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Bates v. Shostak

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

May 22, 2017

ROBERT BATES, Plaintiff,
ROMAN SHOSTAK, et al., Defendants.

          Bowman, M.J.


          Stephanie K. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff, an incarcerated individual who proceeds pro se, filed suit against four individuals employed at the Warren Correctional Institution, alleging that the Defendants used excessive force against him during an incident that occurred on February 15, 2015.[1] On January 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. The Defendants filed a response in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, to which Plaintiff has filed no reply. The undersigned now recommends that Plaintiff's motion be DENIED.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he was seriously injured by the Defendant officers (Shostak, Dunn, Back and Wilson). The incident began while Plaintiff was inside his cell, with Plaintiff and Defendant Shostak (who was outside the cell) becoming engaged in a verbal altercation. At some point, Plaintiff's cell window was covered, preventing Officers from seeing Plaintiff, although the parties dispute whether Plaintiff or Defendants themselves obscured the window. As the incident progressed, Defendants Shostak and Dunn entered Plaintiff's cell and allegedly punched and maced Plaintiff, dragging him out of the cell. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Wilson “smashed my head against [a] glass door” in a hallway, and that Defendant Back later tightened his handcuffs to the point where Plaintiff's circulation was cut off.

         A copy of an institutional report entitled “Investigation Summary Report Use of Force” (“UOF report”) is attached to Plaintiff's complaint. The report generally contains witness statements, and reflects that after an initial struggle in his cell, Plaintiff was handcuffed and removed from his cell. During his escort by Officers Wilson and Hake, the report states that Inmate Bates turned toward Officer Hake, causing Officer Wilson to “quickly push[] inmate Bates through the door and into the wall past the door.” (Doc. 15 at 3). The report further states that while Inmate Bates was “struggling, ” Defendant Officer Wilson “administered a knee strike to the side of inmate Bates.” (Id.).

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the officers administered additional blows, which amounted to the excessive use of force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff alleges that all four officers are liable both for excessive force, and/or for failing to protect him from excessive force. Plaintiff further alleges that the officers falsified reports during the institutional investigation, and that he suffered serious injuries from mace and from a concussion. Plaintiff alleges that he was transported to the hospital after he lost consciousness, where he spent a week in recovery. (Doc. 3 at 13). He alleges that he continued to suffer ill effects from his purported concussion upon his return from the hospital, and had to undergo speech therapy as a result. (Doc. 3 at 8).

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A dispute is “genuine” when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A court must view the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The moving party has the burden of showing an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

         Once the moving party has met its burden of production, the non-moving party cannot rest on his pleadings, but must present significant probative evidence in support of his complaint to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248-49. The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence to support the non-moving party's position will be insufficient; the evidence must be sufficient for a jury to reasonably find in favor of the nonmoving party. Id. at 252.

         B. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

         Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment argues that there is no need to proceed to trial in his case, and that he is instead entitled to judgment against all four Defendants based upon the UOF report that is attached to both his initial complaint and his pending motion. The report concludes that specific elements of the force used during the incident were not “justified” or “appropriate under the circumstances, ” based upon the officers' failure to fully comply with institutional policies. (Doc. 15 at 8). In essence, Plaintiff's motion argues that the UOF report's Conclusion, that the force was not justified under regulatory standards, amounts to an admission that all Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights.

         The Court begins with the Conclusion section of the UOF report. After the investigator checked “no” in response to inquiries asking whether the force used was “justified” or “appropriate, ” the ...

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