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Jarrell v. National Personnel Records Center

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 23, 2013



SHARON L. OVINGTON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Suspecting that the United States Army or someone else had tampered with his military records, Plaintiff Stephen Paul Jarrell asked for, and received, a copy of his personnel file from Defendant National Personnel Records Center. He examined the file and concluded that someone had tampered with its contents.

Jarrell brings the present case pro se contending that Defendant "negligently and [/] or willfully failed in its duty to safeguard the records entrusted to it and that such failure harmed Plaintiff...." (Doc. #10, PageID at 37).

The case is presently before the Court upon Jarrell's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #18), Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #21), Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #22), Jarrell's Memorandum in Opposition (Doc. #24), Defendant's Reply (Doc. #25), Jarrell's Reply (Doc. #26), and the record as a whole.

II. Background

A. Jarrell's Military Service and Discharge

Construing the evidence of record in Jarrell's favor establishes the following.

To his credit, Jarrell enlisted in the United States Army in March 1971. After completing preliminary procedures, such as physical examinations, he reported for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Things went poorly from the start. One week after basic training began, Jarrell and a friend left Fort Jackson without leave. Upon Jarrell's return home, his family convinced him to return to basic training, and they drove him back to Fort Jackson.

Almost immediately after Jarrell arrived back at the base, his platoon leader assaulted him, pinning him to the ground and striking his head about 12 times. (Doc. #18, PageID at 97).

After the attack, Jarrell and his family members prepared written statements describing the incident and submitted their statements to the Office of the Fort Commander. Jarrell also identified his attacker to his Company Commander, Captain Eugene Neville. Later, Captain Neville took him to a room where six soldiers were assembled. None was the assailant Jarrell had previously identified to Captain Neville, and Jarrell told Captain Neville so. Captain Neville then told Jarrell that he must be confused and that the investigation was completed. (Doc. #18, PageID at 97).

On or about April 17, 1971, Jarrell's mother received a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth M. Koester, informing her:

Since your departure from Fort Jackson, Stephen has completed 2½ days of training, and appears to be adjusting well. I last talked to him today and he indicates he is getting along fine....
* * *
Investigation of the assault on Stephen is complete. The Investigating Officer took sworn testimony from many individuals in an attempt to find an eye witness to the assault. In addition, Stephen was given an opportunity to identify his assailant. Positive identification could not be made and there was insufficient evidence to substantiate who committed the assault.
I will continue to closely monitor Stephen's progress and if I may be of further assistance, please feel free to write.

(Doc. #18, PageID at 95).

Unfortunately, however, Jarrell was not doing well even though he had been assigned to a new Company. Jarrell explains, "I could no longer follow commands such as march right or left because I was just as liable to go the wrong way." Id., PageID at 97. Jarrell was also subjected to "harassment and constant intimidation" in the days following the assault. He concluded that the Army would neither properly investigate the attack nor provide him with adequate medical treatment for the injuries he sustained. Id. As a result, on April 17, 1971, Jarrell left Fort Jackson for the second time, again without leave.

Over the next six months, Jarrell did not seek medical treatment for the injuries he sustained during the attack in order to avoid arrest for being absent without leave. (Doc. #18, PageID at 98). Jarrell's strategy only worked for a while. He was arrested in October 1971 and subsequently discharged from the Army under "other than honorable conditions." (Doc. #18, PageID at 89).

Jarrell submits a copy of an Army memorandum dated November 5, 1971 that relates to the recommendation and approval of his discharge from the Army with an Undesirable Discharge Certificate. (Doc. #18, PageID at 86). According to Jarrell, the memorandum demonstrates that the Army's record of the medical ...

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