906 F.2d 667 (11th Cir. 1990), 89-5927, Brown v. Crawford

Docket Nº:89-5927.
Citation:906 F.2d 667
Party Name:Columbus BROWN, a/k/a Lenwood Johnson, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Fred CRAWFORD, director of Dade County Jail, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:July 24, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Page 667

906 F.2d 667 (11th Cir. 1990)

Columbus BROWN, a/k/a Lenwood Johnson, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Fred CRAWFORD, director of Dade County Jail, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 89-5927.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 24, 1990

Page 668

Steven Wisotsky, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for plaintiff-appellant.

Eric K. Gressman, Dade County Atty., Miami, Fla., for defendant-appellee.

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

Before FAY and JOHNSON, Circuit Judges, and FLOYD R. GIBSON [*], Senior Circuit Judge.

FAY, Circuit Judge:

In this civil rights action, the pro se inmate alleges that he received contaminated drinking water and was forced to sleep on the floor. The district court granted the prison director's summary judgment motion because it concluded that the inmate failed to establish a causal connection between the objectionable conditions and an act or omission by the prison director. Because the inmate has not shown a genuine issue of material fact under summary judgment standards following the prison director's factual explanation, we affirm.


Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, appellant/inmate Columbus Brown filed his first in forma pauperis, civil rights complaint on November 26, 1986, against appellee Fred Crawford, director of Dade County Jail in Miami, Florida. Brown alleged that sleeping on the floor because of prison overcrowding had caused his back and neck pains and that the jail drinking water had caused his headaches and stomach pains. The district court subsequently dismissed this complaint based upon the magistrate's recommendation and information that Brown had been released from Dade County Jail and had left no forwarding address.

On December 15, 1987, Brown, still confined at Dade County Jail, filed a second section 1983 complaint with the same allegations. 1

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1] He requested that Crawford pay him $50,000.00 and all of his medical bills. Thereafter, Crawford moved for summary judgment contending that Brown had failed to establish a causal connection between the conditions about which he complained and his ailments, and that there had been no notice by Brown to jail officials of these objectionable conditions.

Attached to Crawford's summary judgment motion is an affidavit by Jerry Meece, director of operations at the Corrections and Rehabilitation Department of Metropolitan Dade County. Meece avers that he had reviewed Brown's file and found no complaints or notice of medical problems related to the drinking water or sleeping on the floor. At the time of Brown's complaints, Meece states that the drinking water at Dade County Jail came from the City of Miami. Furthermore, officials at Dade County Jail were not notified of any problem with the drinking water by Brown or any other inmate.

Meece also attests that all prisoners at Dade County Jail are issued either a mattress or a bed. To Meece's knowledge, Brown was issued a mattress by Dade County Jail officials. Meece states that Crawford had no direct responsibility over distributing mattresses or for the drinking water at Dade County Jail.

In response to Crawford's motion for summary judgment, Brown filed an unsworn statement and affidavit by a fellow inmate. Brown's statement reiterates that his back and neck pains resulted from sleeping on the floor of the Dade County Jail and that the drinking water, "even though supplied by the City of Miami," was contaminated and had caused his stomach cramps and headaches. R1-20. Among the listed reasons for holding Crawford responsible, Brown claims that "[t]he defendant is to make sure that all inmates have a bed, which was not done." Id. The fellow inmate's affidavit represents that he as well as Brown slept on the floor and verifies Brown's back, neck, headache, and stomach pains.

The district court granted Crawford's summary judgment motion and found that Brown had failed to establish a causal connection between the conditions about which he complained and any act or omission by Crawford. On appeal, Brown contests the district court's granting summary judgment to Crawford because he claims that there is a question of fact concerning the existence of a policy or custom of problematic drinking water and sleeping conditions at Dade County Jail. Brown challenges Crawford's responsibility in his official and personal capacity for these objectionable conditions about which he complains. We, therefore, must determine whether or not the district court erred in granting summary judgment to a supervisory official in a section 1983 action, when that official did not cause or know about the alleged constitutional deprivations.


This court reviews a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, and we apply the same legal standards "that should have been applied by the district court." Hiram Walker & Sons, Inc. v. Kirk Line, 877 F.2d 1508, 1513 (11th Cir.1989); Livernois v. Medical Disposables, Inc., 837 F.2d 1018, 1021-22 (11th Cir.1988). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). After adequate time for discovery, the Supreme Court has held that summary judgment is mandatory against a party failing to show the existence of an element essential to the proof of its case at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The Court has instructed that "the substantive law will identify which facts are material" and that the trial judge,

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ruling on a summary judgment motion, must evaluate the evidence presented by the substantive evidentiary burden. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 254, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 2513, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. 477 U.S. at 256, 106 S.Ct. at 2514; Florida Power & Light Co. v. Allis Chalmers Corp., 893 F.2d 1313, 1318 (11th Cir.1990). When a motion for summary judgment has been made properly, the nonmoving party may not rely solely on the pleadings, but by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions must show that there are specific facts demonstrating that there is a genuine...

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