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Crosby v. Strafford County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, District of New Hampshire

September 5, 2014

Christopher Crosby
v.
Strafford County Department of Corrections, Correction Officer Leonard Nadeau, Correction Officer Joseph Darko-Meusha, Correction Officer Brent Chapel, Correction Officer David Baggs, Lt. Donna Roy, Sgt. Edward McGowen, Cpl. Gary Cormier, and Jacob Braley Opinion Opinion No. 2014 DNH 182

JACOB BRALEY, PRO SE

JACOB JOHN BRIAN MARVELLEY, ESQ.

DANIEL J. MULLEN, ESQ.

ROBERT A. SHAINES, ESQ.

ORDER

LANDYA MCCAFFERTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff is a former pre-trial detainee at the Strafford County House of Corrections (“SCHOC”). He has sued nine defendants in eight counts, asserting three federal and five state claims, all arising out of a beating he received from Jacob Braley, a fellow inmate at the SCHOC. Before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by all defendants other than: (1) Sgt. Edward McGowen, who appears never to have been served; and (2) Jacob Braley. Specifically, the movants seek summary judgment on plaintiff’s federal claims and ask the court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state-law claims. Plaintiff objects. For the reasons that follow, summary judgment is granted. The court, however, retains jurisdiction over plaintiff’s state-law claims.

Summary Judgment Standard

“Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Ponte v. Steelcase Inc. , 741 F.3d 310, 319 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Cortés–Rivera v. Dept. of Corr., 626 F.3d 21, 26 (1st Cir. 2010)); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must “view[] the entire record ‘in the light most hospitable to the party opposing summary judgment, indulging all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.’” Winslow v. Aroostook Cnty., 736 F.3d 23, 29 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Suarez v. Pueblo Int’l, Inc., 229 F.3d 49, 53 (1st Cir. 2000)).

“The nonmovant may defeat a summary judgment motion by demonstrating, through submissions of evidentiary quality, that a trial worthy issue persists.” Sánchez-Rodríguez v. AT&T Mobility P.R., Inc., 673 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2012) (quoting Iverson v. City of Boston, 452 F.3d 94, 98 (1st Cir. 2006)). Thus, “[c]onclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation, are insufficient to establish a genuine dispute of fact.” Travers v. Flight Servs. & Sys., Inc., 737 F.3d 144, 146 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Triangle Trading Co. v. Robroy Indus., Inc., 200 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 1999)). “Rather, the party seeking to avoid summary judgment must be able to point to specific, competent evidence to support his [or her] claim.” Sánchez-Rodríguez, 673 F.3d at 9 (quoting Soto-Ocasio v. Fed. Ex. Corp., 150 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 1998)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Background

Unless otherwise indicated, the facts recited in this section are undisputed.

Christopher Crosby entered the SCHOC on September 13, 2011, as a pre-trial detainee. He was housed in the protective-custody unit. Between September 24 and September 28, Braley told Crosby that “he would kick [Crosby’s] butt . . . but . . . he was afraid [that Crosby would] tell on him.” Defs.’ Mem. of Law, Ex. A (doc. no. 30-2), Crosby Dep. 34:7-9, Mar. 10, 2004. In his deposition, Crosby testified that this was the only threat that Braley ever made against him prior to the incident that gives rise to this suit. See Id. at 35:3-6. Between September 13 and October 20, 2011, various other inmates also made threats against Crosby and harassed him, in ways that are not well specified in Crosby’s complaint or in the summary-judgment record. There is evidence to suggest that the animosity toward Crosby was based upon the other inmates’ perception of him as a sex offender. Crosby made oral reports of the threats and harassment to most of the correction officer defendants.[1] Some or all of them responded by telling Crosby that there was nothing they could do unless they witnessed the conduct that Crosby was complaining about.

At some point before October 20, Crosby directed an inmate request slip to the jail’s classification officer, David Baggs, complaining about threats and harassment by various inmates. In response, Officer Baggs spoke with Crosby. Shortly thereafter, Officer Baggs “came to the pod and he announced that if . . . the harassment and the threats on the pod . . . didn’t stop, that there was going to be some type of punishment.” Crosby Dep. 67:7-12. However, according to Crosby, Officer Baggs “didn’t mention any names or anything.” Id. at 67:8-9.

On October 20, while Crosby was playing basketball with Braley, Braley initiated a physical confrontation that resulted in a variety of injuries to Crosby.[2] Crosby described the events leading up to his assault this way:

I was winning. And then [Braley] scored 1 after that. And then . . . I scored the next 2. On the sixth basket, he said . . . “Crosby, if you make this next basket, I am going to choke you out.”

Id. at 76:1-5. In his affidavit, Crosby describes the genesis of Braley’s actions in the following way:

Officer Baggs’ announcement had the effect of informing the entire pod that I had reported the threats and harassment. That announcement made the threats and harassment worse. Within a week of Baggs’ announcement, Braley assaulted me. Since the threats and harassment got worse after Officer Baggs’ announcement, resulting in Braley’s assault, I believe Baggs’ announcement contributed to the assault.
I was afraid to ask for help from SCHOC after the beating because, when I made a report to Officer Baggs, he made an announcement that worsened the threats and ...

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