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Owens v. Sparks

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

November 7, 2017

DAVID OWENS, JR., Plaintiff,


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Franklin Sparks' Motion for Summary Judgment. [Filing No. 74.] Plaintiff David Owens, Jr., proceeding pro se, alleges that Mr. Sparks hit Mr. Owens in the hand with a spatula while working in the kitchen at Pendleton Correctional Facility (“PCF”). [Filing No. 57.] Mr. Owens alleges that Mr. Sparks' conduct violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on excessive force, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Filing No. 57.] Because a reasonable trier of fact could find that Mr. Sparks intentionally struck Mr. Owens without any justification, the Court DENIES Mr. Sparks' Motion.


         Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not suffice to defeat summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). 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). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has “repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, ” Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).



         The following factual background is set forth pursuant to the standards detailed above. The facts stated are not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to “the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         A. The Parties

         In 2014, Mr. Owens, an inmate at PCF, worked in the kitchen. [Filing No. 76-1 at 5.] As a kitchen worker, Mr. Owens performed a variety of duties, such as slicing vegetables, cleaning, and preparing trays. [Filing No. 76-1 at 3-4.] Mr. Sparks was an employee of Aramark Correctional Services, LLC (“Aramark”), which provided food services to inmates at PCF. [Filing No. 76-2 at 2.]

         B. The Incident

         On July 17, 2014, Mr. Owens was cleaning utensils in the kitchen when Mr. Sparks entered from the Aramark office. [Filing No. 76-1 at 5.] Then, according to Mr. Owens' deposition testimony, Mr. Owens and Mr. Sparks had the following exchange:

And I was like standing off to the side, and he was coming like from like the office area where the Aramark Logo is like the non-inmates come from And I was like, I just I spoke to him. I was like. "What's up, Frank?” And he was like, "Get to work" That wag his first comment.
I said, “I am working” I said, "Man, find you something to do." I said, "1 shouldn't have even spoke to you, '
So at that point he walked in the pots and pans section. He grabbed a Spatula and turned around and was like, "Shut up, " and swinging like this. And I put my hand up to keep him from hitting me in the ...

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