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Muhammad v. Arizona Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 23, 2015

Riki Rashaad Muhammad, Plaintiff,
Arizona Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.


STEPHEN M. McNAMEE, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Riki Rashaad Muhammad brought this pro se civil rights Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Correctional Officer III Barbara Ams, a counselor with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) (Doc. 25 at 2, 29). In his Second Amended Complaint, Muhammad set forth a threat-to-safety claim under the Eighth Amendment ( id. at 29-30).[1] Before the Court is Ams's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 90).

The Court will deny the motion without prejudice.

I. Background

In his Second Amended Complaint, Muhammad alleged that Ams knew of, and disregarded, an excessive risk to his safety, thereby exposing him to a substantial risk of harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 25 at 29-30). Muhammad claimed that Ams provided another inmate a page from a pre-sentence report in Muhammad's criminal case that contained confidential information about his involvement in the death of a two-year old child ( id. ).

Ams moves for summary judgment on the grounds that Muhammad did not suffer physical injury and he failed to exhaust administrative remedies as required under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (Doc. 90).[2]

II. Summary Judgment Standard

A court must grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); however, it must "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court must believe the nonmovant's evidence, and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

III. Physical Injury

Ams argues that Muhammad's claim is barred by the PLRA's requirement that a prisoner make "a prior showing of physical injury" (Doc. 90 at 4). Section 1997e(e) provides that "[n]o Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). In Oliver v. Keller, the Ninth Circuit specified that "§ 1997e(e) applies only to claims for mental and emotional injury." 289 F.3d 623, 629 (9th Cir. 2002). The appellate court therefore concluded that where an inmate has actionable claims for compensatory, nominal or punitive damages premised on constitutional violations and not on any alleged mental or emotional injuries, the claims are not barred by § 1997e(e). Id. at 630.

Muhammad does not seek recovery for "mental or emotional injury"; rather, he seeks damages for an alleged violation of his Eighth Amendment rights (Doc. 25 at 29, 31). Accordingly, his claim against Ams is not barred by § 1997e(e). See Greening v. Miller-Stout, 739 F.3d 1235, 1238 (9th Cir. 2014) (rejecting argument that the plaintiff's claim was barred by § 1997e(e)'s "physical injury" requirement and finding that because he did not seek recovery for mental and emotional injury but instead ...

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