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Riggs v. Berkebile

United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division

December 17, 2018

ROBERT D. RIGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN BERKEBILE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          BRIAN MORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUGDE.

         INTRODUCTION

         United States Magistrate Judge John Johnston entered Findings and Recommendations on August 7, 2019. (Doc. 76.) Judge Johnston recommends that the Court dismiss Defendant Powell and dismiss without prejudice Defendant Stewart. (Doc. 76 at 33.) Judge Johnston further recommends that the Court deny Defendant Alstad's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 58) and deny the Motion for Summary Judgment filed collectively by Defendants CoreCivic, Crossroads, Berkebile, Wandler, Busby, Weaver, Gold, Christians, Stewart, Fender, Morhardt, and Powell (collectively, “CoreCivic Defendants”) (Doc. 62). (Doc. 76 at 33-34.)

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Robert Riggs (“Riggs”), a state prisoner proceeding without counsel and in forma pauperis, initiated this action by submitting a Complaint and an affidavit of inability to pay filing fees in Toole County on July 27, 2015. (State Court Case Register, Doc. 5; State Court Complaint, Doc. 6.) Riggs alleged claims against Corrections Corporation of America (n/k/a and referred to herein as “CoreCivic”) and a No. of employees at Crossroads Correctional Facility (“Crossroads”) arising from an incident that occurred in 2007. (Id.) Riggs later filed an amended complaint in state court raising additional claims of failure to protect and denial of medical care arising from incidents in 2007 and 2015. (Doc. 7.) Defendants CoreCivic and Crossroads removed the case to federal court on August 16, 2016. (Doc. 1.) Riggs filed a Second Amended Complaint on July 5, 2017. (Doc. 9.)

         This Court dismissed Riggs's claims arising from the 2007 incident on April 16, 2018. (Doc. 23.) Riggs's claims arising from the 2015 incident remain. Defendant Alstad filed a motion for summary judgment on March 21, 2019. (Doc. 58.) CoreCivic Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on March 29, 2019. (Doc. 62.)

         Judge Johnston issued Findings and Recommendations on August 7, 2019. (Doc. 76.) Riggs failed to serve Defendant Stewart. (Doc. 45, USM 285 Return- summons returned unexecuted.) Judge Johnston recommends that Defendant Stewart be dismissed without prejudice for failure to serve pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 76 at 3, 33.)

         Riggs concedes that the Court should dismiss Defendant Powell. (Doc. 73 at 2.) Judge Johnston recommends that Defendant Powell be dismissed pursuant to Riggs's concession that dismissal is appropriate. (Doc. 76 at 33.)

         Riggs's remaining claims are his failure to protect claim and his negligence claim against CoreCivic Defendants and Alstad arising out of an incident that occurred on November 17, 2015. (Doc. 76 at 3.) The Court already dismissed Riggs's claims arising in 2007 (Doc. 23), but the factual basis of those claims provides context for Riggs's 2015 claims. Riggs alleges that he was assaulted by “the white boys” several times while he was housed in C-Pod at Crossroads in 2007. (Doc. 9 at 2; Riggs's Statement of Disputed and Undisputed Facts, Doc. 74 (hereinafter “SDF”) at 2, ¶ 3.) Riggs claims that he repeatedly asked the staff at Crossroads to move him, but that staff refused because Riggs would not reveal which inmates were assaulting him. Two inmates assaulted Riggs on April 4, 2007. Riggs suffered from a broken jaw. Officials eventually transferred Riggs to Montana State Prison. (Doc. 9 at 2-4.)

         The Montana Department of Corrections (DOC) transferred Riggs back to Crossroads on March 24, 2015. (CoreCivic Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. 65 (hereinafter “SUF”) at ¶ 7.) Riggs told Defendant Gold that Riggs did not want to be housed in D-Wing or in C-Pod due to concerns for his safety. Riggs claims that Gold acknowledged the threat to Riggs's safety and placed him in A-Pod overnight. (Doc. 9 at 4; Doc. 74-1 at 8.) Crossroads then moved Riggs to E-Pod the next morning, which is for low- to medium-custody offenders. (SUF at ¶ 8.)

         Riggs spoke with Defendant Wandler on April 2, 2015. Wandler questioned why Riggs, a close-custody inmate at the highest custody level in the general prison population, was housed in E-Pod. (SUF at ¶ 9.) Riggs claims that he told Wandler that he was concerned for his safety in C-Pod. Riggs believed that he would be assaulted by the same group of inmates who had assaulted him in 2007. (SDF at ¶ 3.)

         Wandler asked Riggs questions to determine whether a current need existed for separation from inmates in C-Pod. (SUF at ¶ 10.) Riggs told Wandler that Inmate Willis had assaulted him in 2007. Wandler informed Riggs that Inmate Willis was no longer at Crossroads. Riggs stated that he did not want to provide the names of the inmates who assaulted him in 2007, but then identified two other inmates, “Blinky” and “Cheeseburger.” Wandler recognized those nicknames as belonging to Inmate Kauffman and Inmate Hale. Wandler testified that she confirmed those individuals were no longer at Crossroads. (SUF at ¶ 11.) Riggs disputes that information and testified that Inmate Hale lived in C-Pod in 2015. (SDF at ¶ 3, Riggs Aff., Doc. 74-1 at 9, ¶ 6.)

         Wandler testified that Riggs also suggested that he would have issues with Inmate Lamere and Inmate Conley, as well as other natives and whites, but that Riggs did not provide any other specific information regarding whom he feared or who had threatened him. Wandler testified that she confirmed that Inmate Lamere and Inmate Conley were not housed in C-Pod. (SUF at ¶ 11.) Riggs disputes that information and asserts that Inmate Lamere and Inmate Conley were both living in C-Pod at the time. (SDF at ¶ 5, Riggs. Aff., Doc. 74-1 at 9, ¶ 6.) Riggs asserts that he told Defendants that the whites, natives, and Sureños were a serious risk to his safety if he lived in C-Pod. (SDF at ¶ 10.)

         Wandler told Riggs that he would need to be housed in C-Pod due to his close-custody status. Riggs refused and was written up and found guilty of violating a direct order. Riggs was sanctioned to 30 days disciplinary detention in the Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) where he was housed until April 28, 2015. (Doc. 9 at 5; SUF at ¶ 18.)

         Riggs participated in segregation reviews with Wandler and other prison officials while he was in the RHU. Defendants represent that at these segregation reviews, Riggs stated a general concern for his safety in C-Pod, but did not provide any additional or corroborating information. (SUF at ¶ 19; Alstad Aff., Doc. 60-1 at ¶¶ 17-21; Wandler Aff., Doc. 66 at ¶ 22.) Riggs represents that at the segregation review on April 7, 2015, which was attended by Defendants Berkebile, Wandler, Busby, Weaver, Gold, and Christians, Riggs detailed the incidents that had occurred in 2007 and expressed a concern for his safety. (Doc. 9 at 5-6.) Additional segregation reviews occurred on April 14, 2015, April 21, 2015, and April 28, 2015. Riggs asserts that Defendant Stewart, Defendant Alstad, and the staff who attended the April 7, 2015 segregation review attended those additional segregation reviews. (Id.)

         Riggs testified that he told Defendants Wandler, Weaver, Berkebile, Gold, Christians, Busby, Fender, and Alstad several times that Inmate Hale had perpetrated assaults on Riggs in 2007 and that Inmate Hale currently lived in C-Pod. Riggs testified that he told Defendants several times that he ...


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