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Bankston v. Blaine

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

October 20, 2017




         Plaintiff, an inmate at Coffee Correctional Facility in Nicholls, Georgia, submitted a Complaint in the above captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting certain conditions of his confinement. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff also filed and was granted a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Docs. 2, 4.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's allegations arguably state colorable claims for relief against Defendant for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. The Court DIRECTS the United States Marshal to serve Defendant with a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint, (doc. 1), and this Order. However, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages against Defendant in his official capacity.


         On the night of January 9, 2017, between the hours of 11:15 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., Plaintiff was assaulted in the dayroom of dorm 7FF at Coffee Correctional Facility. (Doc. 1, p. 6.) As a result of the attack, Plaintiff suffered various wounds on his face and severe bleeding. (Id.) At approximately 12:15 a.m., Plaintiff sought aid from the officers on duty who then took him to the medical unit where he was examined by Nurse Howard. (Id.) After evaluating Plaintiff's injuries, Howard determined that they were “too severe and extensive” to be treated at Coffee Correctional and indicated to Defendant that Plaintiff needed immediate care at an outside medical facility. (Id. at pp. 6-7.) Plaintiff contends Defendant, the ranking duty officer, was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs when Defendant refused him transport to an outside facility despite Nurse Howard's directive. Defendant denied Plaintiff transportation because the transport officer was not presently on duty and no one else was available to immediately transport him. (Id. at ¶ 7-8.) Further, Defendant refused to call Plaintiff an ambulance or have a doctor review Nurse Howard's prognosis. (Id.)

         Plaintiff was eventually taken to an outside facility, but he avers that he was forced to wait three-and-a-half hours before receiving the necessary care. As a result of this delay, Plaintiff contends he suffered, among other things, increased risk of blood loss, anxiety, lower blood pressure, shock, and infection in the open wounds. (Id.) Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that he currently suffers blurred vision, headaches, anxiety, and paranoia stemming from the attack and delay. (Id. at p. 9.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant maintains a custom or policy of short staffing and delaying transport to outside medical care at night and on the weekends.[2] (Id. at pp. 7, 11.) As relief for the alleged Eighth Amendment violations, Plaintiff requests compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive review of the medical transport custom or policy and Defendant's employment status at Coffee Correctional Facility. (Id. at p. 11.)


         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all of his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys[.]”) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003)). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”). The requisite review of Plaintiff's Complaint raises several doctrines of law, which the Court discusses as follows.


         I. Dismissal of Official Capacity Claims for Monetary Damages

         Plaintiff's Complaint is not clear on whether Plaintiff intends to sue Defendant in his individual or official capacity, or both. In any event, however, Plaintiff cannot sustain a Section 1983 claim for monetary damages against Defendant in his official capacity. States are immune from private suits pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment and traditional principles of state sovereignty. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712-13 (1999). Section 1983 does not abrogate the well-established immunities of a state from suit without its consent. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 67 (1989). Because a lawsuit against a state officer in his official capacity is “no different from a suit against the [s]tate itself, ” such a defendant is immune from suit under Section 1983. Id. at 71. Here, the State of Georgia would be the real party in interest in a suit against Defendant in his official capacity as an officer at a state penal institution. Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment immunizes Defendant from suit for monetary damages in his official capacity. See Free v. Granger, 887 F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir. 1989). Absent a waiver of that immunity, Plaintiff cannot sustain any constitutional claims for monetary damages against Defendant in his official capacity.

         Therefore, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff's Section 1983 monetary damages claims against Defendant in his official capacity.

         II. Deliberate Indifference to Serious ...

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