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Lovett v. Herbert

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

March 2, 2017

LUCINDA LOVETT, Co-personal Representative of the Estate of Daniel J. Martin, et al., Plaintiffs,
LANDON HERBERT, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court

         This cause is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 52). The motion is fully briefed, and the Court, being duly advised, GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Defendants' motion for the reasons set forth below.

         I. STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the admissible evidence presented by the non-moving party must be believed and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in the non-movant's favor. Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (“We view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.”). However, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490. Finally, the non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record, and “the court is not required to ‘scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.'” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).


         The properly supported facts of record, viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, Lucinda Lovett and Michael Lovett, Co-Personal Representatives of the Estate of Daniel J. Martin, are as follows.

         On December 13, 2013, Danny Joe Martin was arrested by Indiana State Trooper Todd Brown as a habitual traffic violator and for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Brown took Martin to the Clay County Jail. Martin was booked into the Clay County Jail by Amber Lambert and Defendants Landon Herbert and Zach Overton, correctional officers with the Clay County Sheriff. At the jail, Martin was given a breath test. Martin's blood alcohol content (“BAC”) registered 0.16, although neither Defendant Herbert nor Defendant Overton looked at the sheet on which Martin's BAC was recorded. Defendant Herbert knew that Martin had failed a sobriety test at the scene of the arrest and had refused to take a breath test at the jail. Defendant Herbert smelled alcohol on Martin, but neither Herbert nor Overton observed any slurred speech or stumbling on Martin's part. After Martin was booked in and fingerprinted, he asked to retrieve a phone number from his cell phone so that he could arrange for his dog to be fed.

         The receiving area of the jail, where new arrivals to the jail are temporarily housed, has six two-person holding cells (cells R1-R6), a padded cell, a one-person medical isolation cell, and a holding tank (drunk tank). Defendant Overton made the decision to place Martin in cell R- 4. After the officers finished booking Martin in, Defendant Herbert escorted Martin to cell R4. Holding cell R4 is a two-person cell with a bunk bed. The bunk bed did not have a ladder to access the top bunk. The lower bunk was occupied by an inmate who had recently undergone surgery for cancer.[1]

         Martin told Herbert that he could not get onto the top bunk because he was too drunk.[2]Defendant Herbert told Martin to take the mattress from the top bunk and put it on the floor. The mattress can be removed from the bunk by one person, and that person does not need to climb to the top of the bunk to remove the mattress.

         Martin eventually did climb onto the top bunk, where he lay for approximately twenty minutes. At approximately 2:30 a.m., while attempting to climb down from the top bunk, Martin fell and hit his head on a table that was on the opposite wall. No jail officer monitored Martin between the time he was placed in R4 and the time he fell.

         Martin fell to the floor and lay face down. He broke two vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord in the fall, rendering him a quadriplegic. Defendant Herbert entered Martin's cell and found him to be unresponsive. Martin was transported by ambulance to a hospital located in Brazil, Indiana and subsequently airlifted to St. Vincent Hospital. Martin remained hospitalized or in a rehabilitation center until his death on May 7, 2014.


         The Plaintiffs have brought an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. They seek compensation for injuries, including wrongful death, that they allege resulted from the negligent and objectively unreasonable treatment of Daniel J. Martin in the Clay County Jail on December 13, 2013. They have sued Michael W. Heaton, Sheriff of Clay County, [3] in his official capacity and jail officers Landon Herbert and Zachary Overton in their individual capacities.

         A. Fourth Amendment Claims[4]

         The Plaintiffs argue that the Defendants violated Martin's Fourth Amendment rights by failing to exercise reasonable care for Martin's medical needs and safety. The Fourth Amendment's “objectively unreasonable” standard applies to claims brought by arrestees who have not yet had a probable cause hearing, regardless of whether the claims relate to an officer's conduct regarding an arrestee's medical care or general conditions of confinement. See Currie v. Chhabra,728 F.3d 626, 629 (7th Cir. 2013). For the Plaintiffs to survive summary judgment on their claims brought under Section 1983, they are required to point to evidence of record from which ...

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