United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
C. HANKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff, Kyle Springer (TDCJ #01955605), is an inmate in
the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice -
Correctional Institutions Division ("TDCJ"). He has
filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that
he was subjected to excessive force while held in the
Galveston County Jail ("the Jail"). Springer
alleges that two jail guards, Defendants Cory Rekoff and
Dante Austin, threw him to the ground and repeatedly kicked
and punched him after Springer had a minor verbal
disagreement with Austin; Springer was shackled and
handcuffed at the time (Dkt. 17 at pp. 3-4). Rekoff and
Austin have filed a joint motion for summary judgment (Dkt.
28). The Court previously tabled that motion and informed the
defendants that it would be considered reurged if the Court
found against the defendants on their affirmative defense
that Springer failed to exhaust his administrative remedies
(Dkt. 65). The Court has, by separate order, ruled against
the defendants on their failure-to-exhaust defense. The
motion for summary judgment filed by Rekoff and Austin is now
considered reurged and is DENIED.
to his affidavit, on February 12, 2014, Springer was eating
lunch in a dayroom in a lockdown unit in the Jail; he was
seated at a table with handcuffs on his wrists and shackles
on his legs (Dkt. 33-1 at pp. 1-2). Austin, who was working
in the dayroom, approached Springer and began talking to him
about how Springer had hidden a tray of food in his cell a
few days before (Dkt. 33-1 at p. 2). Austin accused Springer
of stealing that tray, to which Springer retorted that he
"had not technically stolen a tray from [Austin]"
because "taxpayers pay for jail property" (Dkt.
33-1 at p. 2). In response to Springer's snide remark,
Austin "ripped the tray" on which Springer was
eating out of his hands, and Springer's "food went
everywhere" (Dkt. 33-1 at p. 2). Springer stood up and
asked to talk to Austin's supervisor (Dkt. 33-1 at p. 2).
walked away without responding; and Springer, who "knew
[he] was not going to get any food, . . . grabbed a sandwich
and tried to eat as quickly as possible" (Dkt. 33-1 at
p. 2). Austin walked back over and grabbed that sandwich out
of Springer's hands, as well; and, "[a]t the same
time, [Springer] got slammed to the floor by Rekoff'
(Dkt. 33-1 at p. 2). Austin and Rekoff then grabbed Springer,
"slung him around[, ]" dragged him across the floor
over to his cell, and "slung [him] into [his] cell where
[his] head hit the wall and the toilet" (Dkt. 33-1 at p.
2). Austin and Rekoff "flipped [Springer] over, and
Austin was crouched over [him], punching [him, ] while Rekoff
kicked [Springer] and stomped [his] shackled feet" (Dkt.
33-1 at p. 2). Springer's affidavit states that,
"[f]rom the moment [he] hit the ground in the dayroom
until the deputies stopped beating [him] in [his] cell, [he]
was handcuffed and shackled on the ground" and
"[t]he only movements [he] made after being slammed to
the ground Were involuntary movements and attempts to cover
and protect [his] head" (Dkt. 33-1 at p. 3).
fellow inmate, Charles Nallie, has submitted an affidavit in
which he testifies that Springer made a sarcastic remark to
Austin, after which Austin grabbed the tray, Springer stood
up, and Rekoff "grabbed [Springer] by the neck from
behind and slung him over his hip and threw him to the
ground" (Dkt. 33-2). Nallie's affidavit further states
that, although Springer was "subdued" after Rekoff
took hiiiri down, "Austin straddled [Springer's]
body and started punching him" while "Rekoff had
him pinned" (Dkt. 33-2). The deputies dragged Springer
into his cell, from which Nallie heard Springer being kicked
and punched and Springer's head hitting the wall (Dkt.
after the incident, a nurse in the infirmary noted that
Springer presented with knots on the right side of his
forehead and the left side of his face; lacerations on both
wrists; and abrasions on his left ankle, left back, left
side, and abdomen (Dkt. 29 at p. 40). Jail personnel took
pictures documenting these injuries (Dkt. 31 at pp. 257-68;
Dkt. 32 at pp. 1-8).
officials investigated the use of force by Austin and Rekoff
because Austin and Rekoff did not properly report the use of
force to their supervisor and the maneuvers described by
Austin and Rekoff in their reports were inconsistent with the
injuries sustained by Springer (Dkt. 58-2 at p. 8). In their
reports, Austin and Rekoff claim that Rekoff used "knee
strikes" to Springer's abdomen and Austin used
"strikes to the Brachial Plexus nerves in Springer's
neck" because Springer, though on the ground,
"attempted to get up[;]" "attempt[ed] to lunge
at" the deputies' legs; and "clutch[ed]"
Austin's leg (Dkt. 58-2 at pp. 1-7). The investigating
officer initially classified the use of force as
"unjustified, " noting that "[t]he tactics and
the type of force that has [sic] been reported could have
been avoided by trying to use pressure points or pain
compliance before knee or open handed strikes" Dkt. 58-2
at p. 8). He changed that classification to
"justified" after speaking with two inmates who
said they saw Springer hitting his head on his cell wall in
an apparent effort to fake injuries (Dkt. 58-2 at pp. 8-9).
Springer, as one would guess, denies that his head injuries
were self-inflicted (Dkt. 33-1 at pp. 1, 3). The
investigating officer further concluded that Austin and
Rekoff didj not intentionally flout use-of-force reporting
regulations (Dkt. 58-2 at p. 9).
SUMMARY JUDGMENTS AND QUALIFIED IMMUNITY
and Rekoff have filed a motion for summary judgment* Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing of the
existence of an element essential to the 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).
In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must
determine whether the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at
summary judgment, the initial burden falls on the movant to
identify areas essential to the non-movant's claim in
which there is an absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co. v. Reyna, 401 F.3d 347,
349 (5th Cir. 2005). The movant, however, need not negate the
elements of the non-movant's case. See Boudreaux v.
Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005).
The movant may meet its burden by pointing out the absence of
evidence supporting the non-movant's case. Duffy v.
Leading Edge Products, Inc., 44 F.3d 308, 312 (5th Cir.
movant meets its initial burden, the non-movant must go
beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial.
Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d
275, 2%% (5th Cir. 2001). "An issue is material
if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action. A
dispute as to a material fact is genuine if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." DIRECT TV Inc. v. Robson, 420
F.3d 532, 536 (5th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted).
deciding whether a genuine and material fact issue has been
created, the facts and inferences to be drawn from those
facts must be reviewed in the light most favorable to the
non-movant. Reaves Brokerage Co. v. Sunbelt Fruit &
Vegetable Co.,336 F.3d 410, 412 (5th Cir. 2003).
However, factual controversies are resolved in favor of the
non-movant "only when both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts." Alexander v.
Eeds,392 F.3d 138, 142 (5th Cir. 2004) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). The non-movant's burden is not
met by mere reliance on the allegations or denials in the
non-movant's pleadings. See Diamond Offshore Co. v. A
& B Builders, Inc.,302 F.3d 531, 545 n.13 (5th Cir.
2002). Likewise, "conclusory allegations" or
"unsubstantiated assertions" do not meet the
non-movant's burden. Delta & Pine Land Co. v.
Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co.,530 F.3d 395, 399 (5th
Cir. 2008). Instead, the non-movant must present specific
facts which show the existence of a genuine issue concerning
every essential component of its case. Am. Eagle
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