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Best v. State

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

February 21, 2019

LARRY BEST, JR., Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Larry Best, Jr.'s (“Best”) Motion to Reconsider Dismissal of Dushan Zatecky and Indiana Department of Corrections and Motion to Amend Complaint (Filing No. 117). Best filed this lawsuit for violations of his Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights against Defendants the State of Indiana, Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”), Superintendent Dushan Zatecky (“Zatecky”), and IDOC staff John Safford, Jeffery King, Blaine Hurt, Walter Peterson, and Herbert Duncan (collectively, “State Defendants”), as well as Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), and Paul A. Talbot, M.D. (“Dr. Talbot”). He asserted claims for a failure to protect him and for having a deliberate indifference toward his health and safety. The State Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the Court granted in part and denied in part on September 14, 2017 (Filing No. 90). Best now asks the Court to reconsider the dismissal of Defendants Zatecky and IDOC and requests leave to amend his Complaint. For the following reasons, the Court grants in part and denies in part Best's Motion.


         This Motion is properly classified as a motion to reconsider under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) because no final judgment has been entered in this case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b) (“any order or other decision, however designated, that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities”).

         The Court applies a similar standard as applied to motions to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e). Motions to reconsider filed pursuant to Rule 54(b) or Rule 59(e) are for the purpose of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence not available at the time of briefing, and a motion to reconsider an order under Rule 54(b) is judged by largely the same standard as a motion to alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e). Katz-Crank v. Haskett, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95144, at *6 (S.D. Ind. July 14, 2014); Woods v. Resnick, 725 F.Supp.2d 809, 827-28 (W.D. Wis. 2010).

         Motions to reconsider “serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. Nokes, 263 F.R.D. 518, 526 (N.D. Ind. 2009). The motion is to be used “where the Court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). A motion to reconsider under Rule 54(b) also may be appropriate where there has been “a controlling or significant change in the law or facts since the submission of the issue to the Court.” Id. (citation omitted).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) allows a party to amend its pleading once as a matter of course within twenty-one days after serving it, or “if the pleading is one to which a responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b).” After a responsive pleading has been filed and twenty-one days have passed, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 15(a)(2). The rule, however, “do[es] not mandate that leave be granted in every case. In particular, a district court may deny a plaintiff leave to amend his complaint if there is undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive, or undue prejudice, or futility of amendment.” Park v. City of Chicago, 297 F.3d 606, 612 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal citation and punctuation omitted). “Whether to grant or deny leave to amend is within the district court's discretion.” Campbell v. Ingersoll Milling Machine Co., 893 F.2d 925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990).


         The Court provides only a brief background of this case to begin its discussion. On September 26, 2016, Best filed this action asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law against the State Defendants, Corizon, and Dr. Talbot (Filing No. 1). After spending several years in administrative segregation at the Pendleton Correctional Facility, Best was moved back into the general population at the prison, and one month later, he was brutally attacked and seriously injured by fellow inmates. He alleges the Defendants failed to protect him and were deliberately indifferent toward his health and safety.

         Best was an inmate at the Pendleton Correctional Facility (“Pendleton”) when the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred. Because Best refused to join their prison gang, members of the Brotherhood of the Aryan Nation (“Aryan Brotherhood”) physically beat Best and threatened further violence. Because of the threats, Best was placed in segregated housing for his safety from December 2011 to July 24, 2015. On July 6, 2015, Defendant King, a caseworker with IDOC, informed Best that he would be returned to the general population at Pendleton.

         Despite Best's objections that he still feared for his life because members of the Aryan Brotherhood were still at Pendleton, the State Defendants moved him back to the general prison population. Less than a month later, on August 7, 2015, Best was attacked by members of the Aryan Brotherhood as he left the infirmary in a walkway known as “death alley, ” an area known for inmate-on-inmate violence. Pendleton was understaffed, and inmate movement was not well supervised. There were large river rocks in front of the prison cell houses. Inmates used them as weapons in the attack against Best. Best was badly beaten and sustained deep head lacerations, bruises, and cuts on his back, shoulders, arms, right hand, and wrist. Best's medical treatment following the attack was poor.

         Best filed the instant Section 1983 action, alleging that his Eighth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because the Defendants failed to protect him, had a deliberate indifference and reckless disregard toward his health and safety, provided inadequate medical care, and deprived him of the opportunity to serve his prison sentence without constant fear of threats and violence.

         The State Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss, asserting various immunity and other arguments. The Motion to Dismiss was granted in part and denied in part. Count I was dismissed as to the State of Indiana and IDOC because they are not considered persons under Section 1983, and it was dismissed as to Zatecky because the allegations in the Complaint asserted liability based solely on his supervisory authority, which is insufficient for a Section 1983 claim (Filing No. 90 at 6-9). Count II brought against Zatecky and IDOC was dismissed because Best had not sufficiently pled facts to support an Eighth Amendment claim. Specifically, the allegations fell short by not providing a minimal factual basis regarding IDOC's and Zatecky's knowledge of and involvement with Best's circumstances. Rather, the allegations consisted of a generalized concern about prison safety, overcrowding, and understaffing. Id. at 9-12. Count III-state law tort claims brought against Zatecky, Peterson, Duncan, Safford, and Hurt-was dismissed on the basis of immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Id. at 12-14. Lastly, Count IV was dismissed as to Zatecky and IDOC for various reasons, including that the allegations in the Complaint did not provide a sufficient factual basis to assert a constitutional claim for inadequate medical care against Zatecky in his individual capacity. Id. at 14-17.

         Following the Court's Order on the Motion to Dismiss, the claims remaining were Count I (a Section 1983 claim) against Safford, Peterson, Duncan, Hurt, and King, and Count IV (a claim for inadequate medical care) against Corizon and Dr. Talbot.[1] The ...

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