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Bates v. Shostak

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

November 3, 2017

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

          Barrett, 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 or about February 12, 2015.[1] On August 21, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, to which Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. The undersigned now recommends that Defendants' motion be GRANTED.

         I. Background[2]

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he was seriously injured by four Defendant officers (Shostak, Dunn, Back and Wilson), during a time when Plaintiff was being housed on a residential treatment unit for inmates with mental health issues. The incident began with a verbal altercation between Plaintiff and Defendant Shostak, who was outside Plaintiff's cell. 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 used excessive force including smashing his head against a glass door in a hallway en route to Inmate Health Services (“IHS”), and that Defendant Back later tightened his handcuffs to the point where Plaintiff's circulation was cut off. Plaintiff also alleges that one or more of the officers used excessive force against him out of camera's view, while Plaintiff was in IHS.

         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 all four officers applied excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment, and/or are liable 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. Plaintiff alleges that he was transported to the hospital after he lost consciousness, where he alleges that 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 has had to undergo speech therapy three times per week as a result. (Doc. 3 at 8).

         Prior to initiating this federal lawsuit, on May 1, 2015, Plaintiff filed suit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in the Ohio Court of Claims. (See generally Doc. 30-12, docket sheet at 1). The state court granted summary judgment to the Defendants on February 12, 2016. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a late notice of appeal. On April 20, 2016, the Ohio Court of Appeals denied Plaintiff leave to file a delayed appeal and dismissed the appeal sua sponte. Following the dismissal of his state court appeal, on May 9, 2016, Plaintiff initiated suit in this Court.

         The existence of the prior state court lawsuit was not disclosed to this Court by Plaintiff. (See Doc 1-1 at 2, responding “No” to a question asking if Plaintiff has begun other lawsuits in state or federal court dealing with the same facts involved in this action or otherwise relating to his imprisonment). Having discovered the prior proceeding, Defendants rely upon the prior state court judgment as a basis for granting judgment in this case.

         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. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendants first argue that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on procedural grounds, because: (1) this Court lacks jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (2) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel; and (3) Plaintiff has waived his right to sue in federal court under the Leaman doctrine. To the extent that the Court does not rule in their favor on procedural grounds, Defendants alternatively argue in favor of summary judgment on the merits, arguing that no Defendant violated Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; and that all Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.

         Plaintiff's response in opposition to Defendants' motion maintains that genuine issues of material fact exist that preclude entry of judgment in Defendants' favor on either qualified immunity or the underlying Eighth Amendment clams. However, Plaintiff has failed to address any of the first three arguments, all of which are based upon the existence of the prior state court judgment. Although two of Defendants' procedural arguments are unconvincing, the undersigned finds one of Defendants' procedural arguments to be dispositive.

         1. The Rooker-Feldman ...

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