United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(a) and 1915(e), United States
Magistrate Judge Charles H. Weigle conducted a screening
(Doc. 14) of Plaintiff Hjalmar Rodriguez, Jr.'s complaint
(Doc. 1). The Magistrate Judge recommends the following
claims be allowed to proceed for further factual development:
(1) religious freedom claims against Defendants Bryson,
Sellers, Chatman, Caldwell, Sutton, Martin, Bishop, Powell,
and McCloud; (2) Eighth Amendment claims regarding
contaminated food against Defendants Sutton, Martin, Chatman,
and Caldwell; (3) Eighth Amendment claims regarding
nutritionally inadequate meals against Defendants Bryson,
Sellers, Chatman, Caldwell, Sutton, and Martin; (4) Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference to medical care claims
regarding dental care against Defendants Adair, Gore,
Burnside, Reid, Forts, Butts, Lewis, and Chatman; (5) Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference to medical care claims
regarding Rodriguez's shoulder injury against Defendants
Burnside, Bishop, Powell, and Williams; and (6) the
retaliation claims against Defendant Burnside. Doc. 14 at
1-2. The Magistrate Judge recommended that the remainder of
Rodriguez's claims be dismissed. Id. Rodriguez
also moved for a preliminary injunction and temporary
restraining order (Doc. 11), which the Magistrate Judge
recommends should be denied. Doc. 14 at 2, 20-21.
has objected to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation.
Doc. 38. Additionally, Rodriguez has moved to amend his
complaint (Doc. 39) and has filed an amended complaint (Doc.
39-1) in which he names new defendants and amends the claims
that the Magistrate Judge recommends be dismissed. The Court
GRANTS Rodriguez's motion to amend (Doc.
39). To the extent the Magistrate Judge recommends that
Rodriguez's claims should proceed for further factual
development, the Recommendation is ADOPTED.
But to the extent the Magistrate Judge recommends that
Rodriguez's claims should be dismissed, the
Recommendation is REJECTED as moot in light
of Rodriguez's amended complaint. As stated below, the
Court has performed its own §§ 1915A(a) and 1915(e)
screening of Rodriguez's amended complaint.
28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(a) AND1915(e) SCREENING
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. §
1997e, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government
entity, official, or employee then the court must conduct a
preliminary screening. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). Similarly, a court must conduct a screening when a
plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e). Both statutes apply here. At the screening stage, a
court must accept all of the plaintiff's factual
allegations as true. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d
1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006); Hughes v. Lott, 350
F.3d 1157, 1159-60 (11th Cir. 2003). Pro se pleadings are
“held to a less stringent standard than pleadings
drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally
construed.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). But
a pro se complaint must still be dismissed if it: (1) is
frivolous or malicious; (2) fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted; or (3) seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
frivolous claim is one that “lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald,
541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (quotation marks
omitted). Courts may dismiss claims based on
“indisputably meritless legal” theories and
“whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.”
Id. (quotation marks omitted). A complaint fails to
state a claim if it lacks “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 complaint
must state sufficient factual allegation “to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level” and cannot
“merely create[ ] a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable
right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(first alteration in original). Thus, the complaint must
allege enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation
that discovery will reveal evidence” supporting the
plaintiff's claim. Id. at 556. “Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Rodriguez alleges claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
and thus must allege that (1) he was deprived a right,
privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a
statute of the United States and (2) that the act or omission
was committed by someone acting under color of state law.
Hale v. Tallapoosa County, 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th
Cir. 1995). A complaint alleging claims under § 1983 is
subject to dismissal if it fails to satisfy these
requirements or fails to provide factual allegations in
support of the claims stated therein.
Eighth Amendment Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs
state a claim for deliberate indifference to medial needs, a
plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to establish
“(1) a serious medical need; (2) the defendants'
deliberate indifference to that need; and (3) causation
between that indifference and the plaintiff's
injury.” Easley v. Dep't of Corr., 590 F.
App'x 860, 868 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Townsend v.
Jefferson Cty., 601 F.3d 1152, 1158 (11th Cir. 2010)).
In addition, “[w]hen a lay person is accused of
deliberate indifference, the plaintiff must present[ ]
evidence that her situation was so obviously dire that [a lay
person] must have known that a medical professional had
grossly misjudged [the plaintiff's] condition.”
Kuhne v. Florida Dep't of Corr., 618 Fed.Appx.
498, 507 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation and quotation marks
omitted) (some alterations in original); see also
Townsend, 601 F.3d at 1159.
Claim against Dr. Bearing
claims that Defendant Dr. Bearing, the dentist at the GDCP,
failed to provide him with adequate medical care for his
tooth injury. Doc. 39-1 ¶ 76-77. Defendant Bearing
treated Rodriguez for a cracked tooth on February 9, 2016-28
days after Rodriguez's initial request for such an
appointment. Id. ¶ 76. Rodriguez has not
alleged any facts suggesting that Bearing was responsible for
this delay and does not state that the care he received was
inadequate. Rather, Rodriguez's complaint against
Defendant Bearing is that, after treating Rodriguez and
telling Rodriguez to inform prison officials if he
experienced pain, Bearing did nothing to alleviate
Rodriguez's expressed concerns that the prison officials
were ignoring his requests for medical care and that they
would not assist him in getting dental care in the future.
Id. ¶ 77. But nothing in Rodriguez's
allegations suggests that Bearing had any control over the
actions of the prison officials that Rodriguez alleged
ignored his complaints. As such, Rodriguez has failed to
state a claim against Defendant Bearing, and this claim is
DISMISSED without prejudice.
Claims against Doe Defendants and Johnson
original complaint, Rodriguez alleges claims against
unidentified members of the prison's kitchen staff and
unnamed dental assistants. Doc. 1 ¶ 15, 17. The
Magistrate Judge recommended that these claims against Doe
Defendants be dismissed because Rodriguez did not provide a
sufficient description to identify the individuals involved
to allow for service of process. Doc. 14 at 5. In his amended
complaint, Rodriguez again alleges claims against unnamed
members of the prison kitchen staff and unnamed members of
the “Dental staff.” Doc. 39-1 ¶ 15, 17. And
in his objection to the Recommendation he claims that his
description of these individuals is sufficient to allow
identification of those defendants for service. Doc. 38 at 2.
The Court disagrees. Generally, “fictitious-party
pleading is not permitted in federal court.”
Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir.
2010) (per curiam). However, such a claim may proceed if the
plaintiff provides a sufficient description to allow for
service of process. Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210,
1215-16 (11th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Here,
Rodriguez's description of the unnamed kitchen staff
members-“p.m. [and] a.m. shift”-and the unnamed
dental staff members-those “responsible for making
timely appointments for emergency situations”-is not
specific enough to determine those individuals identify and
allow for service. See Doc. 39-1 ¶ 15, 17.
Accordingly, those claims are DISMISSED without
prejudice. In his objection, Rodriguez also moves
for a subpoena to determine the names of these unnamed
defendants. Doc. 38 at 2. That motion is
DENIED. Rodriguez will have the opportunity
to conduct discovery, and if he is able to identify the
relevant kitchen staff members through that process then he
may move to amend his claims.
in his amended complaint, Rodriguez specifically names
“Ms. Johnson Dental Assistant” as one of the
unnamed dental assistants referenced in his original
complaint. Doc. 39-1 ¶ 15. Rodriguez alleges that
Johnson is somehow responsible for the alleged failure to
provide medical treatment because of her role in
Rodriguez's inability to get a dental appointment.
Id. ¶ 15, 84. In his complaint, Rodriguez
recites the general difficulty that prisoners have obtaining
a dental appointment and the difficulty he particularly
experienced. Id. ¶ 72, 75-77, 80-83. But
Rodriguez does not allege that Johnson had any role causing
the delay in prisoners receiving dental appointments. The
only allegation against Johnson relates to an exchange she
had with Rodriguez on May 3, 2016 when Rodriguez was brought
to a medical appointment. Id. ¶ 84. Rodriguez
alleges that he asked Johnson about the status of his dental
appointment and that he was in pain and had been assured he
would receive an appointment. Id. Johnson responded
that Rodriguez was on the waiting list. Id.
Rodriguez does allege that he told Johnson he was in pain
but, from his allegations, she would not be expected to know
that a medical professional had grossly misjudged
Rodriguez's condition. Accordingly, Rodriguez's claim
against Defendant Johnson is DISMISSED without
Claims against Fink and Maye
claims that Defendants Fink and Maye, G.D.C.P. officers, were
deliberately indifferent to his medical needs because they
failed to assist him in procuring medical treatment despite
Rodriguez's notifying them of his dental injury and pain.
Doc. 39-1 ¶ 60-67. However, Rodriguez states in his
amended complaint that both Defendants Fink and Maye, when
first told of the dental injury, notified their superiors of
Rodriguez's medical complaints. Id. Rodriguez
also claims that both Fink and Maye, after initially
notifying their superiors, failed to do so again in response
to later complaints and failed to do anything beyond
notifying their superiors. Id. First, the
allegations do not show that Fink and Maye “must have
known that a medical professional had grossly misjudged
[Rodriguez's] injuries.” Kuhne, 618 F.