United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division
VENESSA CAINION, natural mother of DEMARQUIS A. CAINION, and WINNIE HANFORD as the administrator of the estate of DeMarquis A. Cainion, Plaintiffs,
VALDOSTA STATE PRISON, et al., Defendants.
LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE
Cainion died after a stabbing incident involving a fellow
inmate during his incarceration at Valdosta State Prison
(“VSP”). Plaintiffs Venessa Cainion, as
Cainion's mother and legal heir, and Winnie Hanford, the
Administrator of Cainion's estate, filed this action
against the Georgia Department of Corrections
(“GDOC”), VSP, twelve current and former
employees of GDOC and VSP, and two inmates alleging that
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 these Defendants are liable
to Cainion's estate for purported violations of
Cainion's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel
and unusual punishment.
institutional Defendants, the GDOC and VSP, along with
Defendants Owens, Jacobs, Danforth, Allen, Orr, and McDougle
have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (Docs. 8, 11,
15, 16). For the following reasons, Defendants' motions
Cainion was serving a sentence for burglary while
incarcerated at VSP from July 2011 until his death on
September 16, 2013. (Doc. 1, ¶ 7). Cainion suffered from
an unidentified medical condition that caused him to have
uncontrollable and unpredictable seizures. He also suffered
from asthma. (Doc. 1, ¶ 8).
2012, Cainion was assigned a top bunk by Deputy Warden Orr.
(Doc. 1, ¶ 10). Cainion made several formal and informal
requests for a bottom bunk because of the risk that he may
have a seizure during his sleep and fall from the top bunk.
Cainion then requested medical guidance to supersede
Orr's order. (Doc. 1, ¶ 11). On May 23, 2012, Nurse
Knowles confirmed to Orr that Cainion should be assigned a
bottom bunk due to his medical condition. (Doc. 1, ¶
10). Despite receiving this confirmation, Cainion's top
bunk assignment remained unchanged. (Doc. 1, ¶¶
12, 2012, Cainion had a seizure while sleeping and fell from
the top bunk. (Doc. 1, ¶ 13). As a result of the fall,
Cainion suffered injuries to his face and head, which
prompted him to file a pro se lawsuit against VSP
personnel for deliberate indifference. (Doc. 1, ¶
after the June 12th injury, Cainion was transferred to a one
person cell in the Annex Unit of VSP where he remained until
August. On August 23, 2012, Sargent Schnake informed Cainion
that he would be transferred to a two-man cell. (Doc. 1,
¶ 16). Cainion requested that he remain in his current
one-person cell and cited his medical condition as a basis
for doing so. Id. Subsequently, Cainion and Schnake
began to argue and an altercation ensued. Id. During
the altercation, Cainion was sprayed with riot spray, causing
him to have an asthma attack. Id. Cainion was taken
to a hospital outside of the prison to stabilize his
breathing but later returned to VSP. (Doc. 1, ¶¶
17-18). When he returned to VSP, Cainion was transferred from
the Annex Unit of VSP to the main housing unit. (Doc. 1,
¶ 18). On the same day of his transfer, Cainion was
robbed and stabbed. (Doc. 1, ¶ 19). Presumably as a
result of this stabbing incident, Cainion was transferred to
solitary confinement in September 2012 for his own
protection. (Doc. 1, ¶ 21).
remained in solitary confinement for several months, despite
multiple transfer requests. (Doc. 1, ¶ 22). It is not
evident from the Complaint when Cainion was released from
solitary confinement. On September 16, 2013, Cainion was
stabbed by a fellow inmate and pronounced dead on the same
day at 12:46 p.m. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 28-29).
moving Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' federal claims
under § 1983 for deliberate indifference to serious
medical need, conditions of confinement, failure to protect,
and excessive force are either barred by the statute of
limitations or are otherwise deficient. Defendants further
argue that Plaintiffs' state-law claims for wrongful
death, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional
distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and
personal injury are also barred by the statute of
limitations. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs'
state-law claims are alternatively barred on other grounds:
sovereign immunity, Plaintiffs' failure to adhere to ante
litem notice requirements, and failure to effectuate proper
Motion to Dismiss Standard
reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court shall accept
“all well-pleaded facts . . . as true, and the
reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff.” Bryant v. Avado
Brands, Inc., 187 F.3d 1271, 1273 n. 1 (11th Cir. 1999).
The court must dismiss the complaint if, “on the basis
of a dispositive issue of law, no construction of the factual
allegations will support the cause of action.”
Marshall Cnty. Bd. of Educ. v. Marshall Cnty. Gas
Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing
Executive 100, Inc. v. Martin County, 992 F.2d 1536,
1539 (11th Cir. 1991) and Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S.
678, 682 (1946)). Accordingly, to avoid dismissal under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Section 1983 Claims
III of Plaintiffs' Complaint generally asserts that
Defendants are liable to Plaintiffs pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for purported violations of Cainion's
constitutional rights while incarcerated at VSP. Because of
the manner in which Plaintiffs pled their § 1983 claims,
it is difficult to discern what precise claims Plaintiffs
intend to pursue. Based on the Court's reading of the
Complaint, Plaintiffs appear to assert the following §
(1) delay/denial of treatment claim based on allegations that
Defendants were deliberately indifferent to Cainion's
unspecified seizure disorder, which resulted in Cainion's
fall from a top bunk on June 12, 2012;
(2) excessive force claim based on allegations that VSP
officials assaulted Cainion on three occasions in August 2012
and again in January 2013, purportedly in retaliation for
Cainion filing grievances;
(3) delay/denial of medical treatment for alleged
indifference to Cainion's asthma condition after
Defendant Schnake deployed riot spray on August 23, 2012;
(4) failure to protect claim based on a September 2012 attack
by an unidentified fellow inmate;
(5) conditions of confinement claim based on Cainion's
placement in solitary confinement in September 2012;
(6) failure to protect claim arising from the September 16,
2013 stabbing of Cainion by Jeffrey Steven Dell;
(7) delay/denial of treatment claim based on Defendants'
alleged indifference to the seriousness of Cainion's
medical condition following the stabbing.
1983 creates a civil cause of action for any person deprived
of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and other laws by another person acting under
color of law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Rehberg
v. Paulk, 566 U.S. 356, 361 (2012). This statute
“‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,
' but merely provides ‘a method for vindicating
federal rights elsewhere conferred.'” Albright
v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994); see also
Whiting v. Traylor, 85 F.3d 581, 583 (11th Cir. 1996)
(“Section 1983 is no source of substantive federal
rights.”). To prove a claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, a plaintiff must show: “(1) that the act or
omission deprived plaintiff of a right, privilege or immunity
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and
(2) that the act or omission was done by a person acting
under color of law.” Marshall Cty. Bd. of Educ. v.
Marshall Cty. Gas Dist., 992 F.2d 1171, 1174 (11th Cir.
1993) (quoting Bannum, Inc. v. City of Ft.
Lauderdale, 901 F.2d 989 (11th Cir. 1990)). “The
first step in any such claim [under 42 U.S.C. § 1983] is
to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly
infringed.” Albright, 510 U.S. at 271.
Claims Against VSP and GDOC
claims asserted against VSP and GDOC are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment and are subject to dismissal. The Eleventh
Amendment bars suits against state entities unless there has
been a valid waiver by the state or congressional authority.
See Manders v. Lee, 338 F.3d 1304, 1308 (11th Cir.
2003) (It is “well-established that Eleventh Amendment
immunity bars suits brought in federal court when the state
itself is sued and when an ‘arm of the state is
sued.'”); Stevens v. Gay, 864 F.2d 113,
115 (11th Cir. 1989) (citing Alabama v. Pugh, 438
U.S. 781, 782 (1978). “A foundational premise of the
federal system is that States, as sovereigns, are immune from
suits for damages, save as they elect to waive that
defense.” Coleman v. Ct. App. of Md., 566 U.S.
30, 35(2012). “As an exception to this principle,
Congress may abrogate the States' immunity from suit
pursuant to its powers under § 5 of the Fourteenth
Amendment.” Id. Section 1983 is not a
“Congressional abrogation of the state's immunity
from damages suits, ” Gamble v. Fl. Dep't of
Health and Rehab Servs., 779 F.2d 1509, 1512 (11th Cir.
1986), and Georgia has not otherwise waived its right to
assert an Eleventh Amendment immunity defense against §
1983 claims. See, e.g., Williams v. Bd. Of
Regents of Univ. Sys. Of Ga., 477 F.3d 1282, 1301-02
(11th Cir. 2007). Because the GDOC functions as “an arm
of the state, ” it is entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. See Miller v. King, 382 F.3d 1248, 1260
(11th Cir. 2004) (holding that Eleventh Amendment immunity
protected the GDOC from a § 1983 claim) (overruled on
other grounds by Miller v. King, 449 F.3d 1149 (11th
Cir. 2006)). Likewise, a state prison ...