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Rooks v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

June 15, 2017




         Plaintiff Christopher Shawn Rooks, a federal prisoner, was assaulted by another prisoner while confined at the United States Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana (the “USP Terre Haute”) on January 8, 2014. Rooks claims that the attack occurred due to a breakdown in security when Demarco Releford, an inmate housed in the E-2 unit, was allowed access to the Gold Corridor, at the same time as him, an inmate housed in the D-2 unit. Rooks further contends that BOP staff acted negligently by not being attentive to duty and not properly monitoring the Gold Corridor during the mainline movement. Rooks has sued the United States pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) to recover damages for his injuries.

         The United States moves for summary judgment, arguing that Rooks' claims are barred by the discretionary function exception to the FTCA's waiver of sovereign immunity. See 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). The United States further argues that even if Rooks' claims were not barred by this exception, his negligence claim fails as a matter of law. Rooks has responded by filing a cross motion for summary judgment and the United States has replied. For the following reasons explained below, the motions for summary judgment, dkts. [51] and [59] are denied and this action will be resolved through settlement or a bench trial.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A “material fact” is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011).

         A dispute about a material fact is genuine only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no “genuine” dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). “The applicable substantive law will dictate which facts are material.” National Soffit & Escutcheons, Inc., v. Superior Systems, Inc., 98 F.3d 262, 265 (7th Cir. 1996) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

         II. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         The following material facts are not genuinely in dispute and will be treated as established in this case consistent with Rule 56(g) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         USP Terre Haute

         The Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana (“FCC”) consists of the high security United States Penitentiary (“USP”), the medium security Federal Correctional Institution, and the Federal Prison Camp. USP Terre Haute is made up of four corridors, each of which is associated with a particular color. As relevant to this action, the West Corridor is also known as the Green Corridor and contains, among other areas, the dining hall and UNICOR (the trade name for the Federal Prison Industries). The South Corridor is known as the Gold Corridor and contains the D-1, D-2, E-1, E-2, F-1, and F-2 housing units.

         Relationship Between Rooks and Releford

         Prior to January 8, 2014, Demarco Releford never made any threats against Rooks. In fact, according to Rooks, both he and Releford were a part of the “West Coast table” and would sometimes sit at the same table. Rooks was not afraid of anybody, including Releford, and, before January 8, 2014, had no reason to believe that Releford would assault him.

         Assault on January 8, 2014

         On Wednesday, January 8, 2014, Rooks was housed in the D-2 Unit, and Releford was housed in the E-2 Unit, both of which were on the south side-or Gold Corridor-of USP Terre Haute.

         Jared Hamblin was a Senior Officer assigned as the USP D-2 officer on this day. As the D-2 officer, Officer Hamblin's duties included providing supervision to the inmates, maintaining security, contributing to the health and welfare of the inmates, and insuring inmate accountability.

         On January 8, 2014, at approximately 7:10 a.m., while Officer Hamblin was monitoring traffic in the Gold Corridor as the Unit D-2 officer, he observed Rooks enter the D-2 Unit with blood on his face and clothing. Officer ...

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