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Yarbrough v. Loftis

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler Division

January 11, 2018



          Ron Clark, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Roger A. Yarborough (“Yarborough”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to § 1983. This Court ordered that the matter be referred to the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) and the Amended Order for the Adoption of Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrate Judges.

         I. Background

         The record indicates that Yarborough refused to comply with Officer Loftis' order to get up from the chow table while Yarbrough and other inmates ate breakfast. After he then refused to show her his identification card, Yarbrough spit on Officer Loftis' face-striking her in the chest. Officer Loftis immediately struck Yarborough with a closed fist on his face and, as he continued to move toward her, she struck him two more times in the face with her closed fist. After he was restrained by additional responding officers, Yarborough was taken to the medical department where he complained that his face hurt.

         Nurse Sulser examined him and noted that there were no injuries present, but rather facial redness. The written injury report notes that Yarborough did not initially complain about an injury and that no injuries were immediately present at the time of his medical screening. While Yarborough asserts that Officer Loftis' actions resulted in a black eye and a deep cut to the inside of his mouth, Nurse Sulser noted “no reported injury or observed” but did highlight the facial redness within the report. Yarborough denies spitting on Officer Loftis, arguing that if he had done so, there would be physical evidence. Instead, he maintains that he simply blew her a kiss.

         Subsequently, Yarborough was found guilty of spitting on Officer Loftis during a disciplinary hearing. He then lost 360 days of good-time and was given a forty-five day commissary restriction, a forty-five day cell restriction, and a reduced custody classification. Importantly, Yarborough asserts that the incident caused him to lose an opportunity for parole. After filing both a Step One and a Step Two grievance, of which prison officials found no grievance, Yarborough filed this federal complaint in September 2014 in which he seeks monetary relief-including punitive damages stemming from his pain and suffering.

         II. Officer Loftis' Motion for Summary Judgment

         In her motion for summary judgment, (Dkt. #27), Officer Loftis contended that Yarborough's claim was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). She also maintained that she was entitled to qualified immunity and that his claim was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Highlighting that she applied the minimum amount of force necessary to regain compliance, Officer Loftis stressed the importance of prison security and order.

         In response to her motion for summary judgment, Yarborough argued that her entire account of the incident was incorrect. Specifically, he denies spitting on Officer Loftis, asserts that she never requested his identification card, and contends that because he had a target release date of June 2014, he would have never engage in something as “crazy” as spitting on an officer.

         After a review of the pleadings and the summary judgment evidence, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that Defendant Officer Loftis motion for summary judgment be granted and Yarborough's claims against her be dismissed with prejudice. (Dkt. #31). Yarborough has filed timely objections, (Dkt. #33)-in which he reiterates the same exact arguments raised in his initial complaint and addressed by the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.

         III. Summary Judgment Evidence

         Officer Loftis submitted several reports stemming from the incident. First, the TDCJ use-of-force report notes that Yarborough “assaulted staff by spitting on officer's chest area thus resulting in a use of force in that staff applied minimum force necessary to prevent further assault.” (Dkt. #27, Exhibit A at 4). While the report indicates that officers failed to record the incident, as required by TDCJ policy, TDCJ did not find that failure to be an aggravation of the rules. Moreover, the injury report shows that injuries were not present when Yarborough was screened and that he was not treated for any injuries. (Dkt. #27, Exhibit A at 23). The injury report denotes only that Yarborough experienced facial redness. (Dkt. #26, Exhibit A at 22-25).

         Another nurse examined Yarborough five days after the incident. He complained that he was experiencing problems with eating and drinking stemming from a cut inside his mouth; he specifically noted on the form that his pain was a “0.” The nurse found “no visible injuries or respiratory distress” and assessed no “adverse health effects from use of force.” Yarborough was then released.

         IV. Legal Standard

         A. Summary ...

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