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Morris v. Melendrez

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Amarillo Division

March 3, 2017

TODRICK MORRIS, PRO SE, TDCJ-CID No. 854732, Plaintiff,
v.
AUGUSTINE MELENDREZ ET AL., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DENY PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DENY PLAINTIFF'S REQUESTS FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

          CLINTON E. AVERITTE, UNITED SPATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment filed August 19, 2016. Defendants MELENDREZ, ANDERSON, MADRID, and FLANAGAN filed a joint motion for summary judgment [D.E. 33]. On November 7, 2016, plaintiff filed a response to defendants' motion for summary judgment and also requested summary judgment in his favor [D.E. 36]. The Court has reviewed all the summary judgment evidence and arguments of the parties.

         OVERVIEW OF THE CASE

         On January 6, 2015 plaintiff told defendants ANDERSON and MADRID he was ill and needed to be seen by the medical department. Plaintiff claimed he was deliberately poisoned by TDCJ staff through his food, and he was experiencing vomiting, chest pains, and other ailments. In his complaint, plaintiff alleges ANDERSON and MADRID refused to notify medical of his condition and these defendants warned him if he "took control" of the food tray slot in order to demand medical attention, he would be gassed, his property would be seized, and defendants would turn the water off in his cell.

         Later the same day (January 6), TDCJ staff approached plaintiffs cell in order to deliver plaintiffs prescribed medication. Defendant ANDERSON was videotaping the entire episode. The competent summary judgment evidence shows that TDCJ regularly videotaped interactions with the plaintiff involving delivery of items through his food tray slot because of the numerous grievances filed by plaintiff against TDCJ personnel. The entire use of force against plaintiff was recorded, with a 20 second break after the second use of force was deployed to change the battery in the recording device. The use of force tapes are part of the summary judgment evidence, attached to defendants' motion.

         During the delivery of his medication, plaintiff rushed from the back of the cell (where he was ordered to wait) and stuck his arm through the food tray slot, thereby "taking control" of the slot and refusing to withdraw his arm to allow the slot to close. Plaintiff was told several times to remove his arm from the slot or an extraction team would be called according to the TDCJ use of force policy. Notwithstanding the admonition, plaintiff refused to remove his arm and demanded to see medical personnel. Defendant ANDERSON told plaintiff he would inquire about his medical situation if he removed his arm, but plaintiff persisted in ignoring commands to remove his arm. Defendant ANDERSON called for an extraction and use offeree team to come to the cell. Along with the extraction team, TDCJ Nurse WILLIAMS came to the cell. Nurse WILLIAMS was not allowed to examine plaintiff for medical complaints while he kept control of the food tray slot for safety reasons. Plaintiff continued to demand medical care.

         Defendant MADRID warned plaintiff again to relinquish control of the food tray slot, but plaintiff continued to refuse. While outside of the cell, defendant MADRID deployed a single burst of chemical agents through the cell to regain control of the food tray slot. After the chemical agent was deployed, plaintiff did remove his arm from the slot. Plaintiff was ordered to comply with a strip search, which he initially refused. Plaintiff eventually complied with the search. Plaintiff was handcuffed in order to remove him from his cell to confiscate his property to determine if plaintiff had contraband items constituting a threat to personnel or himself. After he was removed from the cell and his property was seized, he was ordered to stand and walk back into his cell. After initially standing, the plaintiff appears to deliberately drop to his knees, then lay flat on the ground and refuse to rise and walk into his cell. Although he was handcuffed at the time, plaintiff continued to be noncompliant with TDCJ orders to stand and walk to his cell. In his response to the motion for summary judgment, plaintiff claims he was weak and dizzy from his ailment and was suffering chest pains and could not rise on his own. While on the ground, however, he was responding to Nurse WILLIAMS's questions and stated he was not injured by the original use of force. He did continue to complain of chest pain during this time. Nurse WILLIAMS determined defendant's refusal to comply with orders was not the result of a medical condition, and plaintiff was given several opportunities to comply with the order to rise. In his response to defendants' summary judgment motion, plaintiff states some individuals (presumably himself) have a high pain tolerance and do not react to chest pains or other ailments the same way as other individuals and plaintiff alleges Nurse WILLIAMS was unable to properly determine plaintiff had the ability to comply with commands.

         Defendant MADRID, after giving plaintiff opportunity to comply with orders, once again administered chemical agents on the plaintiff while outside the cell. Plaintiff was prone on the ground and handcuffed at the time of the application, but was continuing to be noncompliant with TDCJ orders to rise and reenter his cell at the time. After this second use of force, plaintiff was repeatedly asked to rise and refused and he was eventually carried back into his cell and questioned again by Nurse WILLIAMS.

         CLAIMS AND REQUESTS FOR RELIEF

         Plaintiff TODRICK MORRIS, acting pro se and while a prisoner incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, has filed suit pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, section 1983 complaining against defendants MELENDREZ, ANDERSON, MADRID, and FLANAGAN and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff additionally filed suit against defendant WILLIAMS, but these claims were dismissed May 17, 2016, without prejudice for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff has filed several requests to amend his suit, but these requests have been denied. Plaintiffs pending claims involve deliberate indifference to medical needs, excessive force, and theft of personal property.

         Plaintiff complains defendants ANDERSON and MADRID acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs when they were informed of plaintiff s "poisoning" and medical needs on January 6, 2015 and refused to summon immediate medical care.

         Plaintiff claims defendant MADRID used excessive force by applying a chemical agent to his face after he started complying with orders of TDCJ officials. Plaintiff also alleges MADRID unlawfully seized his property after the use of force.

         Plaintiff claims defendant ANDERSON had a role in the use of excessive force against him. He does not specifically articulate what role ANDERSON had in the use of force.

         Plaintiff claims defendant MELENDREZ had a role in denying him medical care and in the use of force against him. Plaintiff claims defendant FLANAGAN also had a role in denying him medical care and was present during the use of force against plaintiff.

         Plaintiff requests monetary relief of $25, 000 from each defendant.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment may be granted if there is "no genuine issue of material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Guthrie v. Tifco Indus.,941 F.2d 374, 376 (5th Cir. 1991). A dispute about a material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. At 2510. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party must submit admissible evidence which creates a fact issue concerning the existence of every essential component of that party's case. Unsubstantiated assertions of an actual dispute will not suffice. Celotex Corp. V. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553-54, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). An opposing party cannot establish a genuine issue of material fact by resting on the mere allegations of the pleadings. Hulsey v. State of Texas,929 F.2d 168, 170 ...


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