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Adkins v. Manning

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 7, 2018

WESLEY L. ADKINS, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment (Doc. 26). On September 19, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion in part on the issue of liability, but found that it did not have sufficient evidence before it to issue a default judgment against Defendant for the compensatory damages requested.[1] Accordingly, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on November 19, 2018 on the issue of damages.[2] For the reasons explained in detail below, the Court now awards Plaintiff the full relief sought-$250, 000 in compensatory damages.

         I. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Wesley L. Adkins filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendant Marshall Manning used excessive force against him in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.[3] Defendant failed to answer or otherwise defend against Plaintiff's action as required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Accordingly, on November 17, 2018, the clerk executed an entry of default against Defendant pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a).[4] The Court took Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment under advisement and noted that it would set a hearing to determine damages.[5] The Court then conditionally granted Plaintiff's request to submit affidavits on the issue of damages in lieu of presenting evidence at a hearing, reserving the right to set the matter for an evidentiary hearing if it deemed the affidavits insufficient to determine the issues raised in Plaintiff's motion.[6]

         On September 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Supplemental Memorandum in support of his motion for default judgment, along with a supporting affidavit describing the incident with Defendant Manning and Plaintiff's resulting injuries.[7] On September 19, 2018, the Court issued its Order on Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment, granting default judgment against Defendant Manning on the liability issue of Plaintiff's § 1983 claim, but requiring an evidentiary hearing to determine the amount of compensatory damages Plaintiff is entitled to as a result of his claim.[8] The Court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the amount of damages on November 19, 2018.[9]

         II. Standard

         Following entry of default, Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2) allows the court to enter default judgment. Once default is entered, the defendant is not entitled to defend itself on the merits.[10]Rather, the court must determine whether the plaintiff's allegations-taken as true-state a claim against the defendant.[11] If the court finds that there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for default judgment, that judgment only establishes liability; it does not establish the amount of damages.[12] The factual allegations in the complaint relating to the amount of damages are not taken as true.[13] Rather, “‘[d]amages may be awarded only if the record adequately reflects the basis for [the] award via a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts.'”[14] However, where the damages claimed are capable of mathematical calculation, Rule 55(b)(2) “does not require that the district court receive evidence on the claimed damages amount before entering default judgment; rather, the Rule simply allows the district court to conduct a hearing if it believes that additional investigation or evidence is necessary.”[15] Here, the damages claimed were not capable of mathematical calculation and the affidavit submitted did not establish the necessary facts to award damages.[16] Thus, the Court held a hearing on the issue of awarding damages.

         III. Findings of Fact

         The Court finds that Plaintiff is entitled to damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the facts taken from Plaintiff's Complaint, [17] the Affidavit of Wesley L. Adkins, [18] and the testimony and evidence presented at the November 19 hearing. Plaintiff testified at the hearing. Defendant did not appear personally or by representative at the hearing, and thus presented no witnesses or evidence on his behalf and did not cross-examine Plaintiff. The Court found Plaintiff's testimony credible and incorporates his testimony into the factual findings below.

         Plaintiff was housed at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility from approximately July 2010 through March 2017, and is currently incarcerated at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Defendant was a Correctional Officer at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility until January 12, 2016, when his employment was terminated. On March 27, 2015, Defendant assaulted Plaintiff after a disagreement over whether Plaintiff had permission to take a shower.

         Although inmates at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility were generally permitted to take daily showers, because Plaintiff was at the time housed in segregation, he could only shower if he was signed up on the shower list. On March 27, 2015, Plaintiff went to the yard in the morning to exercise, which qualified him for a mandatory shower following his yard time. During his time in the yard, Plaintiff informed the officer on duty that he needed to use the restroom, so the officer instructed Plaintiff that he would be placed on the afternoon shower list.

         Defendant worked the 2:00-10:00 p.m. shift on March 27. When Defendant went to the cells to gather the inmates on the afternoon shower list, Plaintiff informed him that he was assigned to the afternoon list. Without explanation, Defendant responded that Plaintiff was not on the list, and refused to listen to Plaintiff's attempts to clarify the situation. Plaintiff subsequently informed Correctional Officer Logan Vibbert that he was on the shower list, and Officer Vibbert allowed Plaintiff to take a shower.

         Officer Vibbert handcuffed Plaintiff, as was typical, to lead him to the shower. Upon entering the shower, Plaintiff encountered Defendant and they exchanged words. Defendant was argumentative and irritated that Plaintiff received the opportunity to shower. Plaintiff responded by telling him that Officer Vibbert did the right thing. Officer Vibbert unhandcuffed Plaintiff to take his shower. After taking his shower, Plaintiff dried off, was handcuffed, and attached to a chain lead held by Officer Vibbert, who escorted him back to his cell. Except for his underwear and a towel, Plaintiff was naked during the walk back to his cell, located in the upper level of the A3 cell block.

         While being escorted to his cell by Officer Vibbert, Defendant, who was a large man and known as an MMA fighter, assaulted Plaintiff. Plaintiff did not initiate physical contact with Defendant, but did say something to him in passing. As seen in security footage, [19] Defendant responded to Plaintiff's exchange by punching Plaintiff in the face. Defendant then pushed Plaintiff to the concrete floor, continued to hit him, spit on him, and placed him in a chokehold. Defendant placed his foot on the railing as leverage to hold Plaintiff to the ground while choking him. While in the chokehold, Plaintiff attempted to voice to Officer Vibbert that Defendant was choking him intentionally. Despite Officer Vibbert's direct orders, Defendant did not stop choking Plaintiff until two other officers came running up to the upper level of the cell block, ordering him to stop.

         Although the duration of the incident was short, Plaintiff experienced both physical and mental injuries from Defendant's assault. Physically, Plaintiff suffered from, and sought medical treatment for, abrasions on his face and lip and an ankle injury. Photos of Plaintiff taken shortly after the incident depict a thick stream of blood down the side of his face and ear, and a busted lip.[20] Initially, the infirmary provided Plaintiff with pain killers. Plaintiff's ankle remained swollen for two days following the incident, however, leading Plaintiff to believe that he fractured his ankle. After Plaintiff sought additional medical treatment for his ankle, the prison nurse ordered x-rays of the ankle; however, prison staff denied the x-ray request. Today, Plaintiff still suffers pain from his ankle injury.

         Plaintiff's mental injuries stem from the fear, anguish, and anxiety caused by Defendant's assault. Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant for excessive use of force. Subsequently, Plaintiff was charged with insubordination and battery in a disciplinary report filed by Defendant on March 30, 2015. ...

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