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Brityce Minyard v. City of Philadelphia

July 31, 2012

BRITYCE MINYARD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Brityce Minyard ("Plaintiff") brings this civil rights action against the City of Philadelphia, Corrections Officer Denmark ("Defendant Denmark"), Commissioner Giorla, and Warden Gainey (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiff, an inmate of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, alleges that he was unlawfully injured during an altercation with Defendant Denmark. Plaintiff has withdrawn his claims against all Defendants except Defendant Denmark, against whom he pleads two counts: (1) Count One - violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (2) Count Two - assault and battery arising under Pennsylvania law. Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Plaintiff's remaining claims against Defendant Denmark.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Defendants' summary judgment motion on all of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Denmark.*fn1

II. BACKGROUND*fn2

On September 24, 2008, Plaintiff and Defendant Denmark were involved in an altercation at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, a unit of the Philadelphia Prison System. Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 1, ECF No. 32 [hereinafter Pl.'s Br.]. At the time of the incident in question, Plaintiff was an inmate at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility where Defendant Denmark was employed as a corrections officer. Id. at 1. Plaintiff and Defendants have put forth vastly different accounts of the incident; however, on December 7, 2009, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to simple assault against Defendant Denmark. Transcript from Dec. 7, 2009, Commonwealth v. Minyard 8:18-19, Defs.' Br. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. C, ECF No. 29 [hereinafter Defs.' Opening Br.].

Plaintiff alleges that on September 24, 2008, he returned after his work in the facility kitchen to his housing area where Defendant Denmark was on duty. Minyard Dep. 12:17-24, Aug. 24, 2011, Pl.'s Br. Ex. A; Denmark Dep. 22:3, Sept. 26, 2011, Pl.'s Br. Ex. E. Plaintiff's cell was locked at this time and when Plaintiff requested that Defendant Denmark open his cell to allow Plaintiff to enter, Defendant Denmark approached Plaintiff and told him he would not open the "[f]ucking door," putting his finger in Plaintiff's face.*fn3 Minyard Dep. 14:7-9. Plaintiff and Defendant Denmark engaged in a heated argument.

Id. at 14:13. The argument concluded when Defendant Denmark told Plaintiff to go to the common area downstairs and Plaintiff complied by turning and walking away from Defendant Denmark.

Id. at 15:8-10.

As Plaintiff was walking away, Defendant Denmark allegedly approached Plaintiff from behind and punched him on the right side of the face, id. at 15:10-12, while holding a metal ring of keys. Pl.'s Br. 1. Plaintiff then turned and punched at Defendant Denmark three or four times before his vision became black and he "fell to the ground." Minyard Dep. 15:14-18. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Denmark then dragged him into his cell and landed multiple blows on Plaintiff's body while Plaintiff was "balled up" on the ground.*fn4 Id. at 15:19-22. Shortly after the incident, Plaintiff was escorted to the correctional facility medical center and then transported to Frankford Hospital. Id. at 19:15-22:21.

Defendants cite the facts testified to by Plaintiff in his deposition and asserted in his complaint for purposes of their summary judgment motion; however, Defendant Denmark's deposition testimony challenges some of the facts offered by Plaintiff. Defendant Denmark maintains that when he refused Plaintiff's request to be let into his cell, Plaintiff became aggressive, putting his finger in Denmark's face and demanding that Defendant Denmark "open [his] fucking door." Denmark Dep. 16:1-4, 30:12-13. Defendant Denmark's version of the events also differs from Plaintiff's with regard to when Defendant Denmark struck Plaintiff. According to his testimony, Defendant Denmark, believing that he was in danger, pulled out his pepper spray during the verbal exchange with Plaintiff, at which point, Plaintiff punched Denmark in the face. Id. at 16:3-6, 25:5-7. Defendant Denmark and Plaintiff then exchanged blows. Id. at 16:6-7. Defendant Denmark denies that Plaintiff lost consciousness or that he was dragged into his cell and kicked, maintaining that, after Plaintiff ceased hitting Denmark, Plaintiff got up from the ground and walked into his cell. Id. at 21:11-17. Defendant Denmark then secured the cell door. Id. at 16:7.

During the altercation, Plaintiff sustained a fractured cheekbone, for which he had to undergo surgery, and nerve damage to his face. Minyard Dep. 20:8-24:7. Plaintiff also claims to have suffered emotional distress and intense physical pain, requiring medication. Id. at 25:21-26:12. To this day, Plaintiff experiences numbness and pain on the right side of his face. Id. at 31:6-15. He also has developed a sinus issue in his right nostril that obstructs his breathing. Id. at 31:16-32:2.

While at the hospital being treated for injuries related to the altercation with Defendant Denmark, Plaintiff was arrested, id. at 35:5-13, and charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment of another person. Pl.'s Br. 4. Plaintiff entered into an agreement to plead guilty to the reduced charge of simple assault in exchange for the Commonwealth's agreement to noll pros the original charges. Transcript from Dec. 7, 2009, Commonwealth v. Minyard 6:9-10.

On December 7, 2009, Plaintiff appeared for an oral plea colloquy before the Honorable Paula Patrick, Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. Id. at 1. Judge Patrick affirmed that Plaintiff had read and understood the written colloquy stipulating that there was a factual basis for his plea. Id. at 3:17-25. The Assistant District Attorney then recited the facts that Defendant Denmark would have testified to at trial.*fn5 Id. 7:13-15. The Assistant District Attorney provided that Plaintiff initiated the interaction with Defendant Denmark when he "demanded" that Defendant Denmark "open [his] fucking door now[,] pointing his finger at [Denmark]" and that Plaintiff "then punched the corrections officer in the face" and attempted to do so again before being "subdued." Id. at 7:20-8:3. The recited facts also stated that as a result of Plaintiff's conduct, Defendant Denmark was "hospitalized for his injuries[,] including a cut inside his mouth and a bruised hand." Id. at 8:4-7. Following the reading of the facts before the Court of Common ...


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