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Lowe v. Trapp

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 30, 2019

RAYMOND LESLIE LOWE, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
BYRON TRAPP, et al. Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          MUSTAFA T. KASUBHAI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, an inmate currently in the custody of the Oregon Department of Corrections, filed suit and alleged that he was subjected to the unlawful use of excessive force while housed at the Lane County Jail as a pretrial detainee. Defendants now move for summary judgment on grounds that plaintiff fails to present sufficient facts in support of his claim. For the following reasons, defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted, plaintiff's motions for summary judgment should be denied, and this action should be dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 17, 2016, he was detained in a holding cell at the Lane County Jail. A corrections officer informed plaintiff that he was being released and directed plaintiff to collect his belongings. Plaintiff told the officer that he could not leave because of a head injury he allegedly sustained after falling from an intake cell bench several hours earlier. Plaintiff then fell asleep. Plaintiff alleges that he was awakened as he was “being pinned to [his] bed by a shield and numerous members of the cell extraction team.” Compl. at 3 (ECF No. 1, No. 3:16-cv-01791-MK).[1] Plaintiff alleges that after he was restrained, Deputy Utter bent back his right middle finger “with great force, ” causing damage to his tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for his alleged injuries.

         To establish an excessive force claim, a pretrial detainee must show that the officer's use of force was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472-73 (2015). Defendants maintain that plaintiff cannot make this showing and move for summary judgment.[2] To prevail on their motion, defendants must show there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must construe the evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d 1119, 1123 (9th Cir. 2011).

         It is undisputed that on March 17, 2016, plaintiff was directed to exit a holding cell at the Lane County Jail. After plaintiff refused, several deputies extracted him from the cell. During the cell extraction, deputies placed a shield over plaintiff's body until they gained control of his arms and legs, and then they placed handcuffs and shackles on plaintiff's wrists and ankles. Plaintiff does not challenge the force used, generally, to extract him from the cell. Rather, plaintiff claims that Deputy Utter, in retaliation for plaintiff's lack of cooperation, pulled back plaintiff's middle finger and caused severe damage. Plaintiff alleges that he cried out, “Why did you do that?” and Deputy Utter responded, “You will learn to follow directions.” Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 15 (ECF No. 88-1 at 53).

         To support their motion for summary judgment, defendants cite portions of plaintiff's deposition testimony showing that, after watching a video of the cell extraction, plaintiff could not identify when Deputy Utter pulled back his finger. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A (ECF No. 81-1). In response to the court's order, defendants also submitted authenticated videos of the cell extraction and plaintiff's interactions with sheriff's deputies and other staff on March 17, 2016. See Shrives Decl. & attached videos filed under seal (ECF Nos. 111, 113).

         The two videos of the cell extraction wholly refute plaintiff's claim. As an initial matter, the deputies' use of force to extract plaintiff was objectively reasonable under the circumstances. Plaintiff admits that he refused to leave the cell after being directed to do so. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. A (ECF No. 81-1). In response, several deputies entered the cell, placed a shield over plaintiff's body, and placed handcuffs on his wrists and shackles on his ankles. The deputies then assisted plaintiff to a standing position. The videos show that a deputy held the backs of plaintiff's hands together until plaintiff was restrained, and nothing in the videos suggests that Deputy Utter or any other deputy intentionally pulled back on plaintiff's finger. Further, the alleged verbal exchange between plaintiff and Deputy Utter occurs at no time in either video, and at no time during or after the cell extraction does plaintiff complain of pain in his finger.

         In sum, the evidence does not reflect or suggest the use of excessive force, and plaintiff fails to present a genuine issue of material fact to defeat summary judgment.

         CONCLUSION

         Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 81) should be GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 100, 107) should be DENIED, and this action should be DISMISSED. Any appeal of an order or judgment dismissing these actions would be frivolous or not taken in good faith, and plaintiff's IFP status should be revoked.

         This recommendation is not an order that is immediately appealable to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Any notice of appeal pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(1) should not be filed until entry of the district court's judgment or appealable order. The parties may file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days from the date of service of a copy of this recommendation. If an objection is filed, any response to the objection is due within fourteen (14) days from the date of the objection. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72, 6. The parties are advised that the failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).

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