Alexander v. City of Muscle Shoals

Decision Date26 January 2011
Docket NumberCivil Action No. CV–09–S–1396–NW.
Citation766 F.Supp.2d 1214
PartiesStephen ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,v.CITY OF MUSCLE SHOALS, ALABAMA; Robert Evans; Eddie Lang; Tommy Skipworth; Charles Sockwell; Chris Brown; Ashley Jones; Jonathon Terry; Joe Pampinto; Neal Willis; Jerry “Knight” Holland; and Allen Noles, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama


Henry F. Sherrod, III, Henry F. Sherrod III PC, Florence, AL, for Plaintiff.Robert L. Gonce, Gonce Young Sibley & Collum–Butler, Florence, AL, for Defendants.


LYNWOOD SMITH, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Stephen Alexander, filed this action against the City of Muscle Shoals, Alabama (the City), and more than a dozen of its officials, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that his constitutional rights were violated during his nine-day incarceration in the City's municipal jail. 1 Specifically, plaintiff alleged that one group of defendants—the City; Muscle Shoals Police Chief Robert Evans; Police Officers Eddie Lang, Tommy Skipworth, Jonathon Terry; and Jailers Chris Sockwell, Chris Brown, and Ashley Jones—were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and his health and safety in violation of his rights as a pretrial detainee under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteen Amendment.2 Further, plaintiff alleged that another set of defendants—the City; the City's Mayor, David H. Bradford; 3 and City Councilmembers Joe Pampinto, Neal Willis, Jerry “Knight” Grissom, James “Jim” Holland, and Allen Noles—violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by failing to afford him a prompt appearance before a judicial officer after he was detained.4 In addition, plaintiff alleged state law claims against each of the individual officers and the jailers, contending that they negligently, carelessly, and/or wantonly caused him injury.

This action is presently before the court on four motions: (1) a motion for summary judgment filed by all defendants as to all claims that plaintiff asserts; 5 (2) a motion filed by plaintiff to strike the affidavit of defendants' “police/jail practices expert,” Leonard H. Sims; 6 (3) plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint; 7 and (4) defendants' motion to strike portions of the brief that plaintiff filed in opposition to their motion for summary judgment.8 Upon consideration and in light of the parties' briefs and evidentiary submissions, the court concludes that defendants' motion for summary judgment is due to be granted as to all federal claims asserted in this action. Furthermore, the court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's remaining state law claims. Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint is due to be denied, and both of the motions to strike will be denied as moot.


On July 10, 2007, plaintiff, Stephen Alexander, was arrested for public intoxication.10 The arresting officer observed plaintiff wandering a busy street in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and upon engaging him in conversation, determined that he was under the influence of prescription drugs.11 There is no dispute that the arrest was made on the basis of the officer's observations and not pursuant to a warrant.12 Plaintiff had a history of addiction to the prescription narcotic Oxycodone, and had been detained in the municipal jail of the City of Muscle Shoals on at least two occasions prior to July 2007.13 On this occasion, he was too intoxicated to answer the health screening questions posed to him upon his arrest.14

On the occasions when plaintiff had previously been in the City jail, he had been readily able to secure bond money and bail out.15 A few hours after his arrest on July 10, 2007, he called his parents in an attempt to get funds to bail out the next day.16 Despite making “two or three” further calls to his parents the following day seeking bail money, plaintiff was unable to bail out.17 While plaintiff was making a phone call, one of the jailers then on duty and a defendant in this action, Ashley Jones (Jones), noted that plaintiff was behaving strangely and wrote in the Jail Log that she would keep a watch on him.18

Between 7:00 p.m. and 7:25 p.m. on July 13, after plaintiff had been incarcerated for three days, plaintiff engaged in an admittedly fake suicide attempt by scraping and stabbing at his wrists and legs with the tines of a plastic fork in the presence of a jailer then on duty, defendant Charles Sockwell (Sockwell).19 According to plaintiff, he genuinely wanted jail personnel to believe that he was attempting suicide because he wanted their attention.20 Sockwell called the paramedics and also summoned several officers to aid him in calming plaintiff down.21 Plaintiff told Sockwell that he was depressed and suicidal.22 Pursuant to the jail's written procedures, plaintiff was put in the “suicide cell,” and all items that could be used to harm himself were removed from the cell, including plaintiff's clothing, mattress, and blanket.23 Plaintiff physically resisted the removal of his clothes, but ultimately “two or three cops” were able to subdue him and remove his clothing.24 All that remained in the cell was a roll of toilet tissue.25

According to the records of the fire department personnel who responded to Sockwell's call, plaintiff “had scratched his forearms and picked a scab off of his knee,” and he told paramedics that he “needed his depression and blood pressure medicine,” and that he “needed to go to the hospital for his depression.” 26 It is undisputed that the marks left on plaintiff's wrists and leg were superficial.27 The paramedics advised Sockwell, as their protocol dictated, to have plaintiff transported to the hospital. 28 The paramedics also offered to contact someone to bring his medication to him, but plaintiff refused and insisted upon going to the hospital.29 Even so, neither the paramedics nor jail personnel took plaintiff to the hospital.30

Sockwell did call plaintiff's parents, however, and left a voicemail message requesting that they bring to the jail any medications that plaintiff took on a regular basis.31 On each of the previous occasions when plaintiff had been incarcerated in the municipal jail, plaintiff's parents had, at his request, brought his medications, and jailers had dispensed them to him. 32 Less than an hour later, at 8:10 p.m., plaintiff's parents arrived with six different medications.33 Among the medications delivered was Allopurinol, a treatment for chronic gout.34 Sockwell first offered plaintiff his medications at approximately 8:25 p.m., but plaintiff refused to take them.35 At 10:30 p.m., Sockwell again offered plaintiff his medications, but plaintiff again refused to take them, saying that he would take his medications only if his shorts were returned to him.36 Sockwell told plaintiff that he could not return the shorts.37 Ultimately, approximately one hour later, plaintiff finally agreed to take his medications.38

At 8:00 a.m. the following morning, July 15, plaintiff appeared to be better and the jailer then on duty, Jones, gave him a pair of boxer shorts. 39 At 12:45 that afternoon, plaintiff either dropped or threw his meal tray onto the floor and was directed to clean it up.40 At some point later that day, plaintiff became cold so he wrapped himself in the remaining toilet paper in his cell “like a mummy.” 41 He requested more toilet paper, but his request was refused.42 According to plaintiff, around 4:20 p.m. he had a bowel movement and used his shorts to wipe himself. 43 He then attempted to flush his soiled shorts down the toilet and continued to flush, flooding the jail and requiring that it be partially evacuated while plumbers addressed the problem.44

Plaintiff testified that on the 15th, the same day as each of the occurrences noted above, his leg began to hurt.45 He stated that he immediately began complaining to jailers about the pain.46 At some point thereafter, he also began to request medical attention.47 Though the Jail Log catalogues numerous other inmate statements regarding pain or the provision of medical treatment, including at least three regarding plaintiff, 48 no entry details plaintiff's complaints about his leg until July 19, 2010, approximately two and a half hours before he was released.49 Defendant Brown, however, who was on duty at the time, did make the following entry in the Jail Log on the morning of July 16, 2010: Stephen Alexander complaining of throwing up. I told him that I would get him a 7–Up to try to settle his stomach if he wanted me too [ sic ]. All Stephen wanted to do is argue with anything I asked or said to him.” 50

On July 17, the pain grew to the point that Alexander could not stand or walk. 51 Plaintiff complained to the jailers that he was experiencing an outbreak of his chronic gout condition in his leg, that the pain made it impossible for him to stand, and that he needed medical attention.52 However, plaintiff concedes that [i]n order for an inmate to receive medication, he or she must stand up, reach through the bars, take his or her medication, and initial on the [medication log], which the jailer holds on a clipboard.” 53 It is undisputed that, save for two occasions on July 18, Alexander initialed the medication log from July 13 (when his parents delivered his medication to the jail) until July 19 when he was released, including on the morning of his release.54 At 9:30 on July 18, defendant Jones gave plaintiff his medication, but did not require him to initial the log, and that evening defendant Sockwell initialed for him. 55 At some point that afternoon, another detainee passed a sheet to plaintiff, and he wrapped himself in it.56 After conferring with the shift supervisor on duty, Captain Michael Poague, Sockwell decided to allow plaintiff to keep the sheet.57

On the final day of his stay in the jail, July 19, plaintiff told jailers that he had gout and would not...

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