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Trammell v. Owens

United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division

August 20, 2014

BRIAN OWENS, et al., Defendants.

42 U.S.C. § 1983



Presently pending before the Court is Defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint. (ECF No. 8.) For the reasons explained below, it is recommended that Defendants’ motion to dismiss be denied, and the stay of discovery be lifted upon the district judge’s ruling on the motion and this Report and Recommendation.


Plaintiff, formerly a prisoner at Georgia State Prison (“GSP”), filed the instant lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging constitutional civil rights violations against Georgia Department of Corrections (“GDOC”) Commissioner Brian Owens and former GSP Warden Bruce Chatman. (Compl. 1, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by their deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to him in crafting and/or enforcing policies which led to serious injury inflicted upon Plaintiff by another inmate. (Id. at 1-2.)

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was housed at GSP in Unit G-2 along with inmate Travonta Mitchell (“Mitchell”). (Compl. 3.) On November 29, 2011, Mitchell threatened to attack Plaintiff in their cell, prompting Plaintiff to bang on the door to get the attention of officers. (Id.) Plaintiff pleaded with the first officer on the scene for help, but was told that the officer-in-charge must be called. (Id.) When the officer-in-charge arrived, Plaintiff repeated his statement that Mitchell had threatened to attack him. (Id.) The officer-in-charge ordered Mitchell to place his hands through the door slot in order to be “cuff[ed] up, ” but Mitchell refused. (Id.) The officer-in-charge then told Plaintiff, “there’s nothing I can do” and left. (Id.)

Mitchell then attacked Plaintiff, cutting him “across his face with a razor, causing an eight inch slash requiring 60 stitches, and leaving a permanent scar.” (Id. at 4.) Following the attack, Plaintiff informed the first officer on the scene, who had returned for medical call with the “pill nurse, ” that he had been attacked, but the officer responded that there was nothing he could do. (Id.) Other officers then came to the cell door, saw Plaintiff’s injuries, and left. (Id.) Eventually, three officers returned to the cell and “stop[ped] the attack.” (Id.) Plaintiff does not specify how much time passed between these encounters with officers or how long the attack was ongoing.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Owens is the GDOC official responsible for “development, implementation and maintenance of policies and procedures which protect prisoners from attacks from other prisoners.” (Id. at 2.) He asserts that Defendant Chatman was the GSP official responsible for the “establishment and implementation of practices and policies concerning inmate safety.” (Id. at 3.) According to Plaintiff, “[t]he procedures in place at [GSP] were not adequate to the task of protecting inmates from attacks by other inmates.” (Compl. 4.) He further states that it “is the defendants’ policy to require correctional officers to hand cuff inmates engaged in an attack against another inmate before officers may enter the cell to stop the attack, ” and also “to provide razor blades in the form of shaving implements to inmates.” (Id.) Therefore, Plaintiff concludes, Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the risk posed by these deficient policies and violated Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights.


I. Plaintiff States a Claim for Deliberate Indifference

Defendants contend that Plaintiff’s Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Defs.’ Br. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 3, ECF No. 8-1.) Defendants argue that even accepting all of Plaintiff’s facts as true, he has not shown that they have violated the Eighth Amendment sufficient to warrant relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all facts set forth in the plaintiff’s complaint and limit its consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007); Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The complaint must include sufficient factual allegations “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]” Id. Although the complaint must contain factual allegations that “raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of” the plaintiff’s claims, id. at 556, “Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a well-pleaded complaint simply because ‘it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable.’” Watts v. Fla. Int’l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. It is well settled that prison officials have “a duty . . . to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994). Although not every injury inflicted by another inmate results from a violation of the Constitution, the Eighth Amendment is violated if a prisoner is seriously injured as a result of a “prison official’s ‘deliberate indifference’ to a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. at 828, 834.

However, the Eleventh Circuit has held that “supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the basis of respondeat superior or vicarious liability.” Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1360 (11th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted). “Instead, supervisory liability under § 1983 occurs either when the supervisor personally participates in the alleged unconstitutional conduct or when there is a causal connection between the actions of a supervising official and the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Id. (citation omitted). “[T]he causal connection may be established and supervisory liability imposed where the supervisor's improper ...

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