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Marshall v. G.D.C.I. Food Service

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

December 5, 2017

G.D.C.I. FOOD SERVICE, Defendant.



         Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Johnson State Prison in Wrightsville, Georgia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 contesting events allegedly occurring in Reidsville, Georgia. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Doc. 3.) For the reasons which follow, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis. (Id.) For these same reasons, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal. Additionally, I RECOMMEND the Court DENY Plaintiff leave to appeal in forma pauperis.


         In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts he was on detail at the canning plant in Reidsville, Georgia.[1] (Doc. 1, p. 5.) Plaintiff states he was beginning to pull the greens from the slow conveyor belt and place them on the speed belt when the shroud covering the gear and chain caught the tip of his glove because the shroud was not secured properly. Plaintiff maintains his hand was pulled through this area, crushing his hand and extensively damaging it. (Id.) Plaintiff asserts Defendant is personally liable due to the negligent manner in which he was injured. (Id.) Plaintiff also asserts a doctor took a longer than is customary to review his records. (Id. at p. 8.)


         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis. 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, 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 or 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, or 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).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. 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. . . .”) (emphasis omitted) (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.”).


         I. Dismissal of Claims Against G.D.C.I.

         In order to state a claim for relief under Section 1983, a plaintiff must satisfy two elements. First, a plaintiff must allege that an act or omission deprived him “of some right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Hale v. Tallapoosa Cty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1995). Second, a plaintiff must allege that the act or omission was committed by “a person acting under color of state law.” Id. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a pleading to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). While a plaintiff need not provide detailed factual allegations, a complaint is insufficient if it offers no more than “labels and conclusions, ” or “an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted).

         Here, Plaintiff fails to plausibly state a claim that G.D.C.I. should be held liable for his injuries. At most, Plaintiff alleges that G.D.C.I was negligent in its operations. However, “Section 1983 simply cannot be used to bring a negligence-based tort suit in federal court, and even read most charitably, [Plaintiff's] allegation” that part of a machine was not secured “sounds in negligence rather than the ‘criminal recklessness' required to support a § 1983 claim.” Hopes v. Correct Health, No. CV417-079, 2017 WL 2805108, at *1 (S.D. Ga. June 28, 2017) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 836-40 (1994)), report and recommendation adopted, sub nom., Hopes v. Wilcher, No. CV417-79, 2017 WL 3013263 (S.D. Ga. July 14, 2017).

         Additional grounds support dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against Defendant G.D.C.I. Plaintiff makes no indication whether G.D.C.I. is a private corporation or whether this named Defendant is an arm of the Georgia Department of Corrections. In the latter instance, this Defendant would not be subject to suit under Section 1983 based on Eleventh Amendment immunity principles. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 67 (1989). “The Eleventh Amendment insulates a state from suit brought by individuals in federal court unless the state either consents to suit or waives its Eleventh Amendment immunity.” Stevens v. Gay, 864 F.2d 113, 114 (11th Cir. 1989) (footnote omitted) (citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-100 (1984)). A lawsuit against a state agency or employee in its official capacity is no different from a suit against a state itself; such a defendant is immune. Will, 491 U.S. at 71. In enacting Section 1983, Congress did not intend to abrogate “well-established immunities or defenses” under the common law or the Eleventh Amendment. Id. at 67. Arms or agencies of the state, such as the Department of Corrections, are therefore immune from suit. See Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978) (per curiam) (“There can be no doubt, however, that suit against the State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, unless [Georgia] has consented to the filing of such a suit.”); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974); Pugh v. Balish, 564 ...

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