United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
RYAN G. WILLIAMSON, Plaintiff,
CHATHAM COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, et al., Defendants.
Christopher L. Ray United States Magistrate Judge Southern
District of Georgia
pro se and in forma pauperis, plaintiff
Ryan G. Williamson brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action
against the Chatham County Detention Center and two medical
providers. Doc. 1. The Court now screens the Complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the
immediate dismissal of any pro se complaint that
fails to state at least one actionable claim.
alleges that he “verbally announced” to medical
staff that he needed serious medical attention, but his
complaint was ignored. Doc. 1 at 3 (explaining that
“this took place 7-19-2017 - 7 24 2017” and that
at some point he filed a complaint in the grievance kiosk).
After some delay, and (perhaps) as a result of that delay in
treatment, he was taken to the “ER” and received
“emergency open heart surgery” to “put
heart valve replacements” in his chest. Id.
What his symptoms were, however, remains a mystery to the
does explain, however, that he was seen by medical staff -
they just missed the serious nature of his condition. Doc. 1
at 5. After “call[ing] a code due to excruciating pains
in [his] stomach, ” Nurse Jackie and Dr. Smith examined
Williams, determined he “should have taken [his] heart
burn meds, ” and sent him back to his cell.
Id. He remained in pain for days and was eventually
given Tylenol because he was running a fever. Id. He
now seeks to sue the jail “for neglect, ” for his
medical expenses, and for his pain and suffering, in a total
demand for $10 million. Id. at 6.
well established that “deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the
‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' . . .
proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (cites and footnotes
omitted). A prisoner states a valid claim, under 42 U.S.C.
section 1983, “whether the indifference is manifested
by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's
needs . . . or by prison guards in intentionally denying or
delaying access to medical care . . . or intentionally
interfering with treatment once prescribed.”
Id. at 104-05.
show that a prison official acted with deliberate
indifference to serious medical needs, a plaintiff must
satisfy both an objective and a subjective inquiry.”
Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1243 (11th Cir.
2003). First, the plaintiff must prove an objectively serious
medical need. Id. “A serious medical need is
considered ‘one that has been 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.'” Id. (citing
Hill v. Dekalb Reg'l Youth Det. Ctr., 40 F.3d 1176,
1187 (11th Cir.1994)). In either case, “the medical
need must be one that, if left unattended, pos[es] a
substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. (cite
and internal quote omitted).
the plaintiff must prove that the prison official acted with
deliberate indifference to that need. Id. To
establish this second element, the prisoner must prove three
facts: (1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm;
(2) disregard of that risk; and (3) by conduct that is more
than mere negligence. McElligott v. Foley, 182 F.3d
1248, 1255 (11th Cir. 1999).
medical need eventually became serious-he alleges that he
eventually received heart surgery-but there is nothing in the
record to tell the Court what the medical need was at the
time plaintiff requested treatment. Even assuming that his
pre-open heart surgery complaints presented a serious medical
need, Williams' allegations make it clear that he
was treated - albeit (in his view) in a grossly
deficient manner. He was seen by medical staff and they
misdiagnosed him as being noncompliant with his heartburn
medication. (Mis)diagnoses and delayed treatment, of course,
do not often rise above mere malpractice. See, e.g.,
Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1505 (11th Cir. 1991)
(citing Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106) (“Mere
incidents of [medical] negligence or malpractice do not rise
to the level of constitutional violations.”);
Taylor v. Adams, 221 F.3d 1254, 1258 (11th Cir.
2000) (“mere accidental inadequacy, negligence in
diagnosis or treatment, [and] even medical malpractice”
do not give rise to § 1983 liability). Given the
bare-bones nature of plaintiff's pleading, however, it
may be that the actual presentation of his illness was
sufficiently serious that the delay in treatment rises beyond
complaint also does not plead any facts establishing the
second element, namely that there was a subjective knowledge
of a risk of serious harm. Plaintiff's complaint merely
states that he needed medical attention and was treated by
medical staff. The phrase heart valve “replacement,
” perhaps, indicates that plaintiff had a preexisting
condition that ought to have tipped off medical staff about
the seriousness of his condition, such that their lack of
treatment was so inadequate as to amount to no treatment at
all. Mandel v. Doe, 888 F.2d 783, 789 (11th
Cir.1989) (“When the need for treatment is obvious,
medical care which is so cursory as to amount to no treatment
at all may amount to deliberate indifference.”). But
the threadbare allegations in plaintiff's complaint make
it impossible to determine if this is so. Altogether,
plaintiff's complaint is insufficient at this stage.
Nevertheless, the Court will grant plaintiff the opportunity
to replead. See, e.g., Johnson v. Boyd, 568
Fed.Appx. 719, 724 (11th Cir. 2014) (pro se plaintiff may
receive a chance to amend); Duff v. Steub, 378
Fed.Appx. 868, 872 (11th Cir. 2010) (amendment properly
granted when more carefully crafted complaint may state a
plaintiff is DIRECTED to file an Amended
Complaint within 30 days from the date of this order or face
a recommendation of dismissal. Williamson is advised that his
Amended Complaint will supersede the original Complaint and
therefore must be complete in itself. Once he files an Amended
Complaint, the original pleading will no longer serve any
function in this case.
it is time for Williamson to pay his filing fee. His PLRA
paperwork reflects $164.65 in average monthly deposits and a
$13.89 average monthly balance over the six-month period
prior to the date of his Prison Account Statement. Doc. 9. He
therefore owes a $32.93 initial partial filing fee.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (1) (requiring an
initial fee assessment “when funds exist, ” under
a specific 20 percent formula). Plaintiff's custodian (or
designee) shall remit the $32.93 and shall set aside 20
percent of all future deposits to his account, then forward
those funds to the Clerk each time the set aside amount
reaches $10.00, until the balance of the Court's $350.00
filing fee has been paid in full.