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Edwards v. State

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

February 11, 2014

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA; TIM REISCH, Secretary, Department of Corrections; DOUG WEBER, Warden, Sioux Falls Penitentiary; ROBERT DOOLEY, Warden, Mike Durfee State Prison; and DOES I, II, III, and IV, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.


KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Joseph Edwards, brought an action against defendants, State of South Dakota, Tim Reisch, Secretary of the Department of Corrections, Doug Weber, Warden of the Sioux Falls Penitentiary, Robert Dooley, Warden of the Mike Durfee State Prison, and Does I, II, III, and IV, alleging violations of his constitutional rights and negligence. All defendants move for summary judgment based on the Eleventh Amendment, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), qualified immunity, and/or the merits of plaintiff's claims. Edwards resists the motion. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.


The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Edwards, the nonmoving party, are as follows:

Edwards was incarcerated by the South Dakota Department of Corrections for felony convictions. Like all South Dakota prisoners, Edwards was initially housed at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to undergo inmate classification and orientation. Officials determined that Edwards would be transferred to Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield, South Dakota, which is considered a low-medium facility.[1] After Edwards was moved to Mike Durfee State Prison, he was placed in the West Crawford[2] housing unit on the third floor.

On the morning of August 5, 2009, approximately five months after Edwards arrived at Mike Durfee State Prison, Edwards was having a conversation with some friends outside of the mess hall. Leroy Ghost, an alleged member of the Gangster Disciples gang, interrupted the conversation. Edwards told Ghost to stay out of his business, and because he said this, Edwards anticipated an altercation would result. Once Edwards returned to West Crawford, Ghost approached him, shook his hand, and said that "everything was good." Docket 50 at 18. Later in the day, someone affiliated with Ghost again approached Edwards and told him not to worry and that "everything is good." Docket 44-2 at 18. Following these interactions, Edwards no longer believed there would be any sort of altercation with Ghost or other Gangster Disciple members.[3]

The rest of Edwards's day was spent either in the day hall or his room. Then, at about 10 p.m., Edwards was sitting alone in his room eating soup and watching television when at least two other inmates[4] entered his room and assaulted him. One of the assailants attacked Edwards with a metal padlock[5] that was placed inside a sock. Although the assault only lasted a matter of minutes, Edwards was knocked unconscious and suffered numerous injuries, including a broken facial orbit, broken clavicle, bleeding on his brain, and several contusions.

At the time of the incident, there were two correctional officers, Officer Dustin Dummer and Officer Michelle Kral, supervising West Crawford.[6] Officer Dummer became aware of the assault shortly after 10 p.m. while he was doing rounds. As he came onto the third floor, Officer Dummer knew something was wrong because too many people were in the hallway. He then found Edwards on the floor of his room bleeding profusely from the head area. Edwards was transported to the hospital in Tyndall, South Dakota, and eventually air transported to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Edwards filed this lawsuit on December 27, 2010, alleging that the prison staff failed to protect him from the assault. Edwards was released from prison on February 1, 2013.


Summary judgment is appropriate 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). The moving party can meet this burden by presenting evidence that there is no dispute of material fact or that the nonmoving party has not presented evidence to support an element of her case on which she bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). "The nonmoving party may not rest on mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.'" Mosley v. City of Northwoods, Mo., 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)).

Summary judgment is precluded if there is a dispute in facts that could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For purposes of a summary judgment motion, the court views the facts and the inferences drawn from such facts "in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986).


Defendants move for summary judgment on Edwards's claims under multiple theories. First, because Edwards seeks only monetary damages, defendants argue they are entitled to sovereign immunity from any claims against them in their official capacities. Additionally, defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity from claims against them in their individual capacities and that they are also entitled to summary judgment on the merits. Separately, defendants contend ...

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