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Teegarden v. Lieffort

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 10, 2014

Aaron Teegarden, Plaintiff,
v.
Andy Lieffort, Defendant.

Terrence Duggins for Plaintiff.

Jacob Campion, Assistant Attorney General, for Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

FRANKLIN L. NOEL, Magistrate Judge.

THIS MATTER came before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge on Defendant Andy Lieffort's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 65). The matter was referred to the undersigned for Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that Defendant Lieffort's motion be GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Teegarden's prison attacks

Plaintiff Aaron Teegarden's claims stem from a series of three separate inmate attacks he experienced while incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater (MCF-STW). See Compl. ¶¶ 20-39, ECF No. 1. The first attack occurred on March 30, 2009, when inmate Patrick Lussier-an alleged member of a Native American gang-placed Teegarden in a headlock and repeatedly punched him in the face. Id. ¶ 22. Teegarden alleges that one month after the incident, he wrote a kite message[1] to Lieffort, his case manager, expressing concerns for his safety. Id. ¶ 23. According to Teegarden's complaint, Lieffort responded and informed Teegarden that he was responsible for his own safety. Id. ¶ 23(b). Production of the kite during the course of discovery, however, showed that the kite was actually addressed and sent to a Lieutenant Andreachi. See Campion Aff. Ex. 2, ECF No. 69.

The second attack occurred on June 9, 2009, when Jason Dominguez-an alleged member of a white supremacist gang-assaulted Teegarden. ECF No. 1 ¶ 24. Shortly thereafter, on June 16, 2009, Teegarden suffered a third attack. Id. ¶ 25. Inmates Dustin Brown and Christopher Lund, also alleged members of a white supremacist gang, attacked Teegarden in the MCF-STW dining hall. Id. Lund commenced the attack by punching Teegarden in the face until he fell to the ground. Id. ¶ 25(a)-(b). Brown then kicked Teegarden in the face multiple times while wearing steel-toed boots. Id. ¶ 25(c).

As a result of the third attack, Teegarden suffered a traumatic brain injury, damage to his jaw, a broken tooth, a broken nose, and damage to rods and surgery plates that were in his back from a prior surgery. Id. ¶ 36. After receiving treatment for his injuries, Teegarden returned to MCF-STW on July 7, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 28-29; Lieffort Aff. ¶ 5, ECF No. 68.

Upon returning to MCF-STW, Teegarden sent a kite to Lieffort expressing that he had concerns regarding his safety. ECF No. 68 ¶ 5. Lieffort met with Teegarden to discuss these possible safety risks, but Teegarden did not identify the names of any individuals he felt were particularly threatening. ECF No. 68 ¶ 5. Lieffort continued to meet with Teegarden several times over the next few months, but Teegarden never provided Lieffort with any specific details regarding his concerns. Id. Lieffort investigated Teegarden's general statements but found nothing indicating there was a risk to Teegarden's safety. Id. Lieffort informed Teegarden that if he had any specific safety issues, he should immediately inform the lieutenant in his living unit and provide details, including the names of the individuals he had concerns about. Id.

B. Procedural history

On September 6, 2012, Teegarden filed suit to recover damages for the injuries he sustained, identifying four named and seventeen unknown defendants. See ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 9-19. On April 3, 2013, all named defendants except Lieffort were dismissed.[2] See Order, ECF No. 26 (adopting this Court's Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 25). Thereafter, two claims remained pertaining to Lieffort: (1) a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Lieffort in his individual capacity alleging Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment violations; and (2) a state-law negligence claim against Lieffort in his individual capacity for failure to protect Teegarden. Id. at 1-2. On September 13, 2013, Lieffort moved for summary judgment, arguing that Teegarden failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to bringing his federal claim as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 36. The Court denied his motion, finding the PLRA inapplicable to Teegarden's claims. Order, ECF No. 74 (adopting this Court's Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 73). Lieffort now moves for summary judgment again, arguing that he was neither negligent nor substantially indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm to Teegarden.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates that there are no genuine disputes of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Larson, 327 F.3d 762, 767 (8th Cir. 2003). A disputed fact is material only if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law, and a dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party opposing a motion for summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or ...


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