The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle
This matter is before the Court upon the motion of Defendants Lt. M. Hendricks, Sgt. Michael Kelly, and Chief Sheriff Frank Balles (improperly plead as "Ballas") for summary judgment. [Docket Item 20.] The Plaintiff has filed opposition to this motion. [Docket Item 21.] For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss the complaint as to Defendants Lt. M. Hendricks, Sgt. Michael Kelly, and Chief Sheriff Frank Balles. The court will also dismiss the remainder of Plaintiff's complaint with leave to amend.
The Plaintiff Aramis Stuckman, a pretrial detainee in the Atlantic County Justice Facility, filed a complaint against Defendants Lt. M. Hendricks, Sgt. Michael Kelly, and Chief Sheriff Frank Balles (collectively "Defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Docket Item 1.] The Court construes this Complaint as asserting a claim against Defendants and the Atlantic County Justice Facility staff for failure to protect Plaintiff from assault by other prisoners, allegedly in violation of Plaintiff's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
The Plaintiff alleges the Defendants failed to protect him from assault by another inmate while Plaintiff was waiting for a criminal hearing in the Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse holding cell. [Docket Item 1.]
The Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Atlantic County Justice Facility on March 17, 2010 based upon criminal charges involving two counts of robbery, one count of aggravated assault, two counts of possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and one count of conspiracy and robbery. His co-defendant in these charges was Darnell Dumpson, who was also incarcerated in the Atlantic County Justice Facility. Dumpson and Plaintiff were involved in an altercation on March 21, 2010, shortly after being detained. (Defs.' Ex. C, March 21, 2010 Disciplinary Report.) After the March 21, 2010 altercation, the Atlantic County Correctional Facility issued a keep separate status regarding Dumpson and Plaintiff. (Defs.' Ex. D., Keep Separate Status.)
On the day in question, August 27, 2010, Plaintiff and Dumpson were transported from the correctional facility to the Atlantic County Criminal Courthouse along with 32 other inmates. (Defs.' Ex. F.) The list of inmates was provided to the Sheriff's Department and it is noted on the list that Plaintiff and Dumpson should be kept separate. (Defs.' Ex. F.) Officer Brian Deveney briefed the Sheriff's Officers with regard to the no contact information on the list and specifically told Sheriff Officer Breder that Plaintiff and Dumpson were to be kept separate. (Defs.' Ex. G.)
Plaintiff and Dumpson were transported to the courthouse in separate vehicles and placed in separate cells when they arrived. (Defs.' Exs. H and I.) Dumpson was then moved to the interview room. When it was time to move Dumpson out of the interview room, Sheriff's Officer Gustafson removed Dumpson and put him back into the holding cell with Plaintiff. (Defs.' Ex. J.) Gustafson was not aware of the keep separate order between Dumpson and Plaintiff. (Defs. Ex. J.) Approximately fifteen minutes later, Dumpson slipped out of his waist shackles and assaulted the Plaintiff in the holding cell. (Defs.' Ex. J.)
Sheriff's Officer Barton responded to a request for help from Gustafson and found the Plaintiff bleeding from the back of his head. The two inmates were secured in separate cells and an ambulance was called for the Plaintiff. (Defs.' Ex. K.) The Plaintiff was treated for a minor laceration located near his left eyebrow and a half inch laceration on his scalp over his left ear that was secured with two staples. (Defs.' Ex. N.)
The Plaintiff then filed the instant law suit against Defendants and Atlantic County Justice Facility Staff alleging failure to protect in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.
[Docket Item 1.] The Plaintiff did not name Officer Gustafson as a Defendant; however, the Plaintiff named "Unknown Sheriff John Doe" as a placeholder for the deputy sheriff who opened the door.*fn2
In his deposition, the Plaintiff testified that he sued Defendant Lt. Hendricks because "[h]e is classification department, and he is supposed to notify the sheriff's officer that me and Darnell Dumpson was on a keep separate. Did he notify them? I don't know, but the reason I didn't think that they notified him is why - we shouldn't have been in the same holding cell together." (Defs. Ex. B, Deposition of Aramis Stuckman, "Stuckman Dep.," at 80:24-81:5.) The Plaintiff testified that he did not think he saw Lt. Hendricks on the day of the incident. (Stuckman Dep. at ...