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Nieves v. O'Neal

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

January 31, 2019

JOSE L. NIEVES, Plaintiff,
WARDEN O'NEAL and MS. MOODY, Correctional Officer, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, an inmate at Hancock State Prison, filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, concerning events alleged to have occurred at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia. Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's 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) (per curiam).


         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names the following Defendants: (1) TSP Warden O'Neal, and (2) TSP Officer Ms. Moody. (Doc. no. 1, pp. 1, 4.) Taking all of Plaintiff's allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         On June 13, 2018, Defendant Moody called a “lockdown for store” using profanity and displaying aggressive behavior. (Id. at 5.) When she reached Plaintiff's cell, he tried to explain his cellmate was on his way back, but Defendant Moody announced she did not care and “proceeded to remove the rag from the top of the cell door.” (Id.) When Plaintiff attempted to retrieve the rag from the floor, Defendant Moody “maliciously slammed the door on [Plaintiff's] right hand amputating [his] right thumb instantly leaving [his] bone exposed.” (Id.) Even though Plaintiff showed Defendant Moody his thumb on the floor, she left without offering, or calling for, assistance. (Id.)

         A fellow inmate helped Plaintiff to the medical department, and Plaintiff received treatment at the hospital. (Id.) When the doctor asked to keep Plaintiff overnight to administer pain medication, Defendant O'Neal “stated as soon as they were done with [Plaintiff's] stiches to send [Plaintiff] back to the prison.” (Id.) Upon his return to TSP, Plaintiff did not receive any pain medication for twenty-one hours, and he now cannot use his right hand properly. (Id.) Among other things, Plaintiff seeks $250, 000 in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages from each Defendant. (Id. at 6.)

         B. DISCUSSION

         1. Legal Standard for Screening

         The 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 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).

         2. Plaintiff Fails to State a Valid Claim against Defendant O'Neal

         Defendant O'Neal cannot be held liable for the acts of medical providers at TSP merely by virtue of his supervisory position as a Warden at TSP. “Supervisory officials are not liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional acts of their subordinates on the basis of respondeatsuperior or vicarious liability.” Hartley v. Parnell, 193 F.3d 1263, 1269 (11th Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Rosa v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 522 Fed.Appx. 710, 714 (11th Cir. 2013). Likewise, supervisors and employers cannot be sued under § 1983 simply on a theory of respondeat superior. See Kruger v. Jenne, 164 F.Supp.2d 1330, 1333-34 (S.D. Fla. 2000) (citing Powell v. ...

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