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Benson v. Allen County Jail

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

September 5, 2018

CHARLES A. BENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ALLEN COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE U.S. DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA

         This matter is before the Court for ruling on three pending motions filed by the Plaintiff, Charles Benson. Benson filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on July 12, 2018 (ECF 57), to which the Defendants, Allen County Confinement Officers Jacob Myers and Richard Wacasey, filed a response in opposition on July 26 (ECF 59). On July 30 Benson filed a Verified Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF 60) and on August 2 he filed a Motion for Oral Argument for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF 61). The Defendants elected not to file responses to either of those motions. For the reasons explained below, Benson's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings is DENIED; his Motion to Appoint Counsel is DENIED; and his Motion for Oral Argument is DENIED.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Subsection (c) of Rule 12 provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion brought pursuant to Rule 12(c) is governed by the same standard that applies to a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Neely v. Facility Concepts, Inc., 274 F.Supp.3d 851, 853-54 (S.D. Ind. 2017), amended in part, 2017 WL 2378283 (S.D. Ind. June 1, 2017) (citing United States v. Wood, 925 F.2d 1580, 1581 (7th Cir. 1991)). “The Court should ‘take all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiffs' pleadings to be true, and [should] view the facts and inferences to be drawn from those allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs.'” Id. (quoting Republic Steel Corp. v. Pennsylvania Eng'g Corp., 785 F.2d 174, 177 n. 2 (7th Cir. 1986)). However, “a court is ‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (U.S. 2007)). “The documents a court may consider under Rule 12(c) include the complaint, the answer, and any written exhibits attached as exhibits [to either].” Id., (quoting N. Indiana Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. 163 F.3d 449, at 452 (7th Cir. 1998)). Most importantly, especially in the present case, “[a] motion for judgment on the pleadings may be granted only if the moving party clearly establishes that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that [the moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Nat'l Fid. Life Ins. Co. v. Karaganis, 811 F.2d 357, 358 (7th Cir. 1987) (citing Flora v. Home Fed. Savings & Loan Ass'n, 685 F.2d 209, 211 (7th Cir. 1982)) (italics added).

         DISCUSSION

         Charles Benson filed this lawsuit on June 27, 2016. Complaint (ECF 1). He named as defendants the Allen County Jail, Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux, and several Jail confinement officers, including Defendants Jacob Myers and Richard Wacasey. Id. Benson also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis on November 23, 2016 (ECF 4), which the Court granted on December 7, 2016 (ECF 5). The case had a somewhat circuitous procedural history from that point until August 9, 2017, when Benson filed the Amended Complaint that is now the controlling complaint in this case. Prisoner Complaint Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Amended Complaint”) (ECF 19). Because Benson was incarcerated at the time he filed this lawsuit, the Court reviewed his Amended Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court entered an Opinion and Order on September 25, 2017, granting Benson “leave to proceed against Allen County Jail Officers Meyers and Wacasey in their individual capacities for compensatory and punitive damages for using excessive force against him on May 13, 2016, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, ” and dismissing all other claims and all other defendants. Opinion and Order (ECF 21).

         Benson alleges that on that date Myers and Wacasey used excessive force against him during an incident at the Allen County Jail. Amended Complaint, pp. 3, 8. The operative facts about that incident are mostly undisputed. Jail officers believed that Benson, who was a pretrial detainee at the Jail on May 13, 2016, might be in possession of a dangerous object-a piece of a broken light fixture-that he could use to harm himself or others. A team of confinement officers went to Benson's cell to conduct a “cell extraction, ” removing him from his cell, searching it, conducting a strip search of Benson in another room, and returning him to his cell. No contraband was found on Benson or in his cell. When officers went to Benson's cell they ordered him to face the back wall of his cell with his hands up. The officers entered the cell and Myers, who was holding a riot shield, used it to push Benson against the wall while Wacasey placed him in handcuffs. When the two officers did this, Benson alleges that it reaggravated his apparently previously broken nose. Benson describes the incident as follows:

[Officer] Myers had the riot shield and pressed it up against my back, pinning me to the wall, which caused me to hit my broken nose up against the barred window while [Wacasey] held my head causing extreme pain. . . . Myers had the riot shield, came in and pressed it up against my back pressing me up against the wall of my cell with my face up against cell barred windows hitting my broken nose on it while [Wacasey] pressed the back of my head on the bars.

Id. In his motion for judgment, Benson argues as follows:

The Defendants may argue that the force they applied did not amount to excessive force due to it did not result in serious injury, Benson will disagree in [light] of caselaw. Also Benson was injured by Defendants by the force applied which reiterated his recently or recent previous injury that cause extreme pain all over again. “As the Supreme Court has said, pain, not injury, is the barometer by which we measure claims of excessive force.”

         Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, p. 5 (quoting Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d 467, 475 (7th Cir. 2009)). In short, Benson argues that since the Defendants do not deny that the incident occurred, or that they pinned him against the wall prior to removing him from his cell, or that he was compliant at all times, and because he suffered “extreme pain” as a result of the force used by Myers and Wacasey, he is ipso facto entitled to judgment as a matter of law. He believes this to be so because he was a pretrial detainee at the time of the incident and therefore he was “protected under the Fourteenth Amendment of any and all punishment by the state no matter how much, how less, how big, or how small, the amount of force applied, Benson shall be free of all punishment period.” Id., p. 4. Benson further alleges that the actions of Myers and Wacasey were deliberate and that they were motivated to harm him because he was detained on a charge of attempted murder of a police officer. Id., p. 6. Benson insists that this “utterly and without a doubt shows and or prove that the Defendants' motive was ill-willed, malicious, wicked, deliberately, sadistically and in retaliation.” Id.

         Defendants Myers and Wacasey filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint, denying the allegations of excessive force and asserting several affirmative defenses. Answer to Complaint (ECF 28). For the most part they do not dispute Benson's version of the incident, but they “deny that Officer Wacasey, Officer Myers or any other member of the Allen County Sheriff's Department used excessive force against him at any time as alleged in the Complaint. . . . The Defendants' use of force was made in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline in the Allen County Jail. The Defendants expressly deny that any use of force was malicious or used sadistically to cause harm to the Plaintiff.” Answer, p. 1.

         I. Motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         Benson believes that he is entitled to judgment under Rule 12(c) because the allegations in his Amended Complaint “utterly and unequivocally state[] a claim which relief shall be granted upon the Plaintiff[.]” Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, p. 1. Myers and Wacasey argue in their response in opposition that the motion “should be denied as a plain reading of the Plaintiff's Complaint and the Defendants' Answer reveals that there ...


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