Where a magistrate judge, in determining what amount to award to a detainee who alleged she was sexually assaulted by a correctional officer, cited cases in which plaintiffs have been awarded compensatory and punitive damages under similar facts, he did not err. Although he naturally considered similarly-situated prison detainees, he did not indicate they deserve less recompense based on their position as detainees.
Viviana Anselme filed an amended complaint against Eric Griffin and Raheem Rumsey, both former Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women correctional officers, seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for sexual assault. Default judgment was entered against Griffin in October 2021, following Griffin’s repeated failure to answer plaintiffs’ complaint.
The magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation, or R&R, recommending that the court award Anselme $12,790 in compensatory damages and $10,000 against Griffin in his personal capacity. Plaintiff objects solely to the amount of the proposed damages award. She argues that (1) the complaint’s allegation regarding Griffin’s sexual assault of plaintiff should be taken as true for purposes of assessing damages and (2) the court should increase the damage award.
Judge Hoppe recognized in his R&R that “‘[u]pon the entry of default, the defaulted [defendant] is deemed to have admitted all well-pleaded allegations of fact contained in the complaint,’ except those relating to damages, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(b)(6).” Judge Hoppe also acknowledged as contradictory that Rule 55(b)(2) “allows the court to hold a hearing “when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to … determine the amount of damages; establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or investigate any other matter.”
Plaintiff argues that “there is no ‘contradiction’ between Rule 8(b)(6) and Rule 55(b)(2)(C).” She objects to the R&R on the basis that “Judge Hoppe stops short of accepting that the description of Griffin’s sexual assault in the complaint should be accepted as true for all purposes, leaving open the possibility that he relied on a less-egregious set of liability facts than alleged in the complaint in assessing damages,” and “[i]f [he] did this, it would be error.”
The court denies this objection. Judge Hoppe’s R&R illustrates his careful consideration of both the description of Griffin’s sexual assault in the complaint and plaintiff’s testimony. The compensatory damages he recommended were comparable to those courts have awarded in cases with similar facts.
Plaintiff also argues that the R&R, in citing cases that “award similar amounts of compensatory and punitive damages to what his [R&R] suggests, based on similar facts,” have an “unspoken assumption … that a sexual assault victim’s status as a prison inmate is somehow a mitigating factor, i.e. that people who have committed crimes are somehow less deserving of recompense for sexual assault than those who have not.”
The court denies this objection. Judge Hoppe, in citing cases in which plaintiffs have been awarded compensatory and punitive damages under similar facts, naturally considered prison inmates similarly situated to Anselme. He did not indicate they deserve less recompense based on their position as inmates.
Plaintiff’s objections to R&R overruled. Report and Recommendation adopted in full.
Anselme v. Griffin, Case No. 3:20-cv-00005, Feb. 10, 2023. WDVA at Charlottesville (Moon). VLW 023-3-054. 10 pp.