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Miller v. Mann

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 11, 2019

DAVON MILLER, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER MANN et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Davon Miller was a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC). He alleges that within moments of his transfer to a new cell he was brutally attacked without provocation by his cellmate who was a convicted prisoner. According to Miller, the defendant correctional officers knew or recklessly should have known of his cellmate's violent propensity but they were deliberately indifferent to Miller's safety.

         Defendants have now moved for summary judgment. Although I will grant their motion in part, I will deny it in large part on the issue of whether the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to Miller's safety. I conclude that Miller is entitled to additional discovery about his attacker's prior assault and disciplinary history.

         Background

          The following facts are set forth as admissible for summary judgment purposes and in the light most favorable to Miller as the non-moving party. Miller was a pretrial detainee at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. He was incarcerated on a burglary charge. Doc. #47-8 at 51.

         On August 16, 2017, Miller was at MacDougall's medical unit when he was assigned to be transferred to the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU), a unit that is commonly called “segregation.” Doc. #41-6 at 1. Defendant Mann was a correctional officer who was working that day on MacDougall's RHU. At about 2:30 p.m., he received a call advising that Miller was ready for escort from the medical unit to RHU. Mann went to the medical unit, secured Miller in handcuffs and escorted him to RHU. Ibid.

         According to the warden of MacDougall, “there were space issues that necessitated doubling up RHU cells.” Doc. #47 at 8. So Mann took took Miller to cell #5 on the second tier of the unit. That cell was already occupied by a convicted inmate named Mark Silver. Ibid.[1]

         In accordance with standard procedure, Mann ordered Silver to place his hands through the cell door trap, then he applied handcuffs to Silver, and ordered him to the back of the cell away from the cell door. Silver complied. The door to the cell was then opened, and Mann ordered Miller to enter the cell. Mann handed Miller a bag with his clothing, and the cell door was closed. Mann then directed both Miller and Silver to place their hands through the cell trap door for removal of handcuffs. Both Mann and Silver complied, and their handcuffs were removed. Mann then closed the cell trap door, and he proceeded to tour the rest of the unit. Doc. #41-6 at 1-2.

         At no time during these events did Miller express concern to Mann about his safety. Nor did Silver speak to Mann during these events, and Mann did not hear him express any hostility toward Miller. Id. at 2.

         After Mann finished touring the remainder of the tier, he walked back toward cell #5 and heard a commotion. He saw Miller and Silver in an altercation. When they would not respond to his commands to stop, he entered the cell with other officers and used mace. Miller and Silver were then separated. Ibid.

         According to Miller, Silver attacked him right away after he was placed in the cell, and he did not have a chance to fight back. Doc. #44 at 14. In his verified complaint, he alleges that “[w]hen I entered the cell I went to use the bathroom and [Silver] assaulted me and repeatedly smashed my head against a steel toilet until I was unconscious.” Doc. #23 at 5; Doc. #44 at 32 (summary judgment affidavit).

         Miller sustained a 3-inch laceration of his cheek. Doc. #47-8 at 6. He received stitches in the medical unit due to a “serious gash” in his cheek. Id. at 14. Miller also alleges additional injuries including “two black eyes, . . . a blood clot in my right eye, bone fracture in my right eye socket, a swollen jaw and a huge cut on my my right eyes.” Doc. #23 at 5.

         The DOC's preliminary investigation disclosed that it was Silver who assaulted Miller. Doc. #47-8 at 6. According to an incident report written by Mann, when he took part in moving Silver to another cell soon after the incident, “Silver made comments about harming any cell mate he would be housed with.” Id. at 35.

         Another incident report (written by Lieutenant Valentin) recounts that, after the altercation with Miller, when correctional officers tried to place Silver in cell #13 of the RHU with another inmate, “Silver made several verbal threats that he would assault the current inmate housed in 13 cell and any other inmate we placed him with. He stated that if we continue to place him with other inmates that he would continue to assault them.” Id. at 7. “Once secured Silver stated to this supervisor that he simply assaulted Miller because of him being housed in his cell. He stated that he will continue to assault any other inmates placed in his cell.” Ibid.

         Still another incident report that is based on a review of post-incident video quotes Silver's statements at the time that he was about to be placed in cell #13 with another inmate: “I am going to fuck him up.” “Any cellie.” “I just sent one to UCONN.” Id. at 48.

         A deputy warden wrote in another incident report: “After a preliminary inquiry I/M Silver was identified as an ‘Assailant' and was issued disciplinary reports for ‘Assault' & ‘Threats' and was removed from In-Cells just before the twelve hour mark. After conferring with Day Watch Commander / Capt. Ogando the incident can be attributed to the assaultive nature of inmate Silver and can be classified as ‘isolated.'” Doc. #47-8 at 6.

         As noted above, the record shows that it was defendant Mann who placed Miller in the cell with Silver. The record also shows that defendant Cavanaugh (then a lieutenant and now a captain) responded to the scene after a “Code Blue” emergency was called while Silver was assaulting Miller. Incident reports reflect that Cavanaugh exercised general supervisory functions including ordering that Miller be taken to the medical unit, instructing the activation and deactivation of a video camera, and also calling off the Code Blue. Doc. #47-8 at 14, 25, 57, 59, 63.

         The record does not reflect whether Silver has a history known to defendants or any DOC personnel of assaulting inmates or correctional officers. That is because defendants refused Miller's discovery request for documents about Silver's prior disciplinary and assault history as well as for the names of correctional officials who were ...


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