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Crosby v. Strafford County Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

June 2, 2015

Christopher Crosby
Strafford County Department of Corrections, Correction Officer Richard Nadeau, Correction Officer Joseph Darko-Mensha, Correction Officer Brent Chapple, Correction Officer David Baggs, Lt. Donna Roy, Cpl. Gary Cormier, and Jacob Braley. Opinion No. 2014 DNH 100


LANDYA McCAFFERTY, District Judge.

Plaintiff is a former pre-trial detainee at the Strafford County House of Corrections ("HOC"). His case now consists of three state law claims, all arising out of a beating he received from Jacob Braley, a fellow inmate. Before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by all defendants other than Braley. Plaintiff objects. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

A movant is entitled to summary judgment where he "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [that he] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In reviewing the record, the court construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Kelley v. Corr. Med. Servs., Inc., 707 F.3d 108, 115 (1st Cir. 2013).

II. Background

Cristopher Crosby became a pre-trial detainee in the HOC on September 13, 2011. At all times relevant to this matter, he was assigned to Housing Pod 1, which consists of six individual housing units plus a shared recreation yard. The inmates on Pod 1 are supervised by one or two correctional officers. Those officers are generally posted to an officers' station, called "the bubble, " which has a view of all six housing units and the recreation yard.

Crosby was housed in the same unit as Jacob Braley. Between September 24 and September 28, 2011, Braley told Crosby that "he would kick [Crosby's] ass, but he was afraid [Crosby would] tell on him." Pl.'s Mem. of Law, Shaines Aff., Ex. 1 (doc. no. 67-3), Crosby Dep. 34:8-9, Mar. 10, 2014. Crosby made one complaint about Braley's threat, directed to Correction Officer ("CO") Richard Nadeau. See Defs.' Mem of Law, Ex. A (doc. no. 66-3), Crosby Dep. 101:3-4, Mar. 10, 2014; see also id. at 103:17-20 ("I only made one complaint about Jacob Braley. And I believe that one was [to] Nadeau.").

In addition to being threatened by Braley, Crosby was harassed and/or threatened by several other inmates. Crosby directed complaints about the conduct of inmates other than Braley to CO Nadeau, CO Joseph Darko-Mensha, CO Brent Chapple, Cpl. Gary Cormier, and Lt. Donna Roy. Beyond producing evidence that he told CO Nadeau about Braley's threat, Crosby has produced no evidence that he made complaints about specific inmates to specific correctional officers. Every officer to whom Crosby reported harassment or threats responded by telling him that there was nothing he or she could do without actually witnessing an act of harassment or a threat. Some of the lowerranking officers did, however, report Crosby's complaints up the chain of command.

At some point before October 20, 2011, Crosby sent an inmate request slip to CO David Baggs, the HOC's classification officer. Crosby asked for a meeting with CO Baggs to discuss issues in his housing unit. CO Baggs met with Crosby, and Crosby "told him what was going on, about all the threatening, harassment, and all that stuff." Crosby Dep. (doc. no. 67-3) 67:2-4. About 25 minutes later, CO Baggs went to Crosby's housing unit and told the inmates there that "if the harassment and the threats on the [unit]... didn't stop, that there was going to be some type of punishment." Id. at 67:10-12.

Within a week after CO Baggs spoke to the inmates in Crosby's unit, Braley assaulted Crosby in Pod 1's recreation yard after Crosby defeated him in a game of one-on-one basketball. It is undisputed that Crosby had entered the recreation yard voluntarily, along with Braley and two other inmates, Anthony Papile, and Nicholas Arrain. It is also undisputed that Crosby had previously played basketball with Braley in the recreation yard without incident. On the night of the assault, CO Chapple was stationed in the bubble on Pod 1. In addition to generally supervising six housing units and the recreation yard, the officer assigned to the bubble is also "responsible for cell inspections, movement of inmates between the Housing Pod and other units, interacting with inmates via the intercom system, reviewing and distributing inmate mail, both incoming and outgoing, and taking head counts at the beginning of the shift and for meals." Defs.' Mem. of Law, Ex. G, Chapple Aff. (doc. no. 66-6) ΒΆ 3.

After Crosby, Braley, Papile, and Arrain entered the recreation yard, Crosby and Arrain played two-on-two against Braley and Papile for about half an hour. Then Arrain and Papile sat out, and Crosby played against Braley one-on-one, in a game to seven baskets. After Crosby scored his sixth basket, Braley told him he better not make a seventh, or he, Braley, would "choke him out." Crosby scored a seventh basket, and then Papile began to tease Braley about losing to Crosby.

Shortly thereafter, when Crosby went to pick up the ball from a spot in the recreation yard that is not visible from the bubble, Braley tried to put Crosby into a headlock. A scuffle ensued, and Crosby sustained various facial injuries. During the altercation, Braley put Crosby in a headlock three times, and Crosby escaped each time. When Braley would not leave him alone, Crosby put Braley in a headlock, but released it about a minute later. Then, according to Crosby:

I started walking away. When my back was turned toward him, he put me in another headlock, [and] got me to the ground. And I started pushing myself out towards the middle of the floor so the COs could see me. I was hollering, "Help, help, " and... no one could hear me.

Crosby Dep. (doc. no. 67-3) 79:19 - 80:2. While Braley had Crosby in a headlock, Braley punched him in the face several dozen times, drawing blood.

During the altercation, Papile and Arrain blocked the intercoms in the recreation yard, to keep Crosby from getting to them and seeking assistance from CO Chapple. In addition, Papile told Braley that CO Chapple was not looking into the recreation yard because he was talking with an inmate in an adjacent housing unit. In all, the assault lasted about 15 minutes, and ended without intervention by Chapple or any other correctional officer. After the fight was over, Braley used the intercom to ask CO Chapple to open the door to the recreation yard so he could return to his cell. CO Chapple did so. A few minutes later, Papile used the intercom to ask CO Chapple for a mop he could use to clean up Crosby's blood from the floor of the recreation yard. As soon as Chapple learned that Crosby was bleeding, he asked Crosby what had happened, and Crosby told him about the fight with Braley.

In response to his beating by Braley, Crosby sued nine defendants in eight counts. Several of his claims have since fallen by the wayside. His federal claims (Counts I, II, and IV) were all dismissed because he failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available to him. See Order (doc. no. 48) 20. Based upon that ruling, the court stated that "the case remain[ed] on track for trial of Counts VI, VII-A, VII-B, VIII, and IX." Id . At the same time, the court ordered plaintiff to show cause: (1) why Count VIII should not be dismissed because the claim stated therein appeared to duplicate the claim stated in Count VII-B; and (2) why his claim against Sgt. Edward McGowen should not be dismissed, due to his failure to perfect service on McGowen. Plaintiff has not complied with the showcause order. Accordingly, Count VIII and plaintiff's claim against McGowen are dismissed. Thus, this case now consists of:

(1) a negligence claim against defendants Roy, Cormier, Nadeau, Darko-Mensha, Chapple, and Baggs (Count VI); (2) a claim of negligent supervision against the Strafford County Department of Corrections ("SCDC") (Count VII-A); (3) a claim of "negligent failure to protect" against the SCDC ...

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