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Stile v. Dubois

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

July 24, 2019

James Stile
David G. Dubois, et al.


          Joseph A. DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

         James Stile, who is a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, brought claims that arose from an incident that occurred while he was being held at the Strafford County Department of Corrections (“SCDC”). Strafford County moves for summary judgment on Claim 9. Stile did not respond to the motion.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “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); see also Thomas v. Harrington, 909 F.3d 483, 490 (1st Cir. 2019). For purposes of summary judgment, the court considers the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs and draws all reasonable inferences in their favor. Roy v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC, 914 F.3d 52, 57 (1st Cir. 2019). “An issue is genuine if it can be resolved in favor of either party, and a fact is material if it has the potential of affecting the outcome of the case.” Leite v. Gergeron, 911 F.3d 47, 52 (1st Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). “A genuine issue of material fact only exists if a reasonable factfinder, examining the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences helpful to the party resisting summary judgment, could resolve the dispute in that party's favor.” Town of Westport v. Monsanto Co., 877 F.3d 58, 64-65 (1st Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted); Flood v. Bank of Am. Corp., 780 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2015).


         Stile's claims arise from the circumstances and events that occurred on September 5, 2014, when he was taken from his cell at the SCDC and transported to Portland, Maine, for a hearing in his criminal case. At that time, Stile was a federal pretrial detainee who was in the custody of the SCDC pursuant to an agreement with the United States Marshals Service. Stile alleges that the officers involved in moving and transporting him used excessive force, which breached the agreement between the Marshals Service and Strafford County.

         The agreement between the Marshals Service and Strafford County (“housing agreement”), which is Agreement Number 49-99-0104, was signed in November of 2010 by Raymond F. Bower, Administrator, on behalf of Strafford County, and in December of 2010 by Renita L. Barbee, Grants Specialist, on behalf of the Marshals Service. The housing agreement states that it “is for the housing, safekeeping, and subsistence of federal prisoners, in accordance with content set forth herein.” Doc. 78-3, at *1. It also provides for transportation for medical services and to a United States Courthouse. Id. The housing agreement further states that its purpose is to allow “the United States Marshals Service (USMS) to house federal detainees with the Local Government at the STRAFFORD COUNTY Jail 266 COUNTY FARM RD Dover, NH 03820 (herein referred to as ‘the facility').” Doc. 78-3, at *3.

         Strafford County provides an excerpt from the United States Marshals Service FY 2014 Performance Budget President's Budget, Salaries & Expenses and Construction Appropriations, dated April of 2013. The excerpt provided states: “The USMS is also responsible for transporting prisoners to and from judicial proceedings.” Doc. 80-2, at 3. The excerpt explains that some jails will provide transportation for federal prisoners to and from courthouses under the Intergovernmental Agreements such as the housing agreement in this case. Deputy United States Marshals “arrange with jails to prepare prisoners for transport, search prisoners prior to transport, and properly restrain prisoners during transportation.” Id. The excerpt shows that the Marshals Service requested $254, 166.00 for prisoner security and transportation for 2014.


         Strafford County moves for summary judgment on Claim 9:

9. Strafford County and the United States Marshals Service for the District of Maine entered an agreement to house federal pretrial detainees at the Strafford County Department of Corrections and to provide transportation to detainees, including Stile, for medical and court appointments. Stile was an intended third-party beneficiary of that agreement. Strafford County and the Marshals Service breached the agreement when Stile was transported by officers who were not trained or not properly trained in a cargo van that lacked appropriate safety protections and minimum comforts and did not comply with the requirements of state and federal law, which caused Stile to be injured.

         In support, Strafford County contends that the claim fails because Stile was not a party to the agreement and was not a third-party beneficiary of the agreement. Strafford County relies on federal common law pertaining to third-party beneficiary status to interpret the agreement.

         Federal common law governs claims involving the “obligations to and rights of the United States under its contracts.” Boyle v. United Techs. Corp., 487 U.S. 500, 504 (1988); see also Prairie Land Holdings, L.L.C. v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 919 F.3d 1060, 1062 (8th Cir. 2019). On the other hand, the Supreme Court has held that federal common law does not preempt state law when the issue is “whether petitioners as third-party beneficiaries of the contacts [between the county and the Federal Aviation Administration] have standing to sue [the county].” Miree v. DeKalb County, 433 U.S. 25, 29 (1977). When a breach of contract claim “will have no direct effect upon the United States or its treasury, ” there is no need to apply federal common law. Id.

         In this case, the Marshals Service was party, and Stile brought the same breach of contract claim against it. The court has dismissed the claim against the Marshals Service, however, for lack of jurisdiction. Therefore, resolution of Claim 9 against Strafford ...

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