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Waters v. Georgia Department of Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

March 17, 2017

GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; WESLEY O'NEAL, Correctional Unit Manager; FNU POSS, Correctional Officer; FNU SCOTT, Correctional Officer; FNU TAYLOR, Correctional Officer; FNU LORDGE, Correctional Officer; and JAMES MASON, Correctional Officer, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at Hays State Prison in Trion, Georgia, commenced the above-captioned case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 concerning events that occurred at Johnson State Prison ("JSP").[1] Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis ("IFP"). Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiffs 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.App'x 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).


         Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) Georgia Department of Corrections ("GDOC"); (2) Wesley O'Neal, Correctional Unit Manager; (3) Correctional Officer Poss; (4) Correctional Officer Scott; (5) Correctional Officer Taylor; (6) Correctional Officer Lordge; and (7) Correctional Officer James Mason. (Doc. no. 1, p. 4.) Defendant GDOC is sued in its official capacity, and Officers O'Neal, Poss, Scott, Taylor, Lordge, and Mason are being sued in both individual and official capacities. (Id. at 6.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         Plaintiff suffers from chronic instability of the left shoulder due to tendon and ligament damage, and has a history of recurring anterior dislocations, subluxation, and pains in the left shoulder. (Id. at 7.) The Georgia Department of Corrections ("GDOC") has issued Plaintiff a medical safety profile which requires all prison personnel to handcuff plaintiff with his hands in front. (Id.) If Plaintiff is not handcuffed with his hands in front, he risks recurring shoulder dislocations. (Li at 9.) On October 28, 2015, Dr. James M. Seward evaluated Plaintiff and renewed Plaintiffs medical safety profile requiring that he be handcuffed from the front. (Id. at 8.) On October 29, 2015, Plaintiffs front cuff medical profile was posted on the GDOC state wide computer database. (Id. at 7.)

         On December 8, 2015, Officer O'Neal examined Plaintiffs medical safety profile instructions which were posted outside Plaintiff's cell. (Id. at 10.) Officer O'Neal told Plaintiff he did not have "a valid front cuff profile, " and Plaintiff expressed disagreement. (Id.) Without further discussion, Officer O'Neal marked out the medical safety profile instructions requiring Plaintiff be handcuffed from the front, and wrote "do not handcuff in front." (Id.)

         On December 9, 2015, Officers Poss and Scott came to Plaintiffs cell to escort Plaintiff to the showers. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff told Officers Poss and Scott about his shoulder condition, advised them about his medical safety profile, and requested to be handcuffed in the front. (Id.) Officers Poss and Scott examined the medical safety profile instructions, told Plaintiff they were required to follow Officer O'Neal's instructions not to handcuff Plaintiff from the front, and ordered Plaintiff to turn around to be handcuffed. (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff complied and when the handcuffs were applied, Plaintiff felt pain in his entire left shoulder area. (Id.) After Plaintiff expressed his discomfort and pain, Officer Poss expressed his sympathy but told Plaintiff they were just following orders. After Plaintiffs shower, Officers Poss and Scott handcuffed Plaintiff from the rear again and escorted Plaintiff back to his cell. (Id. at 13.)

         Officer Poss told Plaintiff he would speak with Officer O'Neal, and roughly thirty minutes later Officer O'Neal arrived for inspection. (Li at 14.) When Officer O'Neal arrived, Plaintiff again explained his shoulder condition and advised Officer O'Neal about his medical safety profile and front cuff requirements. (Id.) In response, Officer O'Neal told Plaintiff to "get used to it." (Id. at 15.) When Plaintiff asked why Officer O'Neal had written "do not handcuff in front" on Plaintiffs medical safety profile, Officer O'Neal told him it was because he "was in charge, " not Plaintiff. (Id.) Officer O'Neal then sarcastically offered Plaintiff Tylenol for his lingering pains. (Id.) Sometime later Plaintiff was issued a "treatment card" from Dr. Seward instructing Plaintiff was to be handcuffed from the front. (Id. at 16.)

         On December 11, 2015, Officers Taylor and Lordge came to Plaintiffs cell to escort him to the showers. After Plaintiff explained he needed to be cuffed from the front, he advised the officers to examine his medical safety profile. (Id. at 18.) Officers Taylor and Lordge read the medical safety instructions and the order from Officer O'Neal and told Plaintiff they were required to handcuff him from the rear. (Id.) After he was handcuffed, Officers Taylor and Lordge escorted Plaintiff to the showers. Plaintiff immediately felt pain in his left shoulder. (Id. at 19.) From December 12-13, 2015, Plaintiff experienced increased levels of pain in his left shoulder, and on December 13, 2015, Plaintiff submitted a sick call request seeking treatment for his shoulder pain. (Id. at 20.)

         On December 14, 2015, Officer Poss escorted Plaintiff to the showers but handcuffed Plaintiff from the front. (Id. at 21.) Plaintiff did not experience shoulder discomfort. (Id.) On December 16, 2015, Officer Mason came to Plaintiff's cell and escorted him to the showers. (Id. at 22.) Plaintiff informed Officer Mason of his need to be handcuffed from the front but Officer Mason told Plaintiff he had no choice but to follow Officer O'Neal's orders and handcuff Plaintiff from the back. (Id. at 23.) After Plaintiff showered, Officer Mason reapplied the handcuffs and Plaintiff felt his left shoulder "pop and slip-out of socket." (Id. at 24.) Plaintiff requested emergency medical assistance and was taken to the emergency room at Fairview Park Hospital. (Id. at 25.)

         At the Fairview Park Hospital, Plaintiff was admitted to the emergency treatment area, given an IV, and his shoulder was X-rayed, revealing dislocation. (Id.) Plaintiff was sedated and his left shoulder was relocated and secured in a shoulder immobilizing brace. (Id.) Plaintiff was discharged to the prison the same day and escorted back to his cell. (Id. at 26.) Plaintiffs pain has continued for more than ten months, and the shoulder still continues to cause severe pain and discomfort. (Id. at 28.) Plaintiff is now required to wear a shoulder immobilizer brace at all times except when showering. (Id.)

         Plaintiff argues Defendants were deliberately indifferent to an excessive risk of serious harm to his health and safety and were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. at 32-36.) Plaintiff also raises two negligence claims against Defendants, for failure to protect and for negligent medical care. (Id. at 37.) Finally, Plaintiff argues Defendants violated his rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. (Id. at 39.) For relief, Plaintiff requests an injunction requiring Defendants to handcuff Plaintiff from the front and make reasonable accommodations for his disability. (Li at 43.) Plaintiff also seeks compensatory, punitive, and special damages. (Id. at 43-44.)

         Liberally construing Plaintiffs allegations in his favor and granting him the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be derived from the facts alleged, the Court finds Plaintiff has arguably stated Eighth Amendment claims for deliberate indifference to an excessive risk of serious harm and to a serious medical need against Defendants O'Neal, Poss, Scott, Taylor, Lordge and Mason. See Farmer v. Brennan. 511 U.S. 824, 834-39 (1994); Lane v. Barley. No. 115CV03298TWTJCF, 2015 WL 8488585, at *3 (N.D.Ga. Nov. 16, 2015), report and recommendation adopted sub nom. Lane v. Fraley, No. 1:15-CV-3298-TWT, 2015 WL 8492469 (N.D.Ga. Dec. 10, 2015) (finding Plaintiff stated plausible claim under Eighth Amendment when officers ignored "cuff to front" medical profile resulting in injury).

         The Court also finds Plaintiff has arguably stated viable ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims against Defendant GDOC. See United States v. Georgia. 546 U.S. 151, 158 (2006) (finding inmate's claims against Georgia Department of Corrections under Title II of the ADA abrogated state sovereign immunity, creating private right of action). Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination in services, programs, or activities of a "public entity" or "discrimination by such entity." 43 U.S.C. § 12132. With the exception of the federal funding requirement under the Rehabilitation Act, claims under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act are governed by the same standards, and both can be applied to prisons. See Cash v. Smith, 231 F.3d 1301, 1305 (11th Cir. 2000); Everett v. Cobb Cntv. Sch. Dist, 138 F.3d 1407, 1409 (11th Cir. 1998); see also Davis v. Georgia Dep't of Corr., No. CV-311-009, 2011 WL 1882441, at *5 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 21, 2011), report and recommendation adopted. No. CV 311-009, 2011 WL 1884193 (S.D. Ga. May 17, 2011) ("Title II of the ADA includes state correctional facilities."); Henderson v. Thomas, 891 F.Supp.2d 1296, 1308-09 (M.D. Ala. 2012) ("Given that the ADA and Rehabilitation Act apply to prisons, these statutory protections extend to programs and accommodations at [Alabama Department of Corrections] ...

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