WILLIAMS v. OMODT Civ. No. 4-84-243.
640 F.Supp. 120 (1986)
Cecil L. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, v. Don OMODT, Captain Moran, S.J. Tobler and S. Catapano, Defendants.
United States District Court, D. Minnesota, Fourth Division.
July 3, 1986.
James J. Agan, Burnsville, Minn., for plaintiff.
Mark Kapier Maher, Asst. Hennepin Co. Atty., Minneapolis, Minn., for defendants Omodt, Tobler and Catapano.
Joseph B. Marshall, Marshall & Associates, P.A., Circle Pines, Minn., for defendant Moran.
DIANA E. MURPHY, District Judge.
Cecil L. Williams, formerly an inmate at the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center (HCADC), brought this action for damages
The case was tried to the court, which heard the testimony of plaintiff Williams, defendants Moran and Catapano, and HCADC employees Roy A. Green, Jacqueline Lindskoog, and Robert Hartoff. Defendant Tobler testified by deposition. Having considered the evidence produced at trial and having observed the demeanor of the live witnesses and considered the credibility of all, the court hereby enters in memorandum form its findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).
The central events in this case took place on February 17, 1984 in the HCADC where Cecil Lee Williams was incarcerated. It is not clear in the record whether Williams' status was that of pretrial detainee or convicted felon at the time.
A. Claims Against Deputies Tobler and Catapano
On February 17, 1984, a voice on the loudspeaker, which Williams believed to be that of defendant Tobler, instructed Williams to "roll it up" to move. Williams had not expected to move, but followed the instructions and rolled his belongings in his bed sheet. He then had a long wait before Tobler arrived. On the way from his cell, Williams dropped some items from his roll and stopped to retrieve them up. Tobler picked up several and dropped them into a trash can. They went on to the mattress room where Williams left his mattress and then followed Tobler to the elevator. Tobler clamped down very tightly on Williams' handcuffs as they stepped into the elevator. They went up to the fifth floor where Williams saw and greeted Deputy Green. Williams and Green testified that they had always had a cordial relationship.
Williams and Tobler proceeded to the fifth floor mattress room so that Williams could pick up a new mattress. Williams asked Tobler to loosen his cuffs or help him place the mattress over his shoulder. Tobler motioned for him to bring his hands forward. Instead of removing or loosening the cuffs, however, Tobler called Williams a "black nigger" and hit him over the left eye. Tobler took several more swings. Williams backed away and yelled for help. Tobler began to choke Williams from behind and forced him to the ground where Tobler continued to hit him.
On the basis of all the evidence, the court credits Williams' account of these events. The court infers from the evidence that Williams was annoyed by his long wait for Tobler to arrive and expressed his annoyance to Tobler in some manner. There is no credible evidence that Williams threatened Tobler in any way, however, and the court finds that Tobler initiated the physical struggle.
Tobler and Catapano then escorted Williams to a new area on the fifth floor. Once in the cell,
Williams asked Catapano to see a sergeant, and Sergeant Lenox came after some time to discuss the incident. At Lenox's direction, Catapano took Williams to see Nurse Jacqueline Lindskoog. The testimony differs about the nature and extent of Williams' injuries. Williams testified that he suffered pain, bruises, cuts, and bleeding. Tobler testified that Williams was wholly uninjured, but the other witnesses' testimony is consistent with the fact of injury. Photographs taken by Crime Lab personnel on February 17 show a number of bruises and swellings on Williams' body and are generally consistent with his testimony. The court finds that Williams suffered bruises, contusions, swelling, and considerable pain, but no permanent physical injury.
The Fourteenth Amendment protects pretrial detainees' "liberty interest in freedom from punishment through bodily injury." Putnam v. Gerloff, 639 F.2d 415, 420 (8th Cir.1981). Under a due process analysis, a pretrial detainee may "recover for excessive use of force ... if the degree of force used was unreasonable under the circumstances, or if the force was used for an improper purpose." Patzner v. Burkett, 779 F.2d 1363 (8th Cir.1985). While "[d]ue process requires that a pretrial detainee not be punished, [a] sentenced inmate ...
The Eighth Amendment requires that imprisonment comport with "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102, 97 S.Ct. 285, 290, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) (citation omitted). It prohibits the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2399, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981); Martin v. White, 742 F.2d 469, 474 (8th Cir.1984).
Plaintiff's status on February 17, 1984 is not clear from the record, but under either the due process or the Eighth Amendment standard, plaintiff is entitled to judgment against defendant Tobler. See Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 97 S.Ct. 1401, 51 L.Ed.2d 711 (1977). Tobler violated Williams' constitutional rights by using unreasonable force and intentionally inflicting unnecessary pain. Jailers have a difficult and responsible job, but in our constitutional system, they may not misuse their power over prisoners. In light of Tobler's intentional violation of Williams' constitutional rights and the injuries he inflicted, he should be liable to Williams in the amount of $5000 in damages. Plaintiff is also entitled to reasonable costs and attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Plaintiff also seeks punitive damages. The court may award punitive damages "when the defendant's conduct is shown to be motivated by evil motive or intent, or when it involves reckless or callous indifference to the federally protected rights of others." Smith v. Wade, 461 U.S. 30, 56, 103 S.Ct. 1625, 1640, 75 L.Ed.2d 632 (1983). After weighing all the evidence, the court finds that Tobler acted with evil intent and reckless disregard to Williams' constitutional rights. Williams is therefore entitled to punitive damages. Under all the circumstances, an award of punitive damages in the amount of $1000 is appropriate.
B. Claims Against Defendant Moran
Williams seeks damages against defendant Moran for failing to train, supervise, and control his subordinates, permitting them to abuse minority group inmates verbally and physically, and for taking no disciplinary action in response to Williams' beating. He asserted that racially motivated abuse and violence were rife at HCADC and that Moran tolerated racist comments and actions. The majority of the inmates at HCADC were black,
Captain Moran became aware of the February 17 incident through routine incident reports, but did not perform or order any separate investigation.
A § 1983 plaintiff cannot shift the responsibility for injuries to the wrongdoer's supervisors on a theory of respondeat superior, but can prevail against a supervisor who causes plaintiff's injuries by breaching a duty to train, supervise, or control subordinates. See, e.g., Hahn v. McLey, 737 F.2d 771, 773 (8th Cir.1984) (per curiam). Plaintiff's testimony about other beatings or racial incidents in the jail was vague and conclusory. Plaintiff has not shown that Moran breached any duty to train or supervise his subordinates or that he had any knowledge of any abuses in the jail. While a more thorough investigation of the incident on February 17 would have been preferable, Moran's failure to conduct one did not injure plaintiff or rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
C. Claims for Injunctive Relief
Finally, plaintiff seeks to enjoin defendants from abusing prisoners in their custody and to require an inquiry into abuse of HCADC prisoners. These claims for injunctive relief are moot because Williams is no longer an HCADC prisoner. See, e.g., Watts v. Brewer, 588 F.2d 646, 648 (8th Cir.1978).
Plaintiff Cecil Williams was committed to the care and custody of the HCADC and its officials. While incarcerated, Williams was beaten and injured by a jailer without justification. This entitles him to judgment against that officer, but plaintiff has not proven his claims against the other defendants.
Accordingly, based upon the above and all the files, records, and proceedings herein,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that
1. Plaintiff is entitled to his costs and judgment against defendant Steven J. Tobler in the amount of $5000 actual or compensatory damages and $1000 punitive damages for violating plaintiff's constitutional rights.
2. Plaintiff is not entitled to relief against defendants Allan A. Moran or Salvatore A. Catapano, and the claims against them are dismissed with prejudice.
3. Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief are dismissed as moot.
4. Any application for attorney's fees must be made within thirty days, pursuant to D.Minn.R. 6 and 4D.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
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