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Williams v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

June 4, 2019

Nathaniel Williams, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Na'Taun Montrell Williams, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Defendant-Appellee.

          APPEAL from the Court (Ct. of Cl. No. 2016-00125JD) of Claims of Ohio

         On brief:

          Grubb & Associates, LPA, Natalie F Grubb, and Mark E. Owens, for appellant.

          Dave Yost, Attorney General, and Christopher P. Conomy, for appellee.

         Argued:

          Natalie F Grubb.

          Christopher P. Conomy.

          DECISION

          LUPER SCHUSTER, J.

         {¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Nathaniel Williams, individually and as administrator of the estate of Na'Taun Montrell Williams, appeals from a decision and judgment entry of the Court of Claims of Ohio rendering judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC"). For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         {¶ 2} On February 22, 2016, Nathaniel refiled a complaint asserting claims of wrongful death, conscious pain prior to death, and intentional tortious conduct against ODRC. The complaint alleged ODRC was liable for Na'Taun's death at Ross Correctional Institution following an altercation with another inmate on June 27, 2011. Nathaniel is Na'Taun's father and administrator of Na'Taun's estate.

         {¶ 3} On October 12, 2016, the trial court granted ODRC's motion for partial summary judgment based on discretionary immunity on any claims based on ODRC's alleged failure to subject inmates to a metal detector when they entered the prison yard. Additionally, the trial court entered judgment in favor of ODRC on any claim arising from an alleged failure to put the prison on lockdown following a gang fight on June 26, 2011. The remaining claims then proceeded to a bifurcated trial before a magistrate on the issue of liability.

         {¶ 4} The trial before the magistrate began on October 16, 2017. The evidence at the hearing indicated that Na'Taun and another inmate, Carl Hall, had an altercation in a cell on May 24, 2011 after Na'Taun was caught in possession of alcohol and blamed Hall for tipping off the corrections officers. That altercation turned physical; Na'Taun forced Hall's head into a bedpost resulting in Hall's scalp splitting open. When asked by corrections officers how he was injured, Hall told the corrections officers he had injured himself. Though he still maintained that he injured himself, Hall changed his explanation of how he injured himself when asked by Lieutenant Joey Powers, and Powers decided to place Hall under security control in the segregation unit, suspecting that Hall had been injured in an altercation with another inmate. Lieutenant Powers prepared a security control report that he sent to the deputy warden, and he notified the supervisor of the next shift of his reasons for placing Hall in security control.

         {¶ 5} After corrections officers began to suspect that Na'Taun was involved in Hall's injury, corrections officers placed him under security control in the segregation unit. Lieutenant Powers spoke separately with Hall, Na'Taun, and another inmate, Antoine Davis, multiple times, and each time Na'Taun told Powers he had no involvement with Hall. Hall never offered any information about being injured by another inmate. Lieutenant Powers reported that neither ...


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