Hale v. Tallapoosa County, 93-6788

Citation50 F.3d 1579
Decision Date02 May 1995
Docket NumberNo. 93-6788,93-6788
PartiesLarry Wayne HALE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. TALLAPOOSA COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Alabama, Joe Smith, individually and as Sheriff of Tallapoosa County, Joe Flurry, Defendants-Third-Party Plaintiffs-Appellees, Alabama Department of Corrections, Morris L. Thigpen, individually, and in his Official Capacity of Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, Tommy Herring, Commissioner, State of Alabama, Department of Corrections, Third-Party Defendants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

John I. Cottle, III, Bowles & Cottle, Tallassee, AL, for appellant.

E. Paul Jones, Alexander City, AL, Andrew W. Redd, Dept. of Corrections, Ellen R. Leonard, Montgomery, AL, for appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before CARNES and BARKETT, Circuit Judges, and JOHNSON, Senior Circuit Judge.

BARKETT, Circuit Judge:

Larry Wayne Hale appeals from summary judgments in favor of Tallapoosa County Sheriff Joe Smith, jailer Joe Flurry and Tallapoosa County (the "defendants"). Hale's 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 suit, based on a violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, alleged that he was beaten while detained at the Tallapoosa County Jail as a result of defendants' deliberate indifference to an excessive risk of violence that existed at the jail. The district court found insufficient evidence of deliberate indifference and causation, granted summary judgment for defendants and dismissed the claim. For the reasons that follow, we affirm as to Flurry and reverse as to Smith and Tallapoosa County.


Larry Wayne Hale was detained at the Tallapoosa County Jail (the "jail") in May 1990 after being arrested for failing to appear on a marijuana charge. Upon receiving Hale at 8:30 a.m., jailer Joe Flurry placed him in a 13-by-20-foot day cell; the cell was known as the "bullpen" because its small

confines often held thirteen or more inmates during times of overcrowding, including the day Hale was detained

Overcrowding had existed at the jail for about two years at the time of Hale's detention. The jail was especially overcrowded in May 1990, causing inmates and detainees to sleep on the floor of the bullpen, sometimes without mattresses or blankets. During such times of overcrowding, fights occurred between inmates on a regular basis and occasionally resulted in injuries requiring medical attention and hospitalization.

Hale shared the bullpen on the day of his detention with assorted other detainees and inmates, who were not segregated based on their proclivity for violence or the reasons for their confinement. Bobo Greer, who was being held for murder and attempted murder, was among those in the bullpen with Hale. At 6:00 p.m., Greer and another inmate, Dee Riley, left the bullpen and upon their return told Hale they had beaten another inmate. Hale became concerned for his safety, but did not share his concern with Flurry, the sole jailer on duty, or with anyone else.

Shortly thereafter, Flurry opened the doors between the bullpen and two adjoining bed cells, leaving the inmates to decide among themselves who would stay in the bed cells, which had beds, and who would stay in the bullpen. At 7:00 p.m., Flurry closed the doors between the bullpen and bed cells and returned to his quarters, which were out of earshot and eyesight of the bullpen. Hale, who had no mattress, blanket or pillow to sleep on, remained in the bullpen with twelve others, including Greer and Riley.

Flurry next checked on the bullpen at 9:30 p.m., when he was greeted with hostile obscenities. About an hour later, Greer and Riley punched and kicked Hale repeatedly without provocation, leaving him with a cut, bruises and contusions to his head, and an injured elbow. Hale yelled for help during the beating, but received no response from Flurry, who did not check on the bullpen during the remainder of his shift, which ended at midnight. Hale's cries for help did cause the beating to stop, however.

Hale was discovered bruised and bloodied at about 1:30 a.m. by jailer Johnson, who had relieved Flurry at midnight. Fearing retaliation, Hale did not immediately tell Johnson that he had been beaten; instead, he said that he had injured himself falling off a table. Once out of the bullpen, however, Hale told Johnson of the beating and was allowed to spend the night elsewhere in the jail.

Hale filed suit against Flurry and Smith in their individual capacities, and against Tallapoosa County (the "County") through Smith in his official capacity. The complaint alleged in part that an excessive risk of inmate-on-inmate violence existed at the jail, that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to this risk, and that this deliberate indifference caused his beating. Following limited discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing simply that "there are no material issues of law and fact." Hale responded with affidavits, depositions and other evidence, arguing that his evidence was sufficient to defeat summary judgment. The court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants, finding Hale's evidence insufficient to support his Eighth Amendment claim, and entered final judgment for defendants. 2 This appeal followed.


We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Kelly v. Curtis, 21 F.3d 1544, 1550 (11th Cir.1994). Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In other words, summary judgment is warranted if a jury, viewing all facts and any reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, could not reasonably return a verdict in plaintiffs' favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).


Section 1983 provides judicial remedies to a claimant who can prove that a person acting under color of state law committed an act that deprived the claimant of some right, privilege, or immunity protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. 3 There is no dispute that the defendants acted under color of state law. The issue is whether defendants' conduct deprived Hale of a federally protected right, to wit, his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment. 4

It is well settled that "[a] prison official's deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment." Farmer v. Brennan, --- U.S. ----, ----, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 1974, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994) (quotation & citations omitted). Thus, to survive summary judgment on his section 1983, Eighth Amendment claim, Hale was required to produce sufficient evidence of (1) a substantial risk of serious harm; (2) the defendants' deliberate indifference to that risk; and (3) causation. Id.; LaMarca v. Turner, 995 F.2d 1526, 1535 (11th Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1189, 127 L.Ed.2d 539 (1994).

Moreover, to prevail against Smith and Flurry in their individual capacities, Hale was required to show that they were personally involved in acts or omissions that resulted in the constitutional deprivation. See Zatler v. Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 401 (11th Cir.1986). To prevail against the County through Smith in his official capacity, Hale was required to prove that the deprivation resulted from "(1) an action taken or policy made by an official responsible for making final policy in that area of the [County's] business; or (2) a practice or custom that is so pervasive, as to be the functional equivalent of a policy adopted by the final policymaker." Church v. City of Huntsville, 30 F.3d 1332, 1343 (11th Cir.1994). Because Sheriff Smith was the County official responsible for making final policy for the jail, the County would be liable if Smith's actions or policies amounted to deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm which resulted in Hale's injury.

Jailer Flurry

The only action by Flurry that Hale argues constituted deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm was Flurry's failure to check on the bullpen between 9:30 p.m. and midnight, when his shift ended. Hale offered evidence that Flurry customarily made rounds every thirty minutes and that a jailer's failure to make rounds at brief intervals greatly increases the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence. The only portion of the two-and-a-half hours relevant to Hale's claim, however, is the first hour, as the beating occurred at approximately 10:30 pm, an hour after Flurry's last rounds. We find Hale's evidence insufficient to support the level of deliberate indifference and causal connection necessary to hold Flurry personally responsible.

Sheriff Smith and Tallapoosa County

We next consider whether Hale presented sufficient evidence against Sheriff Smith and the County. Hale first was required to produce evidence that he was "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm," Farmer, --- U.S. at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 1976; see LaMarca, 995 F.2d at 1535 (explaining that "unjustified constant and unreasonable exposure to

violence" violates Eighth Amendment); Zatler, 802 F.2d at 400 (stating that inmate has constitutional right to protection from constant threat of physical assault from inmates)

Hale produced evidence that inmate-on-inmate violence occurred regularly when the jail was overcrowded, as it was during May 1990 and the two preceding years. Moreover, the evidence indicated that the violence was severe enough to require medical attention and even hospitalization on occasion. A jury viewing this evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to Hale reasonably could find that a substantial risk of serious harm existed at the jail. Hale...

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