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Riley v. Warren

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division

February 6, 2018

DENNIS LEWIS RILEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DARYL WARREN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEPHEN HYLES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         In accordance with the Court's previous orders, pro se Plaintiff Dennis Lewis Riley, a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Rutledge State Prison in Columbus, Georgia, has recast the statement of claims in his civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff has also filed another motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) (ECF No. 15). For the following reasons, it is RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claims and his claims against Defendant Hatcher be DISMISSED without prejudice. Plaintiff's excessive force claims against Defendants Warren, Stubb, and Ferguson shall proceed for further factual development. Because Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed IFP has already been granted and the initial partial filing fee previously ordered has been waived, Plaintiff's pending motion to proceed without prepayment of the Court's filing fee is DENIED as moot.

         PRELIMINARY SCREENING

         I. Standard of Review

         In accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the district courts are obligated to conduct a preliminary screening of every complaint filed by a prisoner who seeks redress from a government entity, official, or employee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Screening is also required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) when the plaintiff is proceeding IFP. Both statutes apply in this case, and the standard of review is the same. When conducting preliminary screening, the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint 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, like the one in this case, are “held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Still, the Court must dismiss a prisoner complaint if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).

         A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Miller v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court may dismiss claims that are based on “indisputably meritless legal” theories and “claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not include “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)). The factual allegations in a complaint “must be enough 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). In other words, the complaint must allege enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence” supporting a 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.

         To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) an act or omission deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Hale v. Tallapoosa Cnty., 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir. 1995). If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements or fails to provide factual allegations in support of his claim or claims, the complaint is subject to dismissal. See Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11th Cir. 2003).

         II. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff's claims arise from his imprisonment at Rutledge State Prison in Columbus, GA. Recast Compl. 4, ECF No. 14. Plaintiff alleges that he began to feel weak and dizzy during a scheduled appointment with his mental health counselor on June 9, 2015. Id. Plaintiff's counselor immediately notified a nurse who instructed the counselor to call medical. Id. Plaintiff was escorted back to his cell, where he lost consciousness. Id. When he awoke, Plaintiff was being examined by two nurses. Id. Approximately two minutes later, Defendant Warren (the deputy warden of security) and other prison employees, including Defendants Stubb and Ferguson (members of the prison's CERT team), approached Plaintiff's cell. Id. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Warren accused Plaintiff of “faking” and ordered the nurses who were tending to Plaintiff to move aside. Id. Defendants Stubb and Ferguson then “ran into [Plaintiff's] cell, ” shackled his legs, and began to cuff Plaintiff's hands in front of him; but Defendant Warren stated, “No. That's too good for his fat ass. Flip him on his stomach and cuff him behind his back.” Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Stubb “grabbed” Plaintiff's right arm and “jerked it three times in an effort to turn [Plaintiff] over, ” dislocating Plaintiff's shoulder and tearing his rotator cuff. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff states that Defendants Ferguson and Stubb then “lifted and flipped [Plaintiff] over, dropping [him] on his face causing [him] more pain” and further damaging Plaintiff's right arm. Id. at 5. Plaintiff alleges he was “prone on the floor unmoving” during this entire episode and that he ultimately required several surgeries to repair the damage to his arm. Id. at 4, 5.

         Plaintiff contends Defendants' use of force was excessive and violated his constitutional rights. Id. at 4, 5. Plaintiff also states that “excessive force against a mental ill prisoner violates Plaintiff constitutional rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Attach. 1 to Recast Compl. at 1, ECF No. 14-1. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and “any other relief deemed necessary by the court.” Recast Compl. 7, ECF No. 14.[1]

         III. Plaintiff's Claims

         A. Excessive Force

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Stubb and Ferguson used excessive force against him and that Defendant Warren was responsible for this excessive use of force because he gave the order for the restraint. Force that is applied to a prisoner “maliciously and sadistically to cause harm” can violate the Eighth Amendment and give rise to claims under § 1983. See, e.g., Skrtich v. Thornton, 280 F.3d 1295, 1300 (11th Cir. 2002). A supervisor can be held liable for his subordinates' conduct where facts support an inference that he directed them to act unlawfully. See, e.g., Hendrix v. Tucker, 535 F. App'x 803, 805 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam). Construing Plaintiff's allegations liberally and taking them as true, the undersigned cannot say as a matter of law that Plaintiff's excessive force claims are entirely devoid of merit. Accordingly, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Warren, Stubb, and Ferguson shall proceed for further factual development.

         B.Claims against ...


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