United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are two motions for summary judgment. The first is
the motion of defendant Jeremy Everett
(“Everett”). (Doc. No. 46. [“Everett
Mot.”].) Plaintiff Thomas Phelps (“Phelps”)
opposed the motion (Doc. No. 54 [“Opp'n Everett
Mot.”]), and Everett filed a reply (Doc. No. 55
[“Reply Everett Mot.”]). The second is the motion
of defendants Tuscarawas County (Tuscarawas County
Commissioners) (“Tuscarawas County”), Sheriff
Walter Wilson (“Wilson”), and Officer Vonda
Hamilton (“Hamilton”) (collectively
“Tuscarawas County defendants”). (Doc. No. 47
[“Tusc. Cty. Mot.”].) Phelps opposed the motion
(Doc. No. 53 [“Opp'n Tusc. Cty. Mot.”]), and
the Tuscarawas County defendants filed a reply (Doc. No. 56
[“Reply Tusc. Cty. Mot.”]).
reasons that follow, defendants' motions are granted.
the background facts of this case are not in dispute. Wilson
was the Tuscarawas County Sheriff at the time of the events
at issue,  and Everett was the administrator of the
Tuscarawas County Jail. (Doc. No. 46-1 (Affidavit of Jeremy
Everett [“Everett Aff.”]) ¶ 1.) As
administrator, Everett directed the day-to-day operations of
the jail, including responding to emergency situations.
(Id.) Hamilton was an employee of the Tuscarawas
County Sheriff's Department at all relevant times. (Doc.
No. 47-4 (Deposition of Vonda Hamilton [“Hamilton
Dep.”]) at 316 (5).) The specific events at issue in
this case occurred on August 19, 2014, but defendants'
interactions with Phelps prior to that date are relevant.
2014 - August 18, 2014
summer of 2014, Phelps was incarcerated at the jail as a
pretrial detainee because of domestic violence allegations.
(See Doc. No. 61 (Deposition of Thomas Phelps [“Phelps
Dep.”]) at 896; Doc. No. 54-1 at 485; Doc. No. 60
(Deposition of Nicole Peters [“Peters Dep.”]) at
751.) The parties do not dispute that, at the jail on June
20, 2014, Phelps deliberately banged his head so hard that he
cut it and was transported to Union Hospital to repair the
cut. Nor do they dispute that, while being transported back
to the jail from the hospital, Phelps banged his head against
the window of the cruiser so hard that he reopened the
repaired cut and broke the window. Phelps was returned to the
hospital and thereafter admitted to Heartland Behavioral
Health Care Center (“Heartland”). (Opp'n
Everett Mot. at 464; Everett Mot. at 234; Doc. No. 54-1 at
484; Doc. No. 54-5 at 581.) A nursing note from that day
states that Phelps “[w]ill probably be placed on
suicide watch here unless we can get Rx's that are
current for inmate.'” (Opp'n Everett Mot. at
464-65, citing exhibits 1 and 5; Doc. No. 54-1 at 490.)
14, 2014, Phelps harmed himself again at the jail by banging
his head, and was transported to the hospital and then to
Heartland. (See Phelps Dep. at 940; Opp'n Everett Mot. at
465.) On July 17, 2014, Phelps was discharged from Heartland
and transported back to the jail. (Everett Aff. ¶ 3;
Opp'n Everett Mot. at 465.) When Phelps was discharged,
he reported as not being suicidal and ready to return to
jail. Heartland found him to be stabilized and ready for
discharge with “regular checks” and prescribed
medication. (Doc. No. 55-1 at 592.)
understood from Heartland that Phelps was self-injurious
because of problems with his girlfriend and because he was
incarcerated, not because he wanted to kill himself. (Everett
Aff. ¶¶ 3, 6, 7; Doc. No. 55-1 at 592-93.) While
Heartland did not find Phelps to be suicidal, he was
diagnosed with a No. of mental disorders. (See Doc. No.
54-2 at 534; Phelps Dep. at 946-47.)) Phelps has not provided
any expert evidence disputing Heartland's assessment that
Phelps was not suicidal when he was discharged from Heartland
on July 17, 2014.
considered Heartland's assessment of Phelps' mental
health and decided not to house Phelps in the general
population or place him on suicide watch. Rather, Everett
determined to house Phelps in the classification unit where
he could be observed more closely than the general population
and maximum security area because there is direct visual
observation by the booking desk and by officers on regular
rounds. (Everett Aff. ¶¶ 4-7; Hamilton Dep. at 318
(15)); Milburn Dep. at 682 (45) (The classification unit is
“pretty much a place where you go and they can view
you, make sure that you ain't going to hurt
Phelps returned to the jail on July 17, 2014, the staff
administered his daily medications, which were adjusted as
necessary in consultation with the doctor. For example,
Phelps visited the jail clinic on July 24, 2014 stating that
he felt depressed, and his medication was adjusted. (See Doc.
No. 46-2 (Affidavit of Nicole Peters [“Peters
Aff.”]) ¶¶ 5-7; see also Everett Mot. at 235,
237 (dosage of Wellbutrin increased); Peters Dep. at 779.)
During the time period from July 17, 2014 through August 18,
2014, Phelps received both medical and mental health care,
was apparently doing well overall, and did not convey to the
jail staff any thoughts of injuring himself or of suicidal
ideation. (Peters Aff. ¶¶ 3-8; Everett Aff.
¶¶ 8-12.) Phelps does not contend that, during this
time period, he conveyed to defendants or jail staff any
thoughts of harming or killing himself. Indeed, Phelps
described his mood as fair and that he was coping in the days
leading up to August 19, 2014. (Phelps Dep. at 899-900.)
visited with Phelps on August 18, 2014 concerning Phelps'
complaints of pain possibly related to a hernia operation.
Everett found Phelps to be lucid, and Phelps provided Everett
with his medical history and signed an authorization so that
Everett could obtain his medical records. Phelps made no
mention to Everett of depression or thoughts of harming
himself. (Everett Aff. ¶¶ 8-12.) Phelps does not
dispute Everett's impression of Phelps' mental state
on August 18, 2014, or dispute that he did not communicate
any thoughts of self-harm to Everett during that visit.
August 19, 2014, Phelps was housed in the jail's
classification unit where he had been since July 17, 2014.
Hamilton was on duty at the booking desk. An intercom system
connects the classification unit with booking. (Hamilton Dep.
at 318 (16).)
maintains that, on August 19, 2014, he pressed the intercom
button and made multiple requests to Hamilton over the
intercom to “see mental health.” (Phelps Dep. at
901-02, 909, 913-14.) According to Phelps, Hamilton told him
to sit down and deal with it. (Id. at 910.) Phelps
also contends that he spoke with the individual who
distributed morning medications about seeing mental health,
and was told to send a kite, which Phelps admittedly did not
do. (Id. at 911-12.) Two individuals in the
classification unit with Phelps that morning,
Milburn and Richard Jamerson, also maintain that
Phelps requested to see mental health using the intercom, but
Phelps did not say he wanted to kill himself (Milburn Dep. at
675 (15-17); Doc No. 58 (Deposition of Richard Jamerson
[“Jamerson Dep.”]) at 629-31) or hurt himself.
(Jamerson Dep. at 631 (28)). According to Milburn, when
Everett walked by the classification unit, Phelps told
Everett that he needed to talk with someone before he did
“something stupid” but Everett told him it was
“not my problem” and went to the booking area.
(Milburn Dep. at 674 (11).)
states that she was not aware that anyone in the
classification unit rang the intercom on August 19, and did
not know that there was an issue with Phelps until another
inmate in that unit began pounding on the
windows. At that time, Hamilton was at the booking
counter talking to a probation officer from municipal court.
When Hamilton heard the pounding, she walked over to the
booking door and could see that Phelps had taken the TV off
the wall, broken it, and had cut his arm with a piece of
glass. Prior to hearing the pounding, Hamilton was not aware,
and did not hear Phelps say, that he needed to talk with
someone or that he was losing control. (Hamilton Dep. at
318-19 (16-21).) Jamerson estimates that about 10-15 minutes
elapsed from the time Phelps first pressed the intercom
button and when he removed the TV from the wall. (Jamerson
Dep. at 630 (24-25).) Phelps is uncertain about the time
frame of the events of August 19. (See Phelps Dep.
must on summary judgment, the Court will view the evidence on
this disputed issue in favor of Phelps. But, even assuming
that Phelps requested to see mental health that morning and
Hamilton heard his request, Phelps concedes that he
“didn't say [he] was going to kill
[him]self.” (Id. at 949-50 (The [o]nly time I
said that is when Everett escalated the situation where I
told him I was going to cut my head off and he stated back .
. . do what you gotta do. Do what you gotta do, you're
nothing but paperwork.”); see also Milburn
Dep. at 675 (17) (“He didn't say that he was going
to kill himself. He just said he wanted to talk to
is no dispute that an emergency presented itself when Phelps
removed the TV from the wall and began cutting himself. When
Hamilton saw that Phelps had cut his arm, she called for
help. (Hamilton Dep. at 319 (20).) Jail personnel began
arriving on the scene, and Peters was one of the first to
arrive. When she arrived, Phelps was holding a piece of glass
in his hand and had already cut his arm. (Peters Aff.
¶¶ 1, 9.) Peters tried to calm Phelps by talking
with him through the open food pass chute in the cell door
and asked him to put the glass down. (Peters Dep. at 724-28.)
Peters believed Phelps to be suicidal at that time based on
his conduct. (Id. at 757-58.) When Everett arrived,
he kicked the food chute closed to protect Peters from Phelps
cutting Peters with glass by reaching through the open chute.
(Everett Aff. at ¶¶ 17-18.) While Everett's
action agitated Phelps, Phelps has advanced no evidence
raising a genuine dispute of fact that Everett closed the
food chute to protect Peters.
parties dispute whether words were exchanged between Phelps
and Everett at this time. According to Phelps, when Everett
“escalated” the situation by kicking the chute
closed Phelps told Everett “I'm going to cut my
head off and [Everett] says, do what you gotta do.”
(Phelps Dep. at 919.) Jamerson testified that at some point
Everett asked Phelps what he was trying to do and Phelps
replied that he was trying to kill himself, to which Everett
responded “then do what you got to do[, ]” and
Milburn provided similar testimony. (Jamerson Dep. at 630 (23,
24); see Milburn Dep. at 674-75 (11-13).) Everett
denies that he made any such statements. (Everett Aff. ¶
24.) To the extent that this dispute is material, the Court
concludes that a reasonable juror could find that Everett
made the statements at issue.
does not dispute that, after Everett kicked the food chute
closed, which agitated Phelps, Peters kept talking to Phelps
and succeeded in quickly calming him down again. (Peters Aff.
¶¶ 10-11.) The other inmates in the classification
unit were ordered to lock down, and Everett ordered jail
personnel to don their personal protective equipment. There
is no dispute that Phelps was ordered to lay down on the
floor and that he voluntarily complied. Phelps was handcuffed
and removed from the classification unit. (Everett Aff.
¶¶ 19, 21-22; Phelps Dep. at 932-33; Peters Aff.
claims that he was maced and “dragged” to a
holding cell, did not receive treatment, and was held down on
the bed until a decision was made as to whether he would be
transported to the hospital by jail personnel or by
ambulance. (Phelps Dep. at 920-21; 932-34.) But the jail
video provided by Everett as Attachment 3 to his reply in
support of the motion (and Everett's explanatory
supplemental affidavit) plainly shows Phelps calmly walking
(not being dragged) from the classification unit and then
seated on a bed and provided with medical attention. (Doc.
No. 57; Doc. No. 55-2 (Supplemental Affidavit of Everett
[“Supp. Everett Aff.”]) ¶¶ 9-16.) Thus,
the Court does not credit Phelps' testimony in this
wounds were not life-threatening, and they were cleaned and
bandaged at the jail before Phelps was transported to the
hospital. (See Peters Aff. ¶ 14.) Phelps has
provided no evidence that the cuts he inflicted upon himself
were life threatening, and his injuries do not appear so on
the video of those events. (See Doc. No. 57.) After
Phelps was secured and receiving medical attention, but
before he was transported to the hospital, he told Peters
that he wanted to die. (Peters Dep. at 757.) After medical
treatment, Phelps was again taken to Heartland. Heartland
records from August 20, 2014 describe Phelps' chief
complaint as “I broke the TV, took the glass and cut my
neck and hand. I want to kill myself.” (Doc. No. 54-2
complaint and defendants' motions
complaint, Phelps alleges that he was known by defendants to
be self-injurious from the time he entered the jail in June
2014 through the events of August 19, 2014, and that
defendants were deliberately indifferent and failed to
provide him with adequate medical care, causing him injury.
Phelps also alleges that defendants failed to have adequate
policies, procedures, and training in place to protect Phelps
from a substantial risk of harm. Phelps claims that, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, defendants' deliberate
indifference and failures violated his rights under the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution to adequate medical care and to be free from
cruel and unusual punishment. Everett and Hamilton are sued
in their individual and official capacities, and Wilson is
sued in his official capacity as Tuscarawas County Sheriff.
summary judgment, Everett argues that he is entitled to
qualified immunity with respect to Phelps' § 1983
claim that Everett violated his constitutional rights under
the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Tuscarawas County,
Wilson, and Hamilton also move for summary judgment on
Phelps' § 1983 claim, incorporate the evidence and
arguments set forth in Everett's motion, and argue that
Phelps' complaint should be dismissed for the additional
reason that Phelps fails to state a claim. (Tusc. Cty. Mot.
at 267-71.) Because the Court concludes that the defendants
are entitled to summary judgment, the Court will not address
defendants' arguments that the complaint fails to state a
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate where “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the
lawsuit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91
L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. If a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party, then summary judgment is not appropriate. Id.
moving party must provide evidence to the court that
demonstrates the absence of a genuine dispute as to any
material fact. Once the moving party meets this initial
burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific
evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106
S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson, 477
U.S. at 250. It is the nonmoving party's duty to point
out specific facts in the record that create a genuine issue
of material fact; the trial court does not have a duty to
search the record “to establish that it is bereft of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Street, 886
F.2d at 1479-80 (citing Frito-Lay, Inc. v.
Willoughby, 863 F.2d 1029, 1034 (D.C. Cir. 1988));
Fulson v. City of Columbus, 801 F.Supp. 1, 4 (S.D.
Ohio 1992) (citation omitted).
nonmoving party may oppose a summary judgment motion
“by any of the kinds of evidentiary material listed in
Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves[.]”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The Court must view all
facts and evidence, and inferences that may be reasonably
drawn therefrom, in favor of the non-moving party. United
States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 82 S.Ct.
993, 8 L.Ed.2d 176 (1962). General averments or conclusory
allegations of an affidavit do not create specific fact
disputes for summary judgment purposes. See Lujan v.
Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888-89, 110
S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990).
judgment requires that a plaintiff present more than a
scintilla of evidence to demonstrate each element of a prima
facie case.” Garza v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co., 536
F. App'x. 517, 519 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Van Gorder
v. Grand Trunk W. R.R., 509 F.3d 265, 268 (6th Cir.
2007)). “‘The mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position
will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the
jury could reasonably find for the [nonmoving
party].'” Street, 886 F.2d at 1477
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
district court's review on summary judgment is a
threshold inquiry to determine whether there is the need for
a trial due to genuine factual issues that must be resolved
by a finder of fact because those issues may reasonably be
resolved in favor of either party. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 250. That is, the Court must determine “whether
the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must ...