Gibson v. Ohio Dep’t of Rehab. & Corr., 2019-01160JD

CourtCourt of Claims of Ohio
Citation2022 Ohio 1028
Decision Date11 February 2022
Docket Number2019-01160JD




No. 2019-01160JD

Court of Claims of Ohio

February 11, 2022

Sent to S.C. Reporter 3/29/22



{¶1} Plaintiff Reginald Gibson (plaintiff) is an inmate in defendant's custody. Plaintiff seeks recovery for injuries he alleges were sustained after his cellmate assaulted him on August 15, 2018. Trial took place remotely on November 8, 2021. In addition to plaintiff, Joanna Factor, Deputy Warden Corey Foster, Brenda Guice, Sergeant Matthew Giddens (Sgt. Giddens), Ira Collier (Mr. Collier), Lieutenant Michael Ledesma (Lt. Ledesma), and Stephanie Dysert, all employees of defendant, testified. In addition, several exhibits were admitted into evidence including plaintiffs institutional medical records and records generated as part of defendant's investigation of the incident. For the following reasons, the magistrate hereby recommends judgment for plaintiff.

Findings of Fact

{¶2} The magistrate makes the following factual findings. Plaintiff is an inmate in defendant's custody. During July and August of 2018, and while housed at defendant's Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution (AOCI), plaintiff shared a cell with another inmate, Byron Harrington (Mr. Harrington). On August 15, 2018, plaintiff and Mr. Harrington were in their cell when they got into a fight. Defendant investigated the incident and both inmates were found guilty of rules infractions for fighting by the institution's Rules Infraction Board (RIB). Plaintiff's testimony and multiple exhibits generated as part of defendant's investigation corroborate these facts. Several of defendant's employees


including Sgt. Giddens testified that they became aware of the fight between plaintiff and Harrington. Additionally, Sgt. Giddens and Lt. Ledesma testified regarding the investigation and RIB proceedings.

{¶3} Mr. Harrington both initiated the fight and acted as the primary aggressor; he assaulted plaintiff. On August 15, 2018, plaintiff sat on his bed, the top bunk in the cell he shared with Mr. Harrington, while he wrote with a pen and paper. Mr. Harrington aggressively approached plaintiff, grabbed plaintiffs leg, and pulled plaintiff off the top bunk. While falling, plaintiff scratched Mr. Harrington's neck with a pen with which he was writing. Plaintiff restrained Mr. Harrington before Mr. Harrington pushed plaintiff who hit his head at some point during the altercation. After the fight ended, plaintiff alerted a corrections officer to what had occurred and both men were separated and handcuffed. Plaintiff testified to the assault and the magistrate finds his testimony credible as to the facts set forth above. Plaintiff was the only witness with first-hand knowledge who testified regarding Harrington's assault on him. In addition, plaintiff's testimony is substantially consistent with the version of events he provided to Sgt. Giddens, during the latter's interview of him after the incident, as reflected in Exhibit A and in the conduct report, Exhibit I. Plaintiff's testimony is also consistent with his statements at his hearing before the RIB, contained in Exhibit G.

{¶4} To the extent plaintiff injured Mr. Harrington during the latter's assault on plaintiff, plaintiff's actions were in reaction to and in defense of Mr. Harrington's assault on him. Again, plaintiff alone offered first-hand testimony regarding the assault. Though Sgt. Giddens suggested plaintiff stabbed Mr. Harrington at trial, he was not present when the assault occurred. Moreover, the opinion Sgt. Giddens offered at trial is inconsistent with the contents of Exhibit A, his interoffice communication to Deputy Warden Foster, generated as part of the investigation of the incident. It reflects plaintiff's statements to Sgt. Giddens during the investigation. They are consistent with the facts to which plaintiff testified at trial, specifically that plaintiff scraped or scratched Mr. Harrington with his pen


while being pulled off the top bunk. Exhibit A also contains Sgt. Giddens' opinion, formed at the time of the investigation, that Harrington acted as the aggressor on the day of the assault.

{¶5} Prior to the assault, plaintiff, on at least three occasions spoke to Sgt. Giddens and/or Mr. Collier regarding hostility between he and Mr. Harrington. Plaintiff requested that he be moved to a different cell. Plaintiff testified that he spoke to Mr. Collier and Sgt. Giddens several times in July and August of 2018 about Mr. Harrington threatening him. Exhibit G, plaintiffs statement to the RIB regarding the assault, is consistent with plaintiff's testimony at trial. Exhibit A, which Sgt. Giddens prepared, indicates that he spoke to plaintiff in July of 2018 regarding issues the latter was having with Mr. Harrington, that he directed plaintiff to speak to Mr. Collier and that Mr. Collier spoke to both plaintiff and Mr. Harrington about the situation. Exhibit A also states that on August 15, 2018, the day of the assault, plaintiff sought out Sgt. Giddens because, per plaintiff, he and Mr. Harrington were still not getting along...

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