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Winstead v. Williams

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

January 9, 2018




         Plaintiff Carol Winstead brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendants Stanley Williams, Valderine Jackson, and Marty Allen for deliberate indifference and retaliation. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Doc. 5.) Plaintiff filed a response and sur reply in opposition (docs. 6, 9), and Defendants filed a reply in support. (Doc. 8.) Accordingly, the motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was a prisoner at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia. (Compl., Doc. 1, ¶ 1.) On April 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed a grievance with Defendant Jackson asking to be moved to a different cell "citing problems with his sexually violent and threatening roommate." (Compl. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff's grievance was denied and on June 8, 2016, Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by his cellmate. (Id.)

         The assault was investigated by the Georgia Department of Corrections ("GDOC") pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA"), 34 U.S.C. § 30302. (Id.) plaintiff allegedly filed grievances concerning the attack. (Doc. 6, at 2; Doc. 9, at 3) On June 9, 2016, Plaintiff was transferred to Telfair State Prison, which Plaintiff claims was punishment for reporting the sexual assault. (Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff filed a grievance protesting his transfer on November 23, 2016. (Doc. 5-4, at 2.)

         On April 13, 2017, Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendants. Plaintiff claims that Defendants Williams and Jackson's failure to transfer him to a different cell demonstrated a deliberate indifference to his safety. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Allen's decision to transfer Plaintiff to Telfair State Prison was in retaliation for Plaintiff's grievances, and therefore violated his First Amendment rights.

         II. STANDARD II

         A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, a prisoner must exhaust all administrative remedies before filing an action challenging the conditions of his confinement. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Proper exhaustion requires a prisoner to comply with the procedural rules of his prison's grievance process. Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 93 (2006). If a prisoner fails to properly exhaust his administrative remedies, his claim will be dismissed. Johnson v. Meadows, 418 F.3d 1152, 1159 (11th Cir. 2005).

         While a motion to dismiss is normally confined to the four corners of a complaint, the court may decide factual matters to ensure that plaintiffs suing under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e have exhausted their administrative remedies. Bryant v. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374 (11th Cir. 2008). This involves a two-step process. Turner v. Burnside, 541 F.3d 1077, 1082 (11th Cir. 2008). First, if the defendant alleges conflicting facts in his motion to dismiss, the court takes the plaintiff's allegations as true and decides if those facts demonstrate proper exhaustion. Id. If the plaintiff's claim survives step one, the court must make specific findings to resolve any factual dispute. The court then decides whether, under those findings, the plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies. Id. During this inquiry, the defendant bears the burden of proving that a plaintiff has failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies. Id.

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that a plaintiff's complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must include enough "factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " and those facts must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545, 570 (2007). Although a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b) (6) motion need not be buttressed by detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff's pleading "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. The Rule 8 pleading standard "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim, however, "unless it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of circumstances that would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); see also Robinson v. United States, 484 Fed.Appx. 421, 423 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Lopez v. First Union Nat'1 Bank of Fla., 129 F.3d 1186, 1189 (11th Cir. 1997)). At this stage, courts must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Belanger v. Salvation Army, 556 F.3d 1153, 1155 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262 (11th Cir. 2004)).

         III. ...

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