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Lewis v. McFarland

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

December 8, 2017




         I. Status

         Plaintiff Jonathan Kyle Lewis, a former inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on August 15, 2011, by filing a Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 26) on September 26, 2011; a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 35) on December 15, 2011; a Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 41) on February 17, 2012; a Fourth Amended Complaint (Doc. 47) on May 16, 2012; a Fifth Amended Complaint (Doc. 54) on July 12, 2012; a Sixth Amended Complaint (Doc. 197) on October 11, 2013; and a Seventh Amended Complaint (Doc. 244) on September 29, 2014. The Court appointed counsel for Lewis on February 25, 2016. See Order Appointing Counsel for Plaintiff (Doc. 260). With the benefit of counsel, Lewis filed an Eighth Amended Complaint (Complaint; Doc. 273) on July 29, 2016. In the Complaint, Lewis names Christopher McFarland, a corrections officer employed at Union Correctional Institution (UCI), as the sole Defendant. Lewis asserts that McFarland violated his federal constitutional rights when he assaulted Lewis on February 24, 2011. As relief, Lewis requests compensatory and punitive damages.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant McFarland's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (Motion; Doc. 294). In the Motion, Defendant McFarland asserts that Lewis is barred from recovering compensatory and punitive damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e), and therefore the Court should grant summary judgment in his favor as to Lewis's request for emotional, compensatory, and punitive damages. In support of the Motion, McFarland filed his February 24, 2011 Incident Report (Def. Ex. A), excerpts of Antuquoin Byrd's deposition (Def. Ex. B), and a Declaration of Albert Carl Maier, M.D. (Def. Ex. C) with Lewis's medical records from February 2011 through August 2011.

         Lewis responded to the Motion on May 30, 2017. See Plaintiff's Response in Opposition to Defendant's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (Response; Doc. 305). In the Response, he asserts that § 1997e(e) does not bar his recovery of compensatory and punitive damages, especially given that he asserts he was sexually battered, and therefore, Defendant's Motion should be denied. In support of the Response, Lewis filed Anthony Batie's deposition (Batie Dep.; P. Ex. A), Byrd's deposition (Byrd Dep.; P. Ex. B), and his own deposition (Lewis Dep.; P. Ex. C). Defendant's Motion is ripe for judicial review.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Lewis asserts that Defendant McFarland violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when he "engaged in a deliberate and outrageous invasion of Lewis's bodily integrity that shocks the conscience." Complaint at 4, ¶18 (count one). He states that McFarland's "intentional physical contact with Lewis was malicious and designed to injure Lewis." Id. at 5, ¶24 (count two). He also asserts that McFarland "engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct that was intended to, and did, result in severe emotional distress suffered by Lewis." Id. at 5, ¶27 (count three). According to Lewis, while incarcerated at UCI, he often complained about how corrections officers mistreated him, and on several occasions, he filed grievances against those officers, see id. at 2, ¶6, and on at least one occasion, McFarland "took issue with Lewis's complaints" and described him as a "writ writer, " id. at ¶7.

         On February 24, 2011, McFarland escorted Lewis, who was in full restraints, back from the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) testing area to S dormitory. Id. at 2-3, ¶8. During the escort, McFarland sexually harassed Lewis when he "repeatedly hiked Lewis's pants well above his waist line to an uncomfortable level" and stated "you have a fat a--." Id. at 3, ¶9. Although Lewis asked McFarland to leave him alone, see id. at ¶10, McFarland called Lewis a "snitch" and told him to "shut up, " id. at ¶11. According to Lewis, McFarland escalated the confrontation when he groped Lewis's posterior and threatened to "beat the sh--" out of Lewis, "f--- [him] up, " and "stick a finger in [his] a--." Id. During the incident, McFarland pulled Lewis to the ground, slammed his head on the concrete multiple times, and smeared Lewis's head against the concrete. See id. at ¶12. McFarland also called another corrections officer to "hold [the] n ----- 's legs" down to make it appear as if Lewis was resisting McFarland. Id. at ¶13. While another corrections officer "pinned" down Lewis's legs, McFarland started strangling Lewis and then stopped when Lewis "was on the brink of unconsciousness." Id. at ¶14. Lewis alleges that as he attempted to recover while still on the ground, he "felt a finger penetrate his anus." Id. McFarland then took Lewis to the infirmary, where Dr. Nazareno evaluated him and documented injuries to Lewis's face, neck, legs and arm. Id. at ¶15. Lewis suffered bruised ribs, chest and neck pains, and severe headaches for nearly one month. Id. at 3-4, ¶16. He also suffered emotional distress and anxiety and remained fearful of further assaults throughout the remainder of his UCI stay. See id. at 4, ¶16.

         III. Summary Judgment Standard

         The Eleventh Circuit set forth the summary judgment standard.

Summary judgment is proper when "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 substantive law controls which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Raney v. Vinson Guard Service, Inc., 120 F.3d 1192, 1196 (11th Cir. 1997). Typically, the nonmoving party may not rest upon only the allegations of his pleadings, but must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial. Eberhardt v. Waters, 901 F.2d 1578, 1580 (11th Cir. 1990). A pro se plaintiff's complaint, however, if verified under 28 U.S.C. § 1746, is equivalent to an affidavit, and thus may be viewed as evidence. See Murrell v. Bennett, 615 F.2d 306, 310 n.5 (5th Cir. 1980). Nevertheless, "[a]n affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). "[A]ffidavits based, in part, upon information and belief, rather than personal knowledge, are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment." Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1327 (11th Cir. 2005).
As we've emphasized, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56[], its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts ... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Unsupported, conclusory allegations that a plaintiff suffered a constitutionally cognizant injury are insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. See Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530, 1532-34 (11th Cir. 1990) (discounting inmate's claim as a conclusory allegation of serious injury that was unsupported by any physical evidence, medical records, or the corroborating testimony of witnesses). Moreover, "[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007).

Howard v. Memnon, 572 Fed.Appx. 692, 694-95 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (footnote omitted); Hinkle v. Midland Credit Mgmt., Inc., 827 F.3d 1295, 1300 (11th Cir. 2016).

         At the summary judgment stage, the Court views all facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, as the non-moving party, and draws all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. See McKinney v. Sheriff, 520 Fed.Appx. 903, 905 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam). "[T]he dispute about a material fact is genuine . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Hinkle, 827 F.3d at 1300 (internal quotations and citation omitted). Summary judgment should be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Thus, summary judgment is appropriate only when, under Lewis's version of the facts, "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Felio v. Hyatt, 639 Fed.Appx. 604, 606 (11th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) ...

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