United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division
September 17, 2014
PHILLIP DANIEL ADAMS, Plaintiff,
JASON MEDLIN, Warden, and PAT CLARK, Defendants.
BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff, an inmate at Wheeler Correctional Facility ("WCF") in Alamo, Georgia, brought the above-captioned case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis ("IFP"), Plaintiff's complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn , 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald , 165 F.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).
I. SCREENING OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT
Plaintiff names as Defendants in this case Jason Medlin, the Warden of WCF, and Pat Clark, the Medical Director at WCF. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1, 4.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows. On March 26, 2013, Plaintiff was diagnosed with Bell's palsy. (Id. at 5.) On May 15, 2013, Dr. Hanes saw Plaintiff at WCF after Plaintiff's left eye remained open for fifty-one days. (Id.) Dr. Hanes prescribed Plaintiff artificial tears. (Id.)
Plaintiff's left eye started to leak puss and he saw an outside specialist on July 31, 2013, who prescribed him Tobradex drops and ointment. (Id.) Plaintiff received the drops on August 16, 2013, and the ointment on November 1, 2013. (Id.) Both the drops and ointment were reordered on December 1, 2013, and Plaintiff received them on January 28, 2014. (Id.) Plaintiff is again out of eye ointment and has not received more as of June 17, 2014, the date he signed this complaint. (Id.) Plaintiff states that he suffers irreversible damage to both eyes, including permanent vision damage to his left eye. (Id.)
1. Legal Standard for Screening
The complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, of if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). "Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)." Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc. , 366 F.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass , 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).
To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it "offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '" or if it "tenders naked assertions' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id . (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a "plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
Finally, the court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc. , 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).
2. Potential Eighth Amendment Claims
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Medlin and Clark showed deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. To state a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, Plaintiff must allege that: (1) he had an objectively serious medical need, (2) a defendant acted with deliberate indifference to that need, and (3) his injury was caused by that defendant's wrongful conduct. Goebert v. Lee County , 510 F.3d 1312, 1326 (11th Cir. 2007); see also Thomas v. Bryant , 614 F.3d 1288, 1317 n.29 (11th Cir. 2010) (noting that a plaintiff must "show a causal connection between the constitutional violation and his injuries" to prevail on any § 1983 claim).
To satisfy the first prong, a prisoner's medical need must have been "diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or... is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Goebert , 510 F.3d at 1326 (quoting Hill v. Dekalb Reg'l Youth Det. Ctr. , 40 F.3d 1176, 1187 (11th Cir.1994)). To satisfy the second prong, Plaintiff must allege that a defendant: (1) was subjectively aware of a serious risk to Plaintiff's health, and (2) disregarded that risk by (3) following a course of action which constituted "more than mere negligence." Id.
In addition, as Plaintiff claims that a delay in medical treatment amounted to deliberate indifference, he must allege some "detrimental effect of the delay in medical treatment...." Hill , 40 F.3d at 1188, abrogated in part on other grounds by Hope v. Pelzer , 536 U.S. 730, 739 n.9 (2002); see also Farrow v. West , 320 F.3d 1235, 1244 n.12 (11th Cir. 2003) ("In Hope v. Pelzer , 536 U.S. 730, 122 S.Ct. 2508, 153 L.Ed.2d 666 (2002), the Supreme Court criticized part of the qualified immunity analysis in Hill, but not Hill's analysis of what constitutes a serious medical need of prisoners."). Whether such delay amounts to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need depends on the length of the delay as well as "the nature of the medical need and the reason for the delay." Farrow , 320 F.3d at 1247.
Furthermore, "not every claim by a prisoner that he has not received adequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth Amendment." Farrow , 320 F.3d at 1243. The Eighth Amendment does not mandate that the medical care provided to the prisoner "be perfect, the best obtainable, or even very good." Harris v. Thigpen , 941 F.2d 1495, 1510 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Brown v. Beck , 481 F.Supp. 723, 726 (S.D. Ga. 1980) (Bowen, J.)). As the Supreme Court has explained:
[A]n inadvertent failure to provide medical care cannot be said to constitute "an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" or to be "repugnant to the conscience of mankind." Thus, a complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner. In order to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.
Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976). Thus, mere allegations of negligence or malpractice do not amount to deliberate indifference. Campbell v. Sikes , 169 F.3d 1353, 1363-72 (11th Cir. 1999) (explaining that medical malpractice cannot form the basis for Eighth Amendment liability); Harris , 941 F.2d at 1505. Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit has consistently held that a mere difference of opinion between an inmate and prison medical officials over a diagnosis or course of treatment does not support a claim of deliberate indifference. See Smith v. Fla. Dep't of Corr. , 375 F.Appx. 905, 910 (11th Cir. 2010).
Here, Plaintiff has not alleged any conduct by Defendants Medlin or Clark that constituted deliberate indifference to any of Plaintiff's constitutional rights, but has presumably named them merely because of their positions as warden and medical director of WCF. Additionally, while Plaintiff identifies various medical personnel involved in the treatment of his eye, he did not name any of them as defendants. Plaintiff does not explain why he never received a refill of his ointment prescription, nor does he identify anyone as causing the lapse in medication or acting in a manner that is deliberately indifference to his eye condition. He also does not describe his eye injury with sufficient detail that would allow a determination concerning whether it was serious, why eye drops or ointment were necessary, and how the absence of eye drops and ointment has exacerbated his injury.
C. Leave to Amend Complaint.
The Court recognizes that Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and will therefore give him an opportunity to attempt to cure the pleading deficiencies outlined above by amending his complaint. Accordingly, the Court hereby ORDERS Plaintiff to amend his complaint to include all of his allegations in one document, within fourteen days of the date of this Order. If Plaintiff wishes to pursue this case, he MUST file an amended complaint, which MUST be filed in accordance with the following instructions.
The amended complaint must be printed legibly so that the Court may discern Plaintiff's claims, and it will supersede and replace in its entirety the previous pleadings filed by Plaintiff. Krinsk v. SunTrust Banks, Inc. , 654 F.3d 1194, 1202 (11th Cir. 2011); Lowery v. Ala. Power Co. , 483 F.3d 1184, 1219 (11th Cir. 2007) ("an amended complaint supersedes the initial complaint and becomes the operative pleading in the case"). It must contain a caption that clearly identifies, by name, each individual that Plaintiff is suing in the present lawsuit. Furthermore, the body of Plaintiff's amended complaint must contain sequentially numbered paragraphs containing only one act of misconduct per paragraph. The numbered paragraphs in his amended complaint should include information such as: (i) the alleged act of misconduct; (ii) the date on which such misconduct occurred; (iii) the names of each and every individual who participated in such misconduct; and (iv) where appropriate, the location where the alleged misconduct occurred. While Plaintiff may attach exhibits to his amended complaint, he shall not incorporate them by reference as a means of providing the factual basis for his complaint. Thus, Plaintiff must name the individuals whom he seeks to include as defendants herein in both the caption and the body of his amended complaint; he may not rely on the fact that individuals are named in the exhibits attached to his amended complaint as a means of including such persons as defendants to this lawsuit. The Court will not independently examine exhibits that Plaintiff does not specifically reference (by the exhibit's page number) in his amended complaint.
Plaintiff is further cautioned that no portion of any prior complaint shall be incorporated into his amended complaint by reference. Moreover, Plaintiff shall submit only one amended complaint in accordance with the terms of this Order. Therefore, Plaintiff shall state in the single amended complaint filed in accordance with the terms of this Order all claims that he wishes the Court to consider as a basis for awarding the relief sought. Once Plaintiff has complied with the conditions of this Order, the Court will review the amended complaint to determine which, if any, claims are viable and which, if any, defendants should be served with a copy of the amended complaint. If no response is timely received from Plaintiff, the Court will presume that he desires to have this case voluntarily dismissed and will recommend dismissal of this action, without prejudice. Plaintiff is cautioned that while this action is pending, he shall immediately inform this Court of any change of address. Failure to do so will result in dismissal of this case.