to S.C. Reporter 1/5/18
Christian White, #A301-910, Grafton Correctional Institution,
Stacy L. Hannan Assistant Attorney General
DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE
PETERSON, Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody and control of defendant,
brought this action alleging that defendant's corrections
officers used excessive force on him causing injury. The
issues of liability and damages were bifurcated and the case
proceeded to trial on the issue of liability.
At trial, plaintiff testified that on the day of the
incident, he was assigned to the B6 unit. According to
plaintiff, he was at a table playing cards with other inmates
when corrections officer Brooke Hassen approached the table.
Plaintiff related that Hassen questioned the inmates at the
table regarding who said a derogatory remark but that no one
at the table had made any remark. Plaintiff testified that
when Hassen returned 10 minutes later, the group of inmates
"brushed her off and questioned why she was bothering
them. Plaintiff reported that Hassen subsequently left.
Plaintiff testified that several hours later corrections
officer Dan O'Flaherty escorted him to captain Lloyd
Brownlee's office. According to plaintiff, after arriving
at the captain's office, Brownlee asked Hassen whether
plaintiff was the inmate who had "disrespected"
her, but Hassen was "indecisive" and
"unsure." Plaintiff testified that Brownlee
subsequently ordered him to "get on the wall, "
which means to face the wall, place his hands above his head
on the wall, and prepare to be handcuffed, whereupon
plaintiff asked why he was going to segregation even though
he did not do anything wrong. Plaintiff acknowledged that
Brownlee again ordered him to face the wall at which point he
complied. Plaintiff reports that O'Flaherty grabbed his
hands and cuffed him after which plaintiff turned his head
around, looked over his shoulder, and complained that he was
being sent to segregation despite Hassen being unable to
identify plaintiff as the inmate who had disrespected her.
Plaintiff testified that Brownlee thereafter jumped out of
his chair and pushed his head back up against the wall.
Plaintiff testified that he suffered a cut above his eye and
that he was subsequently escorted to medical where he
received treatment. Plaintiff added, however, that he
continued to be upset and that he requested that the cameras
in the area of where the event occurred be reviewed.
Plaintiff further added that while he was in segregation,
Brownlee told him that he would be a witness to the events
and that he would say that Hassen was "indecisive"
regarding the identification of the inmate who made the
Brooke Hassen testified that she has been a corrections
officer at Grafton Correctional Institution for two years and
that she held that same position on January 18, 2016, the
date of the events giving rise to plaintiffs claim. Hassen
testified that on that date she discovered that a group of
inmates, including plaintiff, were at a table gambling and
trading commissary. Hassen reported that she approached the
table and asked the inmates what they were doing. According
to Hassen, plaintiff told her to mind her own business and
then added that she was mad because nobody was paying
attention to her. Hassen reported that plaintiff also told
her to "go back to your desk, bitch." Hassen stated
that she thereafter went to Brownlee's office to review
camera footage and verify plaintiffs identity.
Hassen testified that O'Flaherty escorted plaintiff to
Brownlee's office. According to Hassen, after plaintiff
arrived, she told Brownlee that plaintiff had disrespected
her. Hassen testified that Brownlee ordered plaintiff to
prepare to be handcuffed and that plaintiff, who did not
immediately comply, was very upset. Hassen stated that
plaintiff eventually complied, after several direct orders,
and placed his hands on the wall above his head with his back
toward the group. Hassen testified that plaintiff
subsequently attempted to push himself off the wall and turn
to face the group. Hassen asserted that Brownlee placed his
hand on plaintiffs arm and pushed him back to the wall.
Hassen reports that plaintiff thereafter complied with their
orders. Hassen completed an incident report regarding the
Dan O'Flaherty testified that he has been a corrections
officer for four years. O'Flaherty stated that he was
ordered by Brownlee to escort plaintiff to his office and
that plaintiff seemed upset while he was being escorted.
According to O'Flaherty, Brownlee attempted to hear
plaintiffs side of the story regarding the incident described
above, but plaintiff was argumentative. As a result, Brownlee
determined that plaintiff needed to be placed in segregation,
at which point, Brownlee gave plaintiff a direct order to get
on the wall. O'Flaherty testified that after three direct
orders, plaintiff complied. O'Flaherty asserted that
while plaintiff was facing the wall and while he was
attempting to place handcuffs on him, plaintiff attempted to
push himself off the wall and spin around. O'Flaherty
added that plaintiff was not handcuffed at that time and that
he only controlled one hand. O'Flaherty testified that
Brownlee assisted in controlling plaintiff by using reactive
force and taking control of plaintiffs other hand; plaintiff
was subsequently handcuffed. O'Flaherty stated that
thereafter plaintiff was bleeding from the forehead and, as a
result, escorted to medical. O'Flaherty completed both an
incident report and a conduct report regarding the event.
Lloyd Brownlee testified that he has worked as a correctional
captain at Grafton Correctional Institution for the previous
20 years. Brownlee recalled that on January 18, 2016, he
directed O'Flaherty to escort plaintiff to his office due
to a derogatory comment plaintiff made to Hassen. Brownlee
testified that when plaintiff arrived, he confronted
plaintiff about calling Hassen a bitch. Brownlee reported
that plaintiff was not loud or violent but continued to
argue. Brownlee testified that he ordered plaintiff to get on
the wall. According to Brownlee, while O'Flaherty was
applying the handcuffs, plaintiff attempted to push himself
away from the wall. Brownlee testified that he got up out of
his chair and pushed plaintiff back to the wall. Brownlee
added that he noticed a cut above plaintiffs eye after the
incident. Brownlee denied touching plaintiffs head and did
not know how plaintiff cut his head.
Corrections officer Bernard Johnson testified that he
witnessed the exchange between plaintiff and Hassen that
occurred on January 18, 2016. According to Johnson, plaintiff
was playing cards when Hassen went to the table because she
thought someone made a derogatory comment to her. Johnson
asserted that plaintiff told her that nobody said anything to
her. Johnson reported that Hassen left and thereafter
returned and again inquired about the comment at which point
plaintiff flung his identification across the table and said
that she was simply mad because no one was paying attention
to her. Johnson testified that plaintiff was escorted to
Brownlee's office 10 minutes later.
"To recover on a negligence claim, a plaintiff must
prove by a preponderance of the evidence (1) that a defendant
owed the plaintiff a duty, (2) that a defendant breached that
duty, and (3) that the breach of the duty proximately caused
a plaintiffs injury." Ford v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab.
& Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 05AP-357,
2006-Ohio-2531, ¶ 10. "Ohio law imposes a duty of
reasonable care upon the state to provide for its
prisoners' health, care, and well-being." Ensman
v. Ohio Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin
No. 06AP-592, 2006-Ohio-6788, ¶ 5.
In addition to stating a claim for negligence, allegations of
unnecessary or excessive force being used against an inmate
may state a claim for battery. Brown v. Dept. of Rehab.
& Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No. 13AP-804,
2014-Ohio-1810, ¶ 13. "To prove battery, the
plaintiff must prove that the intentional contact by the
defendant was harmful or offensive." Miller v. Ohio
Dept. of Rehab. & Corr., 10th Dist. Franklin No.
12AP-12, 2012-Ohio-3382, ¶ 11. "A defendant may
defeat a battery claim by establishing a ...