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Abernathy v. Dewey

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 28, 2017

SHAUN DEWEY, et al., Defendants.



         This is a civil rights action arising out of an alleged attack on a prisoner by correctional officers at Souza Baranowski Correctional Center. Plaintiff Franklin Abernathy has brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 12, § 11I, and state tort law.

         The third amended complaint alleges that several correctional officers aggressively pulled and twisted Abernathy's arms through a slot in his cell door, causing severe injuries, and that other officers either failed to intervene or attempted to cover up the incident. As relevant here, it also alleges that defendant “Kristal, ” a nurse at UMass Correctional Health (“UMCH”), refused to provide medical treatment to Abernathy.

         Plaintiff has moved to amend the complaint to substitute the true name (Krystal Anderson) of the individual sued as defendant “Jane Doe a/k/a Nurse Kristal.” For the following reasons, the motion will be granted, except as to the proposed claim against Anderson for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The facts are set forth as described in the third amended complaint.

         On April 3, 2013, Franklin Abernathy was an inmate at Souza Baranowski Correctional Center. He was assigned to a cell in the Special Management Unit (“SMU”) with inmate Leon Shelby. (TAC ¶¶ 18-19). Kyle Sheldon, Gerard Breau, and Michael Rumery were correctional officers at SBCC assigned to Abernathy's cell block. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 7, 9).

         According to the complaint, on the morning of April 3, Sheldon and Breau stood outside Abernathy's cell, yelling obscene language and laughing at Shelby, and Shelby responded by yelling back at the officers. (Id. ¶ 20). At about 9 a.m., Sheldon returned to the cell and instructed Abernathy to remove a blanket Shelby placed over the window of the cell door. (Id. ¶ 22). Abernathy refused because the blanket belonged to Shelby, and Shelby then refused to remove the blanket. (Id.).

         Ten minutes later, Rumery and “Kristal, ” a nurse employed by UMass Correctional Health, came to Abernathy's cell to administer daily medication that included Abernathy's pain and blood-pressure medication. (Id. ¶ 23). Rumery instructed Shelby to remove the blanket from the window, but Shelby again refused. (Id. ¶ 24). Rumery then requested that Abernathy remove the blanket, but Abernathy explained that the blanket belonged to Shelby and that Shelby did not want him to touch it. (Id. ¶ 25). According to the complaint, Rumery told Abernathy that he would not receive his prescribed medication if the blanket was not removed from the window. (Id. ¶ 26). When Abernathy then asked for his medication, Rumery allegedly said, “Fuck him.” (Id. ¶ 27). He then “slammed” the cell door slot shut and told Kristal not to give Abernathy his medicine that day. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28). The lack of medication allegedly caused Abernathy to suffer “severe pain, including chest pain and pain in his left shoulder and arm.” (Id. ¶ 29).

         Later that morning, Shelby removed the blanket from the door. (Id. ¶ 30). Breau then approached the cell. Abernathy informed him that he was “suffering severe chest pain and required immediate medical attention.” (Id. ¶ 31). Breau allegedly denied the request and told Abernathy, “You get nothing.” (Id.).

         At about 11:30 a.m. the same day, Sheldon returned to the cell to provide lunch. According to the complaint, Abernathy again requested medical attention. (Id. ¶ 32). Sheldon denied his request. (Id.). An argument then began between Shelby and Sheldon over a food tray. (Id. ¶¶ 33-36). Shortly thereafter, while Sheldon and Breau were collecting trays after lunch, Shelby threw water at Sheldon's face. (Id. ¶ 37). Sheldon and Breau immediately left the tier and returned with Rumery. (Id. ¶ 38). Rumery ordered Shelby to approach the cell door to be handcuffed, but he refused. (Id. ¶ 39). Rumery then told Shelby that he would use tear gas in the cell if Shelby continued to refuse. (Id.). The officers left again, and then returned once more with officer Shawnn Gyles and an unidentified correctional officer. (Id. ¶ 42).

         Rumery then handcuffed Shelby through the cell door slot without incident. (Id. ¶ 43). Rumery informed Abernathy that he, too, needed to be handcuffed prior to opening the cell door. (Id. ¶ 44). A medical order posted outside Abernathy's cell indicated that due to prior injuries, he should only be handcuffed with his hands in front of his body. (Id. ¶ 46). The complaint alleges that when Abernathy complied, Rumery “aggressively grabbed [his] right hand and swung a handcuff with such force at [his] right wrist that a portion of the handcuff punctured [his] skin and lodged in his wrist, ” causing bleeding and pain. (Id. ¶ 47). According to the complaint, Breau and Sheldon then grabbed Abernathy's left arm and began twisting and pulling it, causing cutting and bruising, while Rumery pressed the portion of the handcuff lodged in Abernathy's wrist, causing further bleeding and pain. (Id. ¶¶ 48-49). As Abernathy screamed in pain, the officers allegedly continued to laugh and encourage each other to pull harder and apply more force. (Id. ¶¶ 50-54). For example, Rumery allegedly laughed at Abernathy and told him that they were going to “fuck [him] up” but let Shelby go unharmed, and Breau and Sheldon mocked Abernathy by telling him to “[a]sk Shelby to help [him] now.” (Id. ¶ 50, 53).

         The complaint alleges that David Darling, the supervisor for the section of the SMU where Abernathy was held, approached the cell and grabbed and twisted Abernathy's thumb and index finger with great force, causing him pain while the other officers continued to use force against him. (Id. ¶ 56-57). It further alleges that officers Gyles and “John Doe, ” despite having a clear view of the altercation, made no effort to stop the assault or otherwise intervene. (Id. ¶¶ 58-59). Eventually, the officers stopped the assault when Shelby slipped his handcuffs in front of his body, grabbed a pen, and began stabbing at the officers' hands while they were pulling Abernathy's hands through the cell door slot. (Id. ¶ 61).

         Abernathy and Shelby were then placed in separate holding cells. (Id. ¶ 65). Accordingly to the complaint, Abernathy was held in the cell for an hour and subjected to a strip search, but did not receive medical care. (Id. ¶ 66). He was then removed from the cell and surrounded by Shaun Dewey (a DOC Captain assigned to the SMU), Darling, and Rumery. (Id. ¶ 68). According to the complaint, Dewey drew his face very close to Abernathy's and told him to “[d]rop the issue and act like nothing happened” so “we all can live together.” (Id. ¶ 68). It alleges that as a result of Dewey's threatening statement, Abernathy was afraid to say anything about the assault out of fear that he would be assaulted again. (Id. ¶¶ 68-69).

         Following the incident, Abernathy was escorted to the medical triage room, where he was seen by Nurse Kristal for treatment of his cuts, bruising, and swelling. (Id. ¶ 70-71). According to the complaint, Kristal refused to treat him, stating that she would not touch him and that he would have to wait for another nurse for treatment and medication. (Id. ¶¶ 73-74). This left Abernathy in pain. (Id. ¶ 75).

         Darling and Rumery then escorted Abernathy back to his cell. (Id. ¶ 76). Abernathy asked Rumery why he had assaulted him, and Rumery allegedly laughed and responded, “Because I can do it.” (Id.). According to the complaint, SBCC officers did not allow Abernathy to make any telephone calls between April 3 and April 5, 2013. (Id. ¶ 77). After April 3, 2013, Abernathy submitted more than 30 sick-call slips requesting treatment for his incident-related injuries, but he was denied treatment and alleges that he continued to suffer pain in his arms, wrists, and hands. (Id. ¶ 78).

         The complaint alleges that as a result of the assault and lack of medical attention, Abernathy suffered physical injuries, including pain, cuts, and bruising on his arms, wrists, and hands; numbness in his hands and wrists; and emotional trauma, including fear, anxiety, stress, mood swings, and a loss of appetite and sleep. (Id. ¶¶ 60, 75).

         B. Procedu ...

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