On April 6, 2006, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Lauderdale County Detention Center in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Plaintiff, represented by private counsel, asked for compensatory and punitive damages, claiming he was the victim of excessive force and deliberate indifference in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff alleged that the jail administrator and sheriff were individually liable for the actions of the corrections officers under supervisory liability.
Specifically, on July 11, 2004, Corrections Officers pepper sprayed Plaintiff at close range after a verbal argument. The type of pepper spray was meant for crowd control. Plaintiff was then put in a poorly ventilated cell, where he could not wash off and was not provided medical care. Plaintiff could not breathe and Defendants mocked him. Plaintiff was given an insufficiently long shower, and was then placed in a group cell, where the pepper spray made his cellmates' eyes burn. For 12 hours, Plaintiff continued to have trouble breathing and was not provided medical care. Plaintiff was then released and his doctor treated him for chemical conjunctivitis in his eyes and irritant-induced bronchospasms in his lungs.
Plaintiff complained to Defendant supervisors, the jail administrator and the sheriff, who approved of Defendants' actions. Plaintiff alleged a pattern of Defendant jail supervisors not investigating or punishing the use of pepper spray.
On July 17, 2006, and on October 12, 2006, the Court (Judge Inge Prytz Johnson) denied Defendants' motions to dismiss.
Defendants appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. On March 8, 2007, Judges Frank M. Hull, Charles R. Wilson, and William H. Pryor vacated the District Court's order denying Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court remanded for further consideration because the District Court had not explained why it had denied Defendants' motions to dismiss. Danley v. Allen [sic], 480 F.3d 1090, 1092 (11th Cir. 2007).
District Court Judge Johnson again denied Defendants' motion to dismiss on April 24, 2007. The Court found that according to Plaintiff's complaint, Defendants were not justified in pepper-spraying Plaintiff and Defendant jail supervisors had created an atmosphere allowing the practices of the Defendant Corrections Officers. Danley v. Allen 485 F. Supp. 2d 1260 (N.D. AL 2007).
Defendants appealed again on May 15, 2007.
On August 22, 2008, 11th Circuit Judges Edward E. Carnes, Susan H. Black and Jane A. Restani affirmed the District Court's denial of Defendants' motions to dismiss. Danley v. Allyn, 540 F.3d 1298 (11th Cir. 2008). The Court found that the initial spraying was not excessive. However, the Court found that Defendants' confining Plaintiff in a cell without medical treatment constituted excessive force. Furthermore, the Court found Defendants' mocking of Plaintiff circumstantial evidence of malicious intent. The Court also found that Plaintiff stated a claim against the Defendant supervisors because they had prior knowledge of corrections officers treating inmates in the same way.
The parties reached a Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims. The agreement stated that pepper spray or OC spray meant for crowd control would no longer be used on individual inmates. The Detention Center would either implement a separate policy for using pepper spray meant for crowds in situations with multiple inmates or would destroy the pepper spray. The Settlement Agreement contained training requirements and requirements to update the policies for chemical and OC sprays, which would state that chemical sprays are not to be used to punish inmates. Each use of chemical or OC spray would be documented and investigated and inmates would be able to decontaminate properly after being sprayed. The agreement was to be accomplished within 90 days and during this time the District Court would maintain jurisdiction over the case. Defendants would provide policy changes to Plaintiff for review and documentation of the implementation of these requirements. Additional settlement terms were confidential.
On March 17, 2009, Judge Johnson dismissed this case without prejudice, retaining jurisdiction in order to enforce the parties' settlement agreement.Shira Gordon - 02/09/2012