Marsh v. Arn, Nos. 89-3415

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore KENNEDY and MILBURN, Circuit Judges, and ENGEL; ENGEL; KENNEDY; MILBURN
Citation937 F.2d 1056
PartiesRita F. MARSH, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee, v. Dorothy ARN, et al., Defendants-Appellees, Delores Furrow, Defendant-Appellee, Cross-Appellant.
Decision Date23 September 1991
Docket Number89-3449,Nos. 89-3415

Page 1056

937 F.2d 1056
Rita F. MARSH, Plaintiff-Appellant, Cross-Appellee,
v.
Dorothy ARN, et al., Defendants-Appellees,
Delores Furrow, Defendant-Appellee, Cross-Appellant.
Nos. 89-3415, 89-3449.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued Nov. 14, 1990.
Decided June 25, 1991.
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc
Denied Sept. 23, 1991.

Page 1058

Edward L. Gilbert (argued), Akron, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant, cross-appellee.

Gary D. Andorka (argued), Office of the Atty. Gen. of Ohio, Columbus, Ohio, for defendants-appellees.

Before KENNEDY and MILBURN, Circuit Judges, and ENGEL, Senior Circuit Judge.

ENGEL, Senior Circuit Judge.

This litigation arises from an incident which occurred on December 20, 1985 at the Ohio Reformatory for Women when plaintiff Rita F. Marsh was attacked and severely beaten by a fellow inmate. Thereafter, Marsh brought suit against a number

Page 1059

of prison employees and officials charging them with acts and omissions which she alleged amounted to a deliberate indifference to her security needs as a state prisoner and were thus violative of her rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment to the constitution. In these appeals we are called upon to measure those acts and omissions of the defendants, viewed in the light most favorable to the prisoner, but against the constitutional standard of deliberate indifference as it was established at the time the assault took place. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's grant of JNOV as to four of the defendants and reverse the denial of JNOV as to defendant Delores Furrow.

I.

On August 9, 1985, Rita Marsh arrived at the Ohio Reformatory for Women ("ORW") to serve a sentence on convictions for two theft offenses and carrying a concealed weapon. This was Marsh's first experience in prison. Around September 27, 1985, Marsh was assigned to a six-bed dormitory room in Lincoln Cottage, a residential hall in the institution. One of Marsh's roommates was Tonya Leonard, a repeat offender who was serving her second sentence at ORW. Leonard's criminal record included convictions for felonious assault, carrying a concealed weapon, theft, and prostitution. Leonard's prison record included a variety of offenses, two of which were for fighting without a weapon with another inmate which apparently resulted in no injuries. There was no evidence she had ever assaulted, i.e. unilaterally provoked and attacked, another inmate.

In October 1985, Marsh requested to be reassigned to another dormitory room, and she was accordingly placed on a waiting list. Over the next few months Marsh and Leonard were involved in several arguments. During this period of time, Marsh asserts that she began telling certain correctional officers and prison officials about problems she was having with Leonard. These included general threats and other minor incidents instigated by Leonard. On December 20, 1985, Leonard attacked Marsh in their dorm room, beating her on the head with a metal combination lock. Marsh eventually escaped from Leonard by locking herself in the bathroom. Marsh was treated for a concussion, a basal skull fracture and for lacerations to her head. Additional facts as to the relationship among the various parties to this law suit and the events leading up to the assault on Marsh are noted in the remainder of this opinion where pertinent.

After her release from prison Marsh brought this section 1983 action against fourteen employees and officials of ORW, alleging that they failed to protect her from Leonard's attack in violation of her eighth amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Prior to trial, the district court granted summary judgment for five of the defendants, but denied summary judgment as to all other defendants.

A jury tria1 resulted in verdicts in favor of four of the defendants and against defendants Betty Amis, Dorothy Arn, Delores Furrow, Anthony Graves and Mary Morse (collectively "defendants"). The jury awarded Marsh compensatory damages in the amount of $45,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $5,000 against each of the five defendants.

Defendants filed motions for JNOV or, in the alternative, for a new trial. The district court granted JNOV for defendants Amis, Arn, Graves and Morse, finding that the evidence failed to show that any of these defendants had actual knowledge of a genuine risk of serious injury to Marsh. The lower court, however, denied JNOV for defendant Furrow, finding that the evidence demonstrated Furrow had actual knowledge of a genuine threat of serious physical harm to Marsh and that Furrow was not entitled to qualified immunity.

The district court also conditionally granted a new trial for defendants Amis, Arn, Graves and Morse pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(c)(1), stating that "should [it] be determined that these defendants or any of them were not entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict,

Page 1060

then this Court would grant their alternative motion for a new trial on the grounds that the verdicts against them were against the weight of the evidence." However, the district court denied defendant Furrow's motion for a new trial, and entered final judgment in favor of Marsh against Furrow for compensatory damages in the amount of $45,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $5,000. Marsh filed a timely notice of appeal, and Furrow filed a timely notice of cross-appeal.

The specific issues on appeal are (1) whether the district court erred by granting JNOV and conditionally granting a new trial for defendants Amis, Arn, Graves and Morse; (2) whether the district court erred by denying defendant Furrow's motion for JNOV or, in the alternative, a new trial; and (3) whether defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Because we affirm the district court's grant of JNOV for defendants Amis, Arn, Graves, and Morse under the current standard of liability, it is unnecessary to review the conditional grant of a new trial or the defense of qualified immunity as to these defendants. Likewise, we need not consider whether defendant Furrow should be granted a new trial since we find, contrary to the district court's ruling, that she is entitled to qualified immunity.

II.

"The issue raised by a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict is whether there is sufficient evidence to raise a question of fact for the jury." Ratliff v. Wellington Exempted Village Schools Bd. of Educ., 820 F.2d 792, 795 (6th Cir.1987). When reviewing a district court's decision to grant or deny JNOV, we apply the same standard used by the district court. Id. Accordingly, in testing the sufficiency of the evidence, we "may neither weigh the evidence, pass on the credibility of witnesses nor substitute [our] judgment for that of the jury." Id. "Rather, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made, drawing from that evidence all reasonable inferences in his favor." Id. If the evidence "points so strongly in favor of the movant that reasonable minds could not come to a different conclusion, then the motion should be granted." Id.

In determining whether defendants have violated Marsh's eighth amendment right by failing to protect her from Leonard's assault, the applicable legal standard is "whether the defendants' conduct amounted to a 'deliberate indifference' to a risk of injury to the plaintiff." Roland v. Johnson, 856 F.2d 764, 769 (6th Cir.1988). The deliberate indifference standard, first articulated in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 291, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976), has since been extended "to impose upon both federal and state correctional officers and officials the obligation to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from violence at the hands of other inmates." Goka v. Bobbitt, 862 F.2d 646, 649 (7th Cir.1988).

In defining "deliberate indifference," the Supreme Court has explained that while an "express intent to inflict unnecessary pain is not required, ... [i]t is obduracy and wantonness, not inadvertence or error in good faith, that characterize the conduct prohibited by the Cruel and Unusual Punishments clause." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319, 106 S.Ct. 1078, 1084, 89 L.Ed.2d 251 (1986). See also Roland, 856 F.2d at 769 (conduct which is obdurate and/or wanton involves recklessness or callous neglect); Goka, 862 F.2d at 650 ("Recklessness, in the pertinent sense, 'implies an act so dangerous that the defendant's knowledge of the risk can be inferred....' ") (citation omitted); Clark v. Taylor, 710 F.2d 4, 9 (1st Cir.1983) (prison official liable under Sec. 1983 where conduct reflects reckless or callous indifference to rights and safety of prisoners in his charge).

In addition to setting forth the requirement that the acts of defendants must have been the proximate cause of damages sustained by plaintiff, the district court instructed the jury that to establish deliberate indifference Marsh had to show that:

Page 1061

1) a defendant had actual knowledge of a genuine risk that plaintiff was going to be seriously injured, and

2) that the defendant consciously refused to take steps to protect plaintiff from the injury.

At oral argument, counsel for Marsh stated that Marsh was not challenging the jury instructions per se even though he alleges he did so at the trial level. However, Marsh does argue that the district court "elaborated and applied" the deliberate indifference standard too narrowly by ruling on the motion for JNOV as to Amis, Arn, Morse and Graves that "the evidence was insufficient to find that those defendants 'had actual knowledge of a genuine risk' that Rita Marsh would be seriously injured by Tonya Leonard." Cases cited in Marsh's appellate brief suggest that recklessness in the criminal sense, more specifically the presence of danger so great that knowledge can be inferred, also should qualify for the...

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77 practice notes
  • Buckeye Com. Hope Found. v. City of Cuyahoga Falls, No. 5:96 CV 1458.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • 20 Junio 1997
    ...depends on whether there is controlling precedent in the Sixth Circuit or the Supreme Court of the United States. Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056 (6th Cir.1991); Black v. Parke, 4 F.3d 442, 445 (6th Page 1321 First, the Court must determine which conduct of the Mayor is actionable. Certainly, a......
  • Pesek v. City of Brunswick, No. 91-CV-991.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • 2 Julio 1992
    ...in light of preexisting law. Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 344-45, 106 S.Ct. 1092, 1097-98, 89 L.Ed.2d 271 (1986). Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1067 (6th Cir.1991) (emphasis in original). See also Heflin, 958 F.2d at 717; Rich v. City of Mayfield Heights, 955 F.2d 1092, 1095 (6th Cir.1992......
  • Gawloski v. Dallman, No. C-1-88-711
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • 16 Marzo 1992
    ...2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); Procunier v. Navarette, 434 U.S. 555, 565-66, 98 S.Ct. 855, 861-62, 55 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978); Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1066 (6th Cir.1991); Haynes v. Marshall, 887 F.2d 700, 703 (6th Cir.1989). When an inmate seeks to impose monetary liability upon prison offici......
  • Juide v. City of Ann Arbor, No. 93-CV-71762-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • 15 Diciembre 1993
    ...the very action in question has been held unlawful ..., the unlawfulness must be apparent in light of pre-existing law." Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1067 (6th Cir. 1991) (citations In 850 S. Maple, this Court noted that "the question of whether pre-seizure notice and a hearing is required ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
77 cases
  • Buckeye Com. Hope Found. v. City of Cuyahoga Falls, No. 5:96 CV 1458.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • 20 Junio 1997
    ...depends on whether there is controlling precedent in the Sixth Circuit or the Supreme Court of the United States. Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056 (6th Cir.1991); Black v. Parke, 4 F.3d 442, 445 (6th Page 1321 First, the Court must determine which conduct of the Mayor is actionable. Certainly, a......
  • Pesek v. City of Brunswick, No. 91-CV-991.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio
    • 2 Julio 1992
    ...in light of preexisting law. Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 344-45, 106 S.Ct. 1092, 1097-98, 89 L.Ed.2d 271 (1986). Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1067 (6th Cir.1991) (emphasis in original). See also Heflin, 958 F.2d at 717; Rich v. City of Mayfield Heights, 955 F.2d 1092, 1095 (6th Cir.1992......
  • Gawloski v. Dallman, No. C-1-88-711
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • 16 Marzo 1992
    ...2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); Procunier v. Navarette, 434 U.S. 555, 565-66, 98 S.Ct. 855, 861-62, 55 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978); Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1066 (6th Cir.1991); Haynes v. Marshall, 887 F.2d 700, 703 (6th Cir.1989). When an inmate seeks to impose monetary liability upon prison offici......
  • Juide v. City of Ann Arbor, No. 93-CV-71762-DT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • 15 Diciembre 1993
    ...the very action in question has been held unlawful ..., the unlawfulness must be apparent in light of pre-existing law." Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1067 (6th Cir. 1991) (citations In 850 S. Maple, this Court noted that "the question of whether pre-seizure notice and a hearing is required ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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