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Russell v. Corrections Corporation of America

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 18, 2019




         Plaintiff Maxine Russell brings this suit against Corrections Corporation of America (“CCA”) and the District of Columbia (“the District”) seeking compensation for alleged injuries she suffered when she was a pretrial inmate at the Correctional Treatment Facility (“CTF”) after she fell in her dark cell. She has since been released, and brings several claims against the defendants alleging violations of state and federal law in a seven-count complaint.

         The Court previously dismissed one count of her complaint. Pending before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment on the remaining six counts. Ms. Russell has failed to oppose the motion or file any response. Upon consideration of the motion, the relevant case law, and the entire record, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         I. Background

         The following facts are undisputed. Ms. Maxine Russell was incarcerated at the Correctional Treatment Facility (“CTF”), a correctional facility then-operated by Corrections Corporation of America[1] in Washington, D.C. pursuant to a correctional services agreement with the District. Defs.' Statement of Facts (“SOF”), ECF No. 64-1 at ¶ 1-3.[2] Ms. Russell was at CTF from January 28, 2014 through March 4, 2014. Id. ¶ 1.

         At CTF, Ms. Russell was in Unit E-2-A, Cell #9 from January 28 until February 20, 2014, the date of her accident. Id. ¶¶ 1, 5. This cell was equipped with one set of bunk beds, one light fixture on the ceiling equipped with two bulbs, and a light switch that inmates could control. Id. ¶ 6. The light switch was located near the door of the cell, which was out of the reach of the bunk beds. Id. ¶ 8. The cell had two windows that allowed light from the outside, and one window in the cell door that allowed in light from the hallway so that security personnel could see into the cell to conduct security checks at night. Id. ¶¶ 12-14. Security lights and parking lot lights illuminated the cell at night, as well as 24-hour lighting from the hallway and dayroom. Id. ¶ 15.

         Ms. Russell alleges that shortly after she was incarcerated, the light bulb in her cell began to flicker. Id. ¶ 20. Sometime thereafter, the light stopped working. Compl., ECF No. 1-1 ¶ 10. Additionally, she claims that her windows were covered with film. SOF, ECF No. 64-1 ¶ 19. Ms. Russell claims she told CTF staff about the lighting problem, and they said that it would be fixed. Id. ¶ 21. On February 13, 2014, a week prior to the accident, a CTF employee submitted a work order to fix the lightbulb. Id. ¶ 22.

         On February 20, 2014, Ms. Russell was seen by a Unity Health provider in the medical unit for reasons independent of her accident which would happen later in the day. Id. ¶ 23. There, she stated she could not sleep in the dark and that being “locked up” was “getting to her.” Id. Ms. Russell also stated she was suffering emotional distress from the recent death of a close family member. Id. Ms. Russell returned to her cell from the medical unit at approximately 9:10 p.m. Id. ¶ 24. At approximately 10:45 p.m., the inmates were told to return to their cells from the dayroom and the TV room for a formal count, which was conducted at 11:00 p.m. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. The housing unit officer completed the count by 11:12 p.m. Id. ¶ 27.

         At 11:24 p.m., the housing unit officer was notified that Ms. Russell needed medical assistance because she fell from her top bunk and hit her head and back on the wall. Id. ¶ 28-29.[3] The housing unit officer medical staff responded and entered the unit at approximately 11:38 p.m. Id. ¶ 30. Medical staff and security personnel then escorted Ms. Russell to the medical unit. Id. ¶ 31. Unity Health provider notes indicate she was able to move and walk with minimal assistance. Id. ¶ 32. Ms. Russell was returned to her unit and transferred to the bottom bunk of a different cell at 1:50 a.m. on February 21, 2014. Id. ¶ 33. Ms. Russell visited the medical unit for follow-up visits seven more times before being released from CTF on March 4, 2014. Id. ¶ 34.

         Ms. Russell filed her complaint against defendants alleging that she suffered physical and emotional injuries resulting from being kept in a small, dark, and dingy cell. See Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11-12. Defendants moved to dismiss Count Seven, a Monell claim for municipal liability based on several theories of liability, which the Court granted on June 17, 2019. See Mem. Op., ECF No. 62. Six claims now remain against defendants: Negligence (Count One); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”) (Count Two); Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count Three); Negligent Training or Supervision (Count Four); Failure to Protect (Count Five); and Inadequate Medical Care (Count Six). See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all remaining counts in Ms. Russell's complaint. See generally Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 64. Ms. Russell has failed to oppose, or in any way respond to, defendants' motion for summary judgment. Subsequently, defendants filed a motion for summary disposition. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. Disposition, ECF No. 66. Ms. Russell did not oppose or respond to the motion for summary disposition. Defendants' motions are ripe for adjudication.

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment should be granted if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [moving party] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Under Rule 56, summary judgment is appropriate if the “pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact.” Carter v. Greenspan, 304 F.Supp.2d 13, 20 (D.D.C. 2004). Indeed, “[a] moving party is ‘entitled to judgment as a matter of law' against ‘a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'” Waterhouse v. District of Columbia, 298 F.3d 989, 992 (D.C. Cir. 2002)(quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 332 (1986)). The non-moving party is required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

         Even when there is no opposition filed, the burden is always on the movant to demonstrate why summary judgment is warranted. Grimes v. D.C., 794 F.3d 83, 97 (D.C. Cir. 2015). “If a party . . . fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact . . . the court may . . . grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3). Accordingly, a “district court must always determine for itself whether the record and any undisputed material facts justify granting summary judgment.” Grimes, 794 F.3d at 97.

         III. ...

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