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Thomas v. Suttle

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

July 5, 2019

WAYMAN D. THOMAS, JR., Plaintiff,
KEVIN SUTTLE, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Wayman D. Thomas, Jr., an inmate at Tippecanoe County Jail in Lafayette, Indiana, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights while he was an inmate at the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown, Indiana. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. Mr. Thomas has not responded and the time to do so has passed. The motion is now ripe for review. For the reasons explained in this Order, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all of Mr. Thomas's claims.


         Summary Judgment 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. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). “A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Daugherty v. Page, 906 F.3d 606, 609-10 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting 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. Gekas v. Vasilades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder 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. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014). 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. Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, 870 F.3d 562, 573-74 (7th Cir. 2017). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.


         Factual Background

         The consequence of Mr. Thomas's failure to respond to the motion for summary judgment is that he has conceded the defendant's version of the facts. Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”); see S.D. Ind. Local Rule 56-1(b) (“A party opposing a summary judgment motion must . . . file and serve a response brief and any evidence . . . that the party relies on to oppose the motion. The response must . . . identif[y] the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment.”). This does not alter the standard for assessing a Rule 56(a) motion, but does “reduc[e] the pool” from which the facts and inferences relative to such a motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997).

         Some of the alleged incident was captured on video. The defendants have provided the available video to the Court, and the Court has reviewed it. As the nonmoving party, Mr. Thomas is entitled to all reasonable inferences in his favor drawn from the admissible evidence and otherwise undisputed facts. See Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005). However, the Court must also “view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 (2007).

         While being booked into the Jackson County Jail on May 9, 2017, Mr. Thomas acted aggressively and erratically and refused to answer the questions asked of him by jail staff as a part of the book-in process. Dkt. 50-2. He was placed into a padded cell near the booking area and continued to act in an aggressive manner by yelling and kicking the cell door which was partially unpadded. Sgt. Clark repeatedly ordered him to stop yelling and kicking because he was interfering with the jail's operations and was at risk of injuring himself. Mr. Thomas briefly stopped kicking the door but continued to yell. Sgt. Clark ordered Mr. Thomas to lie down on the floor so he could be placed in the restraint device. Mr. Thomas did not comply and instead removed the top portion of his jumpsuit. Sgt. Ridlen, Sgt. Everhart, Sgt. Clark, Sgt. Drees and Jail Nurse Rutan then entered the cell to place him in a restraint device by subduing Mr. Thomas and securing his arms and legs. They then lifted Mr. Thomas off the ground and lowered him back down onto the lower portion of the restraint device, turned him over to secure the upper portion of the restraint device, and sat Mr. Thomas against a wall before leaving the cell.

         Approximately forty-six minutes later, Sgt. Clark and Sgt. Ridlen entered the cell and moved Mr. Thomas's arms from the back of his body to the front. Approximately one hour and twenty-four minutes later, Sgt. Clark and Nurse Rutan entered the cell and removed the restraint device. Mr. Thomas told Sgt. Clark that his wrist had been injured in a fight with another inmate in another jail the week prior. When Sgt. Clark asked about what looked like a sunburn on Mr. Thomas's chest, Mr. Thomas responded that he had been burned by Mexican criminals when he refused to steal cars for them. Sgt. Clark then gave Mr. Thomas food and a drink.

         On May 15, 2016, Mr. Thomas was moved from the cell in the jail holding area to a general population pod where he had access to a shower. He was also provided with food and drink ...

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