551 F.3d 322 (5th Cir. 2008), 07-61023, Brumfield v. Hollins

Docket Nº:07-61023.
Citation:551 F.3d 322
Party Name:Renisa L. BRUMFIELD, Individually and as Wrongful Death Beneficiaries and Representatives of the Heirs-at-Law of Theodore Smith, Deceased; and the Estate of Theodore Smith, by and through its duly appointed Administratrix, Renisa L. Brumfield, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Solomon Ray HOLLINS, In his Official Capacity as Deputy Sheriff of Marion County,
Case Date:December 02, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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551 F.3d 322 (5th Cir. 2008)

Renisa L. BRUMFIELD, Individually and as Wrongful Death Beneficiaries and Representatives of the Heirs-at-Law of Theodore Smith, Deceased; and the Estate of Theodore Smith, by and through its duly appointed Administratrix, Renisa L. Brumfield, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Solomon Ray HOLLINS, In his Official Capacity as Deputy Sheriff of Marion County, Mississippi; Clarence Louge, In his Official Capacity as Deputy Sheriff of Marion County, Mississippi; Delano Thornhill, “ Butch" , In his Official Capacity as Deputy Sheriff of Marion County, Mississippi; Richard Stringer, “ Rip" , Individually and in his Official Capacity as Sheriff of Marion County, Mississippi; Marion County, Mississippi; Charles Bumper Bryant, In his Official Capacity as Deputy Sheriff of Marion County, Mississippi, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 07-61023.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

December 2, 2008

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John Samuel Hill (argued), Lamar Bradley Dillard (argued), Stephen Pierce Spencer, Mitchell, McNutt & Sams, Tupelo, MS, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

James Lawson Hester (argued), Jacqueline H. Ray, Page, Kruger & Holland, Jackson, MS, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

Before BENAVIDES, SOUTHWICK and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.

HAYNES, Circuit Judge:

Theodore Smith hung himself on January 3, 2002 while confined in the “ drunk tank" at the old Marion County Jail (the “ Old Jail" ). Renisa Brumfield, Smith's daughter, instituted this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2003) against Marion County and against Sheriff Richard “ Rip" Stringer, Deputy Sheriff Solomon Ray Hollins, Deputy Sheriff Clarence Louge, Deputy Sheriff Delano “ Butch" Thornhill, and Deputy Sheriff Charles “ Bumper" Bryant in their individual and official capacities. The district court awarded summary judgment to each defendant sued in his individual capacity on the basis of qualified immunity. After the case went to trial, the district court directed a verdict in favor of all remaining defendants-Marion County and Stringer, Hollins, Louge, Thornhill, and Bryant in their official capacities. Brumfield now appeals, seeking reversal of the district court's order granting Sheriff Stringer qualified immunity and its order directing a verdict in favor of Marion County and each defendant in his official capacity.1 We AFFIRM.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On January 2, 2002 at 5:08 pm, Bryant pulled over Smith for driving erratically. Bryant administered a portable breathalyzer test, determined that Smith's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit for a person operating a motorized vehicle, and placed Smith under arrest. Because this would be Smith's third arrest for drunk driving, Smith knew he was facing a felony charge and significant jail time if convicted.

At the Old Jail, Columbia Police Officer Chris Brumfield administered another breathalyzer exam. Smith's blood alcohol level was .321%,2 more than three times the legal limit of .1%. According to the Marion County log, Smith's belt, watch, jacket, and hat were removed from his person; Smith was allowed to keep his shoes and his shoelaces. At approximately 5:45 pm, Smith was placed in the Old Jail's “ drunk tank." The Old Jail had no requirement that the jailers routinely check on pre-trial detainees, but the drunk tank was only ten feet away from the jailer's desk. Inmate trusties relayed detainees' requests and concerns to the jailer on duty.

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Thornhill was the jailer on duty when Smith arrived at the Old Jail. At approximately 9:00 pm, Smith knocked on the drunk tank door and asked Darryl Stogner, the inmate trusty on duty, to transfer him to another cell where he could have a bed. Stogner relayed Smith's request to Thornhill, but Thornhill said not to let Smith out until 10:30 pm. At approximately 9:45 pm, with Thornhill's approval, Stogner let Smith out of the drunk tank to get a drink of water. Smith also requested that he be able to call his mother. Again, Thornhill denied the request and instructed that Smith not be let out of the drunk tank until 10:30 pm. Shortly thereafter, Smith began beating on the drunk tank door and continued to do so for the next twenty or thirty minutes.

Hollins relieved Thornhill from duty sometime between 10:30 pm and 11:00 pm. Hollins left Smith in the drunk tank. At 1:15 am, Stogner asked Hollins for the keys to Smith's cell. After unlocking the door, Stogner found Smith lying on the floor. Smith had used his shoelaces to hang himself, the shoelaces apparently had broken, and Smith's body had fallen to the floor. Stogner checked Smith's pulse and told Hollins that Smith was dead. Hollins also checked Smith's pulse and found none. Hollins then radioed Officers Louge, Ryals, and Bryant to immediately come to the Old Jail. As soon as Louge, Ryals, and Bryant arrived, Ryals entered the drunk tank and checked both Smith's wrist and carotid artery for a pulse, again finding none. Louge directed Hollins to call for emergency personnel and to notify Sheriff Stringer. After calling for an ambulance and notifying Sheriff Stringer, Hollins took pictures of Smith's body and the drunk tank. At no time did any of the officers attempt to resuscitate Smith or remove the shoelace from Smith's neck with which Smith had hung himself.

Fifteen to twenty minutes after Stogner discovered Smith's body, the paramedics arrived. The paramedics cut the shoelace from Smith's neck and escorted him to the hospital where Smith was pronounced dead.

On August 31, 2004, Renisa Brumfield, on behalf of herself and the heirs of Smith's estate, sued Marion County and Sheriff Stringer, Hollins, Louge, Thornhill, and Bryant in their individual and official capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On July 19, 2006, the district court awarded summary judgment to each defendant sued in his individual capacity on the basis of qualified immunity. However, on August 29, 2007, the district court denied summary judgment to the individual defendants in their official capacities and to Marion County, reasoning that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether Marion County was liable under § 1983 for practicing a custom or policy of deliberate indifference toward the needs of its pre-trial detainees. The case went to trial on November 13, 2007.

After Brumfield rested her case, the district court directed a verdict in favor of all remaining defendants based on Brumfield's failure to prove a violation of any constitutional right. The district court also found a lack of causal connection between the failure to train or implement policy and Smith's suicide, and no evidence demonstrating a pattern of similar prior incidences necessary to demonstrate objective deliberate indifference by Marion County. The district court entered a final order and judgment disposing of Brumfield's claims.

Brumfield now appeals, arguing that the district court erred in three respects: (1) by granting summary judgment to Sheriff Stringer in his individual capacity on the basis of qualified immunity; (2) by prohibiting Brumfield from presenting expert

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testimony indicating that Smith was alive when the paramedics arrived at the Old Jail; and (3) by directing a verdict for Marion County and all the individual defendants in their official capacities.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Sheriff Stringer's Liability in his Individual Capacity

1. Standard of Review

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court. Bolton v. City of Dallas, 472 F.3d 261, 263 (5th Cir.2006). Our inquiry “ is limited to the summary judgment record before the trial court." Topalian v. Ehrman, 954 F.2d 1125, 1132 n. 10 (5th Cir.1992). We must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986), and the movant has the burden of showing this Court that summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Summary judgment is appropriate where the competent summary judgment evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Bolton, 472 F.3d at 263; see FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could enter a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

2. Analysis

“ Qualified immunity protects public officials from suit unless their conduct violates a clearly established constitutional right." Mace v. City of Palestine, 333 F.3d 621, 623 (5th Cir.2003). Although nominally an affirmative defense, the plaintiff has the burden to negate the defense once properly raised.

The defendant official...

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