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Moore v. Castro

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

November 14, 2017

JORGE CASTRO, Ex-CERT Team Officer, Defendant.



         Plaintiff, an inmate at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is before the Court on Defendant's pre-answer motion to dismiss. (Doc. no. 38.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS Defendant's motion to dismiss be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 8, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff's complaint and directed service of process on Defendants Phillip Hall, Jacob Beasley, and Jorge Castro based on Plaintiff's allegations of deliberate indifference to his safety. (See doc. no. 7.) On April 10, 2017, those three Defendants filed a pre-answer motion to dismiss and a motion to stay discovery. (Doc. nos. 18, 19.) Plaintiff opposed the motion to dismiss and requested to amend his complaint. (Doc. nos. 21, 22.) The Court stayed discovery pending resolution of the motion to dismiss, granted the motion to amend, and directed Plaintiff to file his amended complaint within fourteen days. (Doc. no. 26.)

         Plaintiff complied with the Court's instructions and filed an amended complaint. (Doc. no. 30.) The amended complaint supersedes and replaces in its entirety the previous pleading. See Hoefling v. City of Miami, 811 F.3d 1271, 1277 (11th Cir. 2016); Lowery v. Alabama Power Co., 483 F.3d 1184, 1219 (11th Cir. 2007). Thus, the Court considers only the allegations of the amended complaint. Moreover, although Plaintiff originally named three Defendants, he voluntarily dismissed his claims against Warden Hall and CERT Team Sergeant Beasley. (See doc. no. 30, pp. 10-11.) Accordingly, the Court turns to the facts alleged against Defendant Castro, a former CERT Team Officer at TSP.

         On May 6, 2016, Plaintiff was assigned as an orderly in the Special Management Unit (“SMU”) reserved for misbehaving inmates, F-2 dormitory. (Id. at 5.) SMU inmate Marquis Norwood broke out of his recreation pen and was hiding behind the security door when Plaintiff opened the door while performing his duties as an orderly. (Id. at 5, 7.) Defendant Castro directed Plaintiff to open the security door, in violation of a Department of Corrections policy not to let an inmate open a security door, so that Plaintiff could access an area that needed water pushed off the floor. (Id. at 7.) Inmate Norwood attacked Plaintiff when he opened the door. (Id. at 5.)

         Defendant Castro, who had CERT team training in self-defense and hand-to-hand combat, as well as pepper spray and a Taser gun with him, initially ran toward the attack. (Id. at 7.) However, Defendant Castro then “turned around and ran away” as Plaintiff fought for his life. (Id.) After looking for the radio he dropped, Defendant returned with another officer to subdue Inmate Norwood. (Id.) Plaintiff does not specify the length of time Defendant was gone, but states, “I could have been killed by the time he de[c]ided to return to help me.” (Id.) Inmate Norwood attacked Plaintiff long enough to inflict cuts, bruises, and stab wounds on Plaintiff that required medical attention. (Id. at 5.)


         Defendant has now moved to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint arguing (1) Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted prior to the attack because Defendant Castro had no subjective knowledge of a serious risk of imminent harm to Plaintiff; (2) Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted after the attack commenced because Defendant Castro responded reasonably by waiting for another officer to arrive before intervening to stop the attack; (3) Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity, and (4) Plaintiff cannot pursue a claim for injunctive relief against Defendant Castro. (Doc. no. 38-1.) As explained below, Defendant's motion to dismiss should be denied.

         A. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail on the merits. Adinolfe v. United Tech. Corp., 768 F.3d 1161, 1168 (11th Cir. 2014). The Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the amended complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007); American Dental Ass'n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1288 (11th Cir. 2010). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the amended complaint must “state a claim to 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. An amended 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). The Court is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). In short, the amended complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         B. The Motion to Dismiss Should Be Denied as Moot as to Defendant's Conduct Prior To the Attack and as to Any Request for Injunctive Relief.

         In moving to dismiss any claims based on conduct prior to the attack on Plaintiff, Defendant Castro acknowledges “it does not appear that [Plaintiff] attempts to do so.” (Doc. no. 38-1, p. 5.) In his response to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff confirms that any claims related to alleged actions prior to the attack were raised against the two Defendants whom Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed. (Doc. no. 41, pp. 5-6.) Plaintiff specifically acknowledges his claim against Defendant Castro is for the actions taken once the attack by Inmate Norwood began. (Id. at 6.) Therefore, to the extent Defendant moves to dismiss any ...

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