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Wheeler v. Philbin

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

June 18, 2018

EDWARD PHILBIN, Warden, Individual and Official Capacity; and MICHAEL ALLEN, C.O. II, Individual and Official Capacity, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, an inmate at Augusta State Medical Prison (ASMP) in Grovetown, Georgia, is proceeding in forma pauperis in this case filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, Plaintiff's amended complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names (1) ASMP Warden Edward Philbin and (2) Correctional Officer Michael Allen as Defendants. (Doc. no. 10, pp. 1-2.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On March 28, 2018, Plaintiff was incarcerated in segregation housing unit 12-A-1 at ASMP. (Id. at 2.) Officer Allen handcuffed Plaintiff before leading him toward the showers. (Id.) While Plaintiff and Officer Allen were on the way to the showers, two inmates, who were not escorted by prison guards or wearing restraints, exited their nearby cell and approached Plaintiff and Officer Allen. (Id.) Officer Allen abandoned Plaintiff, who was still handcuffed, and another officer had to call for backup because Officer Allen did not have a radio. (Id. at 2-3.) Officer Allen also did not have “pepper spray, nightstick, electric tase-gun, partner, or anything else that could've been used as a tool to effectively protect himself - let alone [Plaintiff].” (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff was “punched, kicked in the face, and beaten mercilessly in the back of [his] head with a state-issued combination lock.” (Id.) Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, where Plaintiff received four staples for his head injuries. (Id.)

         Plaintiff states incidents “very similar to this [one] had already occurred a few times before.” (Id.) Plaintiff states Defendants should have known the doors in the unit were faulty, creating a substantial risk he would be harmed, and yet failed to respond reasonably to protect him. (Id.) Plaintiff also states Officer Allen violated GDOC and ASMP policy by escorting Plaintiff alone and abandoning him during the attack. (Id. at 4.) As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment, $45, 000 of compensatory damages from Defendant Allen, $50, 000 of punitive damages against Defendants jointly and severally, and costs. (Id. at 6.)


         A. Legal Standard for Screening

         The amended complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the amended complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or if it “tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the Court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the Court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         B. Plaintiff's Claim Should be Dismissed for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies\

         1.The Exhaustion Requirement of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”)

         Section 1997e(a) of the PLRA provides that “[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Dismissal for failure to state a claim is appropriate if it is clear from the face of a complaint that the plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007); Bingham v. Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1175 (11th Cir. 2011); Solliday v. Federal Officers, 413 Fed.Appx. 206, 208 (11th Cir. 2011); Anderson v. Donald, 261 Fed.Appx. 254, 256 (11th Cir. 2008). The PLRA's mandatory exhaustion requirement “applies to all prisoners seeking redress for prison circumstances or occurrences.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 520 (2002). Moreover, the Court ...

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