Street v. Corrections Corporation of America, No. 95-5392

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSILER
Citation102 F.3d 810
PartiesWilliam STREET, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Jimmy Turner, and Dexter Stephen, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date17 December 1996
Docket NumberNo. 95-5392

Page 810

102 F.3d 810
William STREET, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Jimmy Turner, and Dexter
Stephen, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 95-5392.
United States Court of Appeals,
Sixth Circuit.
Argued April 10, 1996.
Decided Dec. 17, 1996.

Page 812

Richard H. Dinkins, Ronald W. McNutt, argued and briefed, Williams & Dinkins, Nashville, TN, Keith W. Veigas, Jr., briefed, Veigas & Cox, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

James H. Drescher, argued and briefed, Stokes & Bartholomew, Nashville, TN, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: SUHRHEINRICH and SILER, Circuit Judges; ALDRICH, District Judge. *

SILER, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff William Street appeals the grant of summary judgment to the defendants, Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA"), Dexter Stephen, and Jimmy Turner, in this case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Eighth Amendment rights. For the reasons herein, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to CCA and Turner, reverse the district court's dismissal of claims against Dexter Stephen and remand for consideration of those claims.

I.

Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility ("MDCDF") is run by CCA, a publicly held corporation, pursuant to a contract between CCA and the government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee. The Davidson County Sheriff's department oversees the operation of MDCDF. Defendant Turner has been the warden at MDCDF since December 2, 1992.

In 1993, while serving a four-year sentence for aggravated burglary at MDCDF, Street argued with fellow "L Unit" inmate Wendell Harris; both Street and Harris yelled. Harris said, "You must not know who I am, I'll break you down." 1 Corrections Officer Don Parmele heard the argument, stopped it and reported it to Senior Correctional Officer ("SCO") Garner. Street later told Parmele that he would "whip" Harris.

The district court found that Street and Harris declined Garner's subsequent offer of protective custody. 2 Defendant Stephen later replaced Parmele at a shift change for the L Unit. Parmele told Stephen that Street and Harris had "gotten into it" and reported the incident to SCO Roderick Jones. Stephen was the only officer assigned to the unit to which Street, Harris and seventy-two other inmates were assigned. 3

Stephen stated that after the shift change, Harris asked him either, "What would you do if I kicked [Street's] ass?" or "What would you do if I knock [Street] out?" 4 Stephen told Harris that if he witnessed such an

Page 813

incident, it would be reported and that Harris would be placed in isolation. Stephen admitted that he failed to report this discussion with Harris to a senior officer or supervisor.

Stephen stated that he then simultaneously opened all the doors to the cells in L Unit from a control panel. 5 After Stephen opened the doors, Harris attacked Street with a sock with at least one metal lock in it. Stephen testified that he could not see into Street's cell but that a sensor indicated that Street's cell door had been reclosed. Stephen saw eight or nine inmates gathered around Street's cell. Then Stephen saw Harris coming from the second floor of L Unit (where Street's cell was located) wearing a ripped shirt. Other inmates summoned Stephen to Street's cell. Stephen discovered Street in his cell with a lacerated eye and other injuries. Street told Stephen that he had been attacked by Harris.

Stephen radioed SCO Jones and Shift Commander Fred Lawson. 6 Street, conscious and walking, was taken to MDCDF's medical treatment facility. A nurse employed by CCA examined Street, cleaned his eye, and referred him to an independent contractor, Dr. Laurie Lawrence, who examined and treated Street. 7 An x-ray ordered by Dr. Lawrence was taken three days later. 8 Dr. Lawrence decided that Street did not need prescription pain medication. Street testified that he originally told a corrections officer that he was "okay" but that his pain later increased.

For the next two days, Street remained in segregated, pre-hearing detention where he complained of pain. He received Tylenol or aspirin twice over the next two days. He was visited by nurses during this time for administration of his daily dosage of the anti-depressant Doxepin. The x-ray indicated that Street had suffered an "orbital blowout" fracture which was corrected with surgery six days later. 9 Street stated that he was "shocked" to learn of the fracture. He was returned to MDCDF's infirmary until the treating hospital performed surgery on him on the date set by the hospital. Turner and CCA contend that Turner was not involved with Street's medical treatment.

Charges of fighting against Street arising from this incident were dismissed. Harris was disciplined and charged with criminal assault, but he was later released from custody without posting bond. His whereabouts are unknown and he was not served in this action. Stephen stated that he was fired because he failed to report Harris' statements prior to the attack.

The district court found that Street and Harris were classified as medium custody inmates. Harris had had discipline problems, some involving violence, but had been recommended for parole on the morning of this incident. Turner and CCA contend that "[a]lthough Harris had a poor disciplinary record, Warden Turner had no information, prior to [this] incident, that Harris posed a threat to Street." About one month prior to this incident, Harris had been placed in administrative segregation due to his refusal to obey a corrections officer in association with Harris' threat of violence to another inmate. After this period of segregation, Turner allowed Harris' placement back into the general

Page 814

prison population. 10 Jones stated that Harris was "assaultive and aggressive." Records kept by CCA described Harris as a "severe facility security problem" and as "a threat to the safety of inmates." The district court found that Street had been cited for fighting on several occasions. While Street had not been involved in any other violent incidents at MDCDF, he had been involved in violent incidents at other prisons.

Street brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that CCA, Turner, and Stephen violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by not protecting him from Harris' attack and by not providing him with adequate medical care. Street also made negligence claims under Tennessee law and an assault claim against Harris. Street and defendants CCA and Turner moved for summary judgment. The district court denied Street's motion for summary judgment, but granted in part and denied in part the motion for summary judgment filed by CCA and Turner. It then dismissed Street's case, thereby dismissing Street's claims against Stephen sua sponte. Because Street's federal claims were dismissed, the state law claims were dismissed for the resulting lack of jurisdiction. Street has negligence claims pending against CCA, Turner, and Stephen in Tennessee court.

II.

This court reviews an order granting summary judgment de novo. Harrow Prods., Inc. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 64 F.3d 1015, 1019 (6th Cir.1995). Summary judgment must be granted "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 judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c).

III.

A section 1983 claimant must show "1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and 2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law." 11 Simescu v. Emmet County Dept. of Social Servs., 942 F.2d 372, 374 (6th Cir.1991) (citing Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 1732-33, 56 L.Ed.2d 185 (1978)).

A.

This court recognizes the "public function test" "for determining whether private conduct is fairly attributable to the state." Ellison v. Garbarino, 48 F.3d 192, 195 (6th Cir.1995). "The public function test 'requires that the private entity exercise powers which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the state.' " Id. (quoting Wolotsky v. Huhn, 960 F.2d 1331, 1335 (6th Cir.1992)). The defendants were "acting under color of state law" in that they were performing the "traditional state function" of operating a prison. See Hicks v. Frey, 992 F.2d 1450, 1458 (6th Cir.1993) ("It is clear that a private entity which contracts with the state to perform a traditional state function such as providing medical services to prison inmates may be sued under § 1983 as one acting 'under color of state law.' ").

B.

"A prison official's 'deliberate indifference' to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, ----, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 1974, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994) (citations omitted). Prison officials can be held liable for an Eighth Amendment violation when an inmate shows: (1) "that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm," and (2) that the prison official had "the state of mind ... of 'deliberate indifference' to inmate health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at ----, 114 S.

Page 815

Ct. at 1977 (citations omitted). "[A]cting or failing to act with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner is the equivalent of recklessly disregarding that risk." Id. at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 1978.

Prior to the Supreme Court's decision in Farmer, this court noted, "Failure to segregate violent inmates from non-violent inmates has been held to constitute 'deliberate indifference' and thus to violate the eighth amendment where there is a 'pervasive' risk of harm or where the victim belonged to an 'identifiable' group of prisoners for whom risk of assault is a serious problem of substantial dimension." Marsh v. Arn, 937 F.2d 1056, 1061 (6th Cir.1991) (citing Walsh v....

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    ...was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an acti......
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2363 cases
  • Leblanc v. Kalamazoo Police Dep't, Case No. 1:18-cv-487
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • June 29, 2018
    ...was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff's claims against United Petroleum Equipment and Corporate Marathon fail at the outset because Plaintiff has failed to......
  • Robinson v. City of San Bernardino Police Dept., No. CV 96-2539-DT (RC).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • January 26, 1998
    ...Monell involved a municipal corporation, it has been extended to private corporations, as well. Street v. Corrections Corp. Of America, 102 F.3d 810, 817-18 (6th Cir.1996); Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127, 1129-30 (11th Cir.1992); Rojas v. Alexander's Dep't Store, Inc., 924 F.2d 406, 408 (2......
  • Smith v. Heyns, Case No. 1:13-cv-694
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • October 16, 2013
    ...was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an acti......
  • Gibbs v. Skytta, Case No. 2:18-cv-139
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • December 4, 2018
    ...was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an acti......
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