United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. BENNETT, UNITED STATES EISTRICT JUDGE.
a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed this section
1983 lawsuit against nine prison officers for the alleged
violation of his constitutional rights. Five of the defendant
officers - Christopher LaCox, Arij Ramadan, Amber Taylor,
James McClellan, and Jim Pitcock - filed a motion for partial
summary judgment (Docket Entry No. 26), to which plaintiff
filed a response in opposition (Docket Entry No. 42).
carefully considered the motion, the response, the probative
summary judgment evidence, the record, and the applicable
law, the Court GRANTS the motion for partial
summary judgment, as follows.
Background and Claims
purposes of the pending motion, plaintiff alleges that warden
Christopher LaCox ("LaCox") and correctional
officers Arij Ramadan ("Ramadan"), Amber Taylor
("Taylor"), James McClellan
("McClellan"), and Jim Pitcock
("Pitcock"), violated his civil rights at the
Estelle Unit on June 30, 2015. He claims that on that date,
during a temporary two-day assignment to the Estelle Unit
from the Coffield Unit, he was subjected to an unreasonable
use of force by defendants Ramadan, Taylor, McClellan, and
Pitcock. He asserts that the water in his shower had been too
hot, and that Ramadan and Taylor refused to lower the
temperature. The officers ordered plaintiff to exit the
shower, but he refused and demanded that a ranking officer be
called to the scene. The parties dispute how it occurred, but
Ramadan sustained a scratch along her arm. Defendants Pitcock
and McClellan arrived to restrain plaintiff and return him to
his cell. Plaintiff claims that Pitcock, McClellan, Taylor,
and Ramadan physically assaulted him without provocation
during the return to his cell, causing him serious injury.
The defendants allege that their conduct was a reasonable use
of force necessitated by plaintiffs attempts to break away
from the group. A video camera team was called to tape the
use of force, but it was only able to record the end of the
incident and plaintiffs ensuing cell-side medical
examination. Plaintiff was transferred back to the Coffield
Unit the next day.
lawsuit, plaintiff complains of use of excessive force,
criminal conspiracy, violations of his First Amendment
rights, denial of medical care following the incident and, as
to LaCox, failure to supervise and investigate. Defendants
seek summary judgment as to all of plaintiff s claims except
his claim for use of excessive force.
Summary Judgment Standards
judgment should be granted when the moving party conclusively
establishes that there is no genuine issue of material fact.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986). There is no issue for resolution at
trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 247-48 (1986). The moving party may satisfy its burden
by negating the existence of an essential element of the
nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S.
at 325. Alternatively, if the moving party will not bear the
burden of proof at trial on a particular issue, it may meet
its initial burden by pointing out the absence of evidence
supporting that element of the nonmoving party's case.
Id.; Stults v. Conoco, Inc., 76 F.3d 651, 656 (5th
Cir. 1996); Transamerica Ins. Co. v. Avenall, 66
F.3d 715, 718-719 (5th Cir. 1995).
the moving party has carried its burden, the burden shifts to
the nonmoving party to show that summary judgment is not
appropriate. Exxon Corp. v. Baton Rouge Oil, 77 F.3d
850, 853 (5th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party cannot
discharge its burden by alleging legal conclusions or
unsubstantiated assertions, nor can it rest on the
allegations of the pleadings. Instead, it must present
affirmative evidence in order to demonstrate the existence of
a genuine issue of material fact and defeat a motion for
summary judgment supported by competent evidence.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-250; Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a
'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott
v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). When the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial. Id. However, when 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 the version of the facts for purposes
of ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Id.
law determines what is material. Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 249. "Only disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that
are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted."
Id., at 248. If the nonmovant sets forth specific
facts in support of allegations essential to his claim, a
genuine issue is presented. Celotex, 477 U.S. at
327. However, this is so only when there is "an actual
controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted
evidence of contradictory facts." Little v. Liquid
Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). This
burden cannot be met with "some metaphysical doubt as to
the material facts, " Matsushita, 475 U.S. at
586, "conclusory allegations, " Lujan v.
National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 871-73
(1990), "unsubstantiated assertions, " Hopper
v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92 (5th Cir. 1994), or by a mere
"scintilla" of evidence, Davis v. Chevron
U.S.A., Inc., 14 F.3d 1082 (5th Cir. 1994). In the
absence of proof, the court does not assume that the
nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts at a
later point. Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
a pro se plaintiffs pleadings are held to a less
stringent pleading standard than those drafted by attorneys
and are entitled to a liberal construction, Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972), they must still comply
with the rules of civil procedure and make arguments capable
of withstanding summary judgment. Hulsey v. Texas,
929 F.2d 168, 171 (5th Cir. 1991).