (Id. at 84.)

         2. Use of Force

         At approximately 8:30 p.m. on February 25, 2016, Defendants ordered Plaintiff to submit to hand restraints in order to leave his cell to shower. (ECF No. 53 at 19, 14:25, 15:1-5; MR/Maier Dec. at 105.) As Plaintiff exited his cell to comply, Defendant Pugh told Plaintiff to kneel down so he could put leg irons on Plaintiff's ankles. (ECF No. 53 at 19, 15:5-7.) Plaintiff asked why the leg irons were necessary. (Id. at 15:7-10.) Defendant Pugh said “[d]on't you forget you assault[ed] my officer last year, ” then began calling Plaintiff an “Ethiopian piece of shit.” (Id. at 15:10-13.) Defendant West interjected, making fun of Plaintiff for being skinny because he is Ethiopian. (Id. at 20, 17:3-8.)

         In light of Defendants' comments, Plaintiff decided he no longer wanted to take a shower and took a step back towards his cell. (Id. at 17:8-9, 20:4-5.) Defendant Pugh used both hands to push Plaintiff into the cell with “extreme force.” (Id. at 20:7-16.) Plaintiff fell down and hit his shoulder on the table, which caused his shoulder to dislocate. (Id. at 20:18-25, 21 at 21:1-6.) Plaintiff laid on the floor screaming from shoulder and back pain. (Id. at 21, 21:5-6.) Defendants Pugh and West ignored Plaintiff's cries for medical help and shut the cell door. (Id. at 24, 35:10-12.)

         Approximately thirty minutes after the incident, Nurse Danley went to Plaintiff's cell to check on Plaintiff. (Id. at 27, 45:5-9; MR/Maier Dec. at 105.) Plaintiff was lying on the cell floor complaining he had back pain and could not stand. (MR/Maier Dec. at 105.)

         When Nurse Danley left, Defendant Stokes ordered Plaintiff to stand up and exit the cell. (ECF No. 53 at 27, 47:14-19.) Plaintiff told Defendant Stokes he could not get up because his arm was dislocated. (Id. at 47:6-8.) Defendant Stokes threatened Plaintiff that if he did not come out of the cell Plaintiff would wish he had died starving in Ethiopia. (Id. at 48:2-11.) Plaintiff, however, could not get up because he was in pain. (Id. at 48:12-16.)

         Defendants Pugh, West, and Lathan opened the cell door and began beating Plaintiff. (Id. at 48:18-23.) Defendant Stokes remained outside the cell blocking the door. (Id. at 28, 49:3-13.) Defendant West grabbed and twisted Plaintiff's dislocated arm, causing Plaintiff's shoulder to pop back into the socket and his finger to bend painfully. (Id. at 52:9-15, 29 at 54:6-25.) Defendants Pugh, West, and Lathan continued kicking and punching Plaintiff. (Id. at 29.)

         During the assault, one of the Defendants pulled down Plaintiff's boxers-which was all he was wearing at the time. (Id. at 30, 57:1-20.) Plaintiff felt one of the Defendants' fingers go between his buttocks and touch-but not penetrate-his anus. (Id. at 59:23-25, 60:1-6, 64:4.) Then a hand went between Plaintiff's legs and grabbed Plaintiff's testicles. (Id. at 64:5-25, 32 at 65:1-25, 66:1-25.) Plaintiff does not know who touched his genitals or buttocks, but only felt one hand. (Id. at 31, 62:20, 63:23.) The touching lasted approximately three to four seconds. (Id. at 32, 65:03-10.)

         Eventually, Defendants lifted Plaintiff up, pulled up Plaintiff's boxers, and turned Plaintiff to face Defendant Stokes. (Id. at 67:4-6.) Defendant Stokes, however, told the other Defendants to put Plaintiff down and continued beating Plaintiff. (Id. at 67:7-8.) Defendants Pugh, West, and Lathan dropped Plaintiff back onto the ground and continued beating Plaintiff for a few moments. (Id. at 67:9-24.)

         Defendant Jones then arrived with a wheelchair. (Id. at 68:8-15.) Defendants lifted Plaintiff up and put him in the wheelchair. (Id. at 68:16-22.) Once Plaintiff was in the wheelchair, one of the Defendants-which Plaintiff thinks was Defendant Jones-punched Plaintiff. (Id. at 33, 69:4-25, 71:1-14.) Defendants then brought Plaintiff to medical for examination. (Id. at 71:20-22; MR/Maier Dec. at 105.)

         Examination at approximately 9:15 p.m. revealed a bruise and swelling on the right side of Plaintiff's forehead. (MR/Maier Dec. at 105-06.) Plaintiff also had a small abrasion on his lower lip. (Id.) There were no other injuries noted. (Id. at 105.) After the examination Plaintiff walked back to his cell without difficulty and with no signs of distress. (Id.)

         Plaintiff, however, declared a medical emergency at approximately 2:54 a.m. on February 26, 2016. (Id. at 29.) He reported that his shoulder and back hurt and requested his injuries be documented. (Id.) Nurse Deily completed a cell-front examination because security refused to pull Plaintiff out of his cell due to disruptive behavior and threats to staff. (Id.) Plaintiff had no shortness of breath, no signs of acute distress, and no active bleeding. (Id.) Plaintiff demonstrated a full range of motion in all extremities. (Id.) He did, however, have minor swelling to his right forehead, but no other injuries. (Id.)

         Plaintiff then declared another medical emergency at approximately 8:00 a.m., claiming that his right shoulder was dislocated and his arm and finger broken from the use of force last night. (Id. at 27.) Examination revealed no swelling, no deformities, intact skin, no evidence of fracture, and no dislocations. (Id.)

         Plaintiff later presented to medical at approximately 10:40 a.m., claiming that his shoulder was dislocated the night before from the use of force incident. (Id. at 103.) Plaintiff reported that his shoulder goes in and out. (Id.) Plaintiff displayed no signs or symptoms of distress, no deformities or ...

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