United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
DANIEL L. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
JOSE MORALES, Warden, and NATHAN DEAL, Governor, Defendants.
se prisoner Daniel Williams brought this 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action to recover for injuries he suffered while
incarcerated. See doc. 9 at 2-4. In brief, the facts
of his claim are as follows: Williams was evacuated from
Coastal State Prison, where he was and remains incarcerated,
in response to a threatened hurricane. He was evacuated by
bus and, during the trip, he was ejected from his seat.
Neither his Complaint nor his most recent filings indicate
that he suffered any immediate effect beyond the minor
discomfort and injuries that would be expected (more on that
issue below). However, he eventually consulted with prison
medical staff about persistent pain and he was advised to
“exercise.” Several days after receiving, and
apparently accepting, that advice his pain increased
dramatically and he suffered a seizure. He was diagnosed with
nerve damage in his back and neck, which has led to ongoing
and allegedly permanent disability. This suit seeks
compensation for his injury.
Court screened his Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, and recommended that it be dismissed. Doc. 9 at 8.
Williams objected to the Report and Recommendation (R&R)
and seeks to amend his Complaint. Doc. 13 (objection); doc.
14 (Motion to Amend). Because his objection raises novel
theories which merit further development, the Court
VACATES the R&R. As discussed below, Williams
must clarify the nature of his claim.
objection raises several issues which are only tangential to
the viability of his claim. See doc. 13 at
His substantive objection, and the basis for his amendment
motion, is that he should be allowed to add a medical
malpractice claim. See doc. 13 at 3; doc. 14
(seeking to add claims against prison medical staff). He now
expressly contends that “PA Burke . . . made ordinary
mistakes of medical malpractice when she fail[ed] to conduct
a thorough examination of the Plaintiff['s] injury[, and]
. . . instead . . . advised him to go back to his dormitory
and exercise, which caused severe nerve damages to his neck,
spine, [and] back . . . .” Doc. 13 at 3. He continues
to suffer significant limitations as a result. Id.
at 3-4. He further contends that such a malpractice claim may
be brought in this Court through an exercise of its
R&R explained that even if the alleged facts might
support a medical malpractice claim, such claims do not
amount to constitutional violations. See doc. 9 at 7
(citing Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1505 (11th
Cir. 1991) (“Mere incidents of [medical] negligence or
malpractice do not rise to the level of constitutional
violations.”)). Prison officials' deliberate
indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs,
however, “violates the inmate's right to be free
from cruel and unusual punishment.” Waldrop v.
Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1033 (11th Cir. 1989) (citing
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)); see
also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-33 (1994)
(although prison conditions may be restrictive and harsh,
prison officials must provide, inter alia, necessary
medical care). To plead a violation of that right, a
plaintiff must allege both an objectively serious medical
need and that a defendant acted with deliberate indifference
to that need. Harper v. Lawrence County, Ala., 592
F.3d 1227, 1234 (11th Cir. 2010). Deliberate indifference, in
turn, requires that a defendant “(1) had subjective
knowledge of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregarded that
risk; and (3) acted with more than gross negligence.”
Id. (citing Burnette v. Taylor, 533 F.3d
1325, 1330 (11th Cir. 2008)).
identifies no defect in the R&R's conclusion that
conduct allegedly constituting malpractice does not viably
support a § 1983 claim. See Taylor v. Adams,
221 F.3d 1254, 1258 (11th Cir. 2000). His Complaint conceded
that he had received some treatment for his injury.
See doc. 9 at 2 (noting Williams' allegation
that “[h]e was provided with pain-relieving medication
(Tylenol) when he arrived at the prison to which he was
evacuated.”). In his objection he clarifies that, after
he returned to Coastal, he was not examined by medical staff
for more than five days, and he “therefore . . .
endured pain over that period of time . . .
.” Doc. 13 at 2. Despite the novel assertion
of consistent pain, the objection maintains that it was the
exertion, pursuant to the N.P.'s advice, and not the
delayed examination, “which caused severe nerve
damage, ” and lead to his ongoing injuries.
Id. at 3. Thus all of the pleadings, to date, leave
open the question of how serious the symptoms were that
Williams suffered between the time of his fall and his
some circumstances, an inordinate delay in providing medical
treatment amounts to a constitutional violation. See
Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1246-47 (11th Cir. 2003)
(fifteen-month delay in providing dental treatment was
sufficient to support deliberate indifference claim). Whether
it does depends upon the nature of the medical need and the
reason for the delay. Id. at 1247 (quoting
Harris v. Coweta County, 21 F.3d 388, 393-94 (11th
Cir. 1994)). Where the medical need is particularly grave,
delays of days or even hours may be sufficient to state a
claim. Id. For less serious conditions, even
“considerable delay” does not automatically
support a constitutional violation. Id.
allegations, even as developed in his most recent filings, do
not provide enough information to conclude that the delay
alleged could constitute deliberate indifference. Minor
injuries, like the bumps and bruises one might expect from
tumbling out of a bus seat, are not the sort of medical need
that would be “diagnosed by a physician as mandating
treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person
would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's
attention.” Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588
F.3d 1291, 1307 (11th Cir. 2009) (quotes and cite omitted).
They are simply not the kind of serious injuries that trigger
prison officials' Eighth Amendment obligations. See,
e.g., Young v. United States, 2015 WL 3605052, at * 6
(M.D. Fla. June 8, 2015) (“Generally, other courts
addressing bruises and lacerations have concluded that they
do not constitute an objectively serious medical
need, ” and collecting cases).
seriousness of Williams' needs before the nurse
practitioner allegedly exacerbated his injury by recommending
exercise is the critical question for the viability of
Williams' § 1983 claim. The fact that before its
escalation there may have been a latent condition does not
necessarily implicate the Eighth Amendment. Williams,
therefore, must clarify his allegations concerning this
critical period, and allege, if possible, the necessary
objective and subjective components of his § 1983 claim.
Williams should be allowed to pursue his malpractice claim in
this Court depends upon the viability of his constitutional
claim. “Federal courts are courts of limited
jurisdiction[, and t]hey possess only that power authorized
by Constitution and statute.” Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).
“In a given case, a federal district court must have
jurisdiction under at least one of the three types of
subject-matter jurisdiction: (1) jurisdiction pursuant to a
specific statutory grant; (2) federal question jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331; or (3) diversity
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).”
Baltin v. Alaron Trading Corp., 128 F.3d 1466, 1469
(11th Cir. 1997). The Court may also exercise
“supplemental jurisdiction over . . . claims that are
so related to claims in the action within such original
jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or
controversy under Article III of the United States
Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367; see doc.
13 at 2-3.
Williams correctly points out that the Court may have
supplemental jurisdiction to consider state-law malpractice
claims in some cases brought pursuant to § 1983, he
misunderstands its scope. The exercise of supplemental
jurisdiction depends upon the existence of some basis for the
Court's “original jurisdiction, ”
see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) -- that is, the
existence of at least one of the three bases for
subject-matter jurisdiction identified above. If such a basis
exists, the Court then has discretion to exercise
jurisdiction over sufficiently related claims, where it
otherwise would have none. See, e.g., Lucero v.
Trosch, 121 F.3d 591, 5978 (11th Cir. 1997)
(“[Section 1367] reflects a dichotomy between a federal
court's power to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction, § 1367(a), and its discretion not
to exercise such jurisdiction, § 1367(c).”).
the statutory reasons militating against exercise of
supplemental jurisdiction is when “the district court
has dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); see
also United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726
(1966) (discussing pre-statutory application of supplemental
jurisdiction and advising that “if the federal claims
are dismissed before trial, even though not insubstantial in
a jurisdictional sense, the state claims should be dismissed
as well.”); Raney v. Allstate Ins. Co., 370
F.3d 1086, 1089 (11th Cir. 2004) (“We have encouraged
district courts to dismiss any remaining state claims when,
as here, the federal claims have been dismissed prior to
trial.”). Whether the Court should exercise
jurisdiction over Williams' state-law malpractice claim
depends, therefore, on whether his § 1983 claim
Williams' request to file an Amended Complaint is
GRANTED. Doc. 14. However, the version of
the Amended Complaint Williams has attached to his motion,
doc. 14-1, does not provide sufficient information to support
his § 1983 claim. Williams must, therefore, provide a
second version of the Amended Complaint that briefly
details the facts of his injury between its occurrence and
the alleged malpractice. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)
(requiring that complaints include a “short and plain
statement of the claim”). That version must be complete
and stand on its own since it will supersede all prior
versions. See Malowney v. Fed. Collection Deposit
Grp., 193 F.3d 1342, 1345 n. 1 (11th Cir. 1999)
(“An amended complaint supersedes an original
complaint”); Varnes v. Local 91, Glass Bottle
Blowers Ass'n of U.S. & Canada, 674 F.2d 1365,
1370 n. 6 (11th Cir. 1982) (“As a general rule, an
amended complaint supersedes and replaces the original
complaint unless the amendment specifically refers to or
adopts the earlier pleading”). It must also contain
sufficient facts to support each claim
(i.e., the § 1983 claim and the malpractice
claim) against each defendant, including
presentation of facts supporting each element of each legal
claim. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (complaints must contain facts
“sufficient to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level”). Mere conclusions that defendants
violated the law are not enough. See Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). Williams is further
advised that, although the Court will charitably construe his
pleadings, it is not able to plug factual or legal holes.
See, e.g., Boles v. Riva, 565 Fed.Appx. 845, 846
(11th Cir. 2014) (“[E]ven in the case of pro
se litigants [the liberal construction of pleadings]
does not give a court license to serve as de facto
counsel for a party, or to rewrite an otherwise deficient
pleading in order to sustain an action.” (quotes and
must sign and place his Amended Complaint in his prison's
mail system within 30 days of the date of this Order. Failure
to do so may result in a recommendation of dismissal on
abandonment grounds. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41.