Law School Case Brief
Garner v. Metz - 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83408 (S.D. Tex. May 8, 2015)
To succeed on an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim, a prisoner must have suffered more than a de minimis injury from the excessive force.
Plaintiff Willi Free I Garner filed a civil rights action in federal district court against defendant Captain Kelly Metz for using excessive force against him on June 29, 2012, in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment while he was housed at the McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas. Metz filed a motion for summary judgment to Garner's claim for failure to state a constitutional violation, or in the alternative, on the grounds that he was entitled to qualified immunity because his actions were objectively reasonable.
Should the court grant Metz's motion for summary judgment and dismiss with prejudice Garner's excessive force claim?
The court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment; Garner's excessive force claim was dismissed with prejudice. The court reiterated that to succeed on an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim, a prisoner such as Garner had to establish that he suffered more than a de minimis injury from the excessive force. Here, Garner claimed that Metz twice slammed his head into a steel pole causing a "marble-sized knot" to rise on his forehead. However, he was escorted to medical within ten minutes of the alleged excessive force, and the nurse on duty found no contusions, lacerations or bruises that would have been expected based on Garner's description of the force. The court also noted that the force was not repugnant or malicious. The fact that Metz' had ordered Garner simply to tuck in his shirt still fell within orders to maintain order and discipline, and Garner's admission that he repeatedly refused to follow such orders justified Metz's decision to employ force. Lastly, the court added that Garner had no claim for monetary damages against Metz in his official capacity.
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