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Hall v. Myotte

United States District Court, D. Montana, Helena Division

October 26, 2017

STACY HALL, Plaintiff,
v.
BUDDY MYOTTE, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Dana L. Christensen, United States District Court Chief Judge

         United States Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston entered findings and recommendations in this case on June 1, 2017, recommending that Plaintiff Stacy Hall's ("Hall") complaint be dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Hall timely filed an objection to the findings and recommendations, and so is entitled to a de novo review of those findings and recommendations to which he specifically objects.[1] 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This Court reviews for clear error those findings and recommendations to which no party objects. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mack, Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). Clear error exists if the Court is left with a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

         BACKGROUND

         Hall was an inmate at the Montana State Prison at all times pertinent to his claims.[2] He filed a civil rights petition against the following Defendants: Buddy Myotte, Alvin Fode, Trisdan Kohut, PA Fisk, Mark Henderson, Jane McMahon, Pamela Ward Monaco, Leslie Thornton, Rosanna Hengst, Dan Curran, Gutherie Lewis, Lance Griffin, Samantha Peterson, Hiedi Abbott, Cyndy Hiner, Cathy Redfern, Michael Zuber, Myron Beeson, Tom Wood, Leroy Kirkegard, Jane Lamoure, Mike Batista, E. Shane Spears, Jonathan Pine, Stephen Powell, and various unknown Does. Hall alleges multiple claims relating to Defendants' alleged violation of his state and federal rights with regard to a slip and fall accident and improper medical treatment. (See Doc. 10 at 139-153.)

         Because the parties are familiar with the facts of this case they will only be included here as necessary to explain the Court's order.

         Hall makes nine specific objections to Judge Johnston's findings. They will be addressed separately below.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Factual Summations

         Hall contends that Judge Johnston's summary of the facts of this case inaccurately recited Hall's Amended Complaint. The Court disagrees and finds that Judge Johnston thoroughly summarized the facts. Nonetheless, this Court has read the entirety of the 163-page Amended Complaint and will consider all of the factual allegations made by Hall.

         II. Slip and Fall

         In regards to the slip and fall claim, Hall objects to the findings because he "believes the facts as presented in his complaint state a valid claim for which he may be entitled to some relief." (Doc. 13 at 12.) Hall argues that the safety hazards in his working conditions at MSP were plainly obvious, that he informed the guards they were unsafe, and that the staff ignored his complaints, all of which support an Eighth Amendment claim.

         Under Farmer v. Brennan, the United States Supreme Court found that an Eighth Amendment violation under prison conditions occurs when: (1) the deprivation alleged must be "objectively, sufficiently serious, " and (2) the "prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of 'the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.'" 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). "To violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, a prison official must have a 'sufficiently culpable state of mind." Id. This is one of "deliberate indifference" to one's health or safety, or acting recklessly. Id. at 834-835. "[A]cting or failing to act with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner is the equivalent of recklessly disregarding that risk." Id. at 835.

         Hall clarifies his four Eighth Amendment claims in his objection: (1) that he was compelled to perform his work duties or face disciplinary action; (2) that he was refused proper equipment with which to reach high places after complaining of the risks to safety; (3) that he was forced to perform hazardous clean-up duties that brought him into direct contact with human fecal matter without training, certification, or the proper protective gear, and (4) that he was refused proper protective gear of any kind when ordered to clean human fecal matter from three cells covered in feces. (Doc. 13 at 11.) Taking his allegations as true, his first argument fails because the deprivation alleged is not objectively, sufficiently serious. As in any type of work situation, it is normal to be subject to recourse if you fail to perform your work duties. Further, Hall fails to allege a sufficiently serious threat.

         Second, the fact that the prison official told Hall to use the equipment in the cell to stand on does not pose an objectively, sufficiently serious harm. Judge Johnston found and this Court agrees that standing on a prison bed, desk, or toilet did not pose an objective risk and Hall did not complain that to do so would be unsafe. Hall's only request was for a step ladder, which the officers appropriately considered to be a security risk and communicated to Hall. (Doc. 10 at 13.) Moreover, there is no allegation that any prison official asked him to stand on the cell furniture with a culpable state of mind.

         Finally, Hall's two allegations that the prison officials deliberately disregarded the safety risks of cleaning up human fecal matter without proper training and equipment also fail as a matter of law. Hall claims that MSP usually used the Low Side Haz-Mat work crew to clean contaminated cells, and that the crew had specific training, solvents, and protective gear. Although the Haz-Mat crew initially cleaned the cells, Hall and prisoner Klatt were asked to finish cleaning the cells. (Doc. 10 at 14-15.) Hall explains that he and Klatt inspected the cells and determined the necessary cleaning supplies and "protective Haz-Mat gear" to finish the job. (Doc. 10 at 16.) However, Defendant Myotte stated "that the gear was not necessary since they would get a change of clothing and a shower after the work was completed." Id. Hall then requested "face mask shields located in ...


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