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Jones v. Johnson

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

May 6, 2019




         Plaintiff, an inmate at Ware State Prison in Waycross, Georgia, brought this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, concerning events at Telfair State Prison (“TSP”) in Helena, Georgia. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, (doc. no. 15), which the Court REPORTS and RECOMMENDS be GRANTED and this case DISMISSED and CLOSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 1, 2018, Defendants removed this case from Telfair County Superior Court and on the same day filed a Verified Special Appearance Answer and Defenses in Telfair Superior Court. (Doc. no. 1; doc. no. 1-1, pp. 65-77.) After removal, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint naming the following Defendants: (1) Frederick Johnson; (2) Charles Denson; (3) Timothy Howard; (4) Rodney McCloud; and (5) “Maintenance Personal.” (Doc. no. 5.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, the facts are as follows.

         On November 11, 2017, at 11:00 a.m., Defendant Frederick Johnson, Unit Manager at TSP, told Plaintiff to pack his belongings and move to a new cell. (Id. at 2.) When he arrived at the new cell, Plaintiff noticed water on the floor and told Sergeant Woods about the water. (Id.) Plaintiff also told Sergeant Cray and two other unknown officers he needed a mop. (Id.) Plaintiff traced the source of the leak to the sink and toilet, noticing every time he flushed more water would leak. (Id.) The day after being placed in the new cell, Plaintiff filed a complaint with Unit Manager Johnson, who only “brushed the problem aside.” (Id.) Plaintiff spoke to Defendant “Maintenance Personal, ” unknown maintenance workers at TSP, but they only told Plaintiff everything was working fine. (Id.)

         From November 11 to November 15, 2017, Plaintiff was without water and a working toilet. (Id.) On November 15, 2017, at around 3:00 p.m., Plaintiff told Sergeant Cray about the problem again, which made her mad and she refused to bring Plaintiff his dinner tray. (Id.) Sergeant Cray placed the dinner tray just outside the cell door, so Plaintiff could see it when he opened the tray flap of his cell. (Id. at 3.) Five minutes later, Unit Manager Johnson came to Plaintiff's cell asking what was wrong, to which Plaintiff responded he had no water and needed maintenance to fix the problem. (Id.) In response, Unit Manager Johnson told Plaintiff to pack his belongings for transfer to a new cell. (Id.) Unit Manager Johnson also asked Plaintiff why he threw his dinner tray earlier. (Id.) Plaintiff did not know to what tray she was referring. (Id.) Six other officers transported Plaintiff to a new cell. (Id.)

         When he arrived at the new cell, Plaintiff asked to speak with Unit Manager Johnson. (Id.) However, Defendant Charles Denson, Lieutenant, appeared and told Plaintiff Unit Manager Johnson did not have time. (Id.) Lt. Denson told Plaintiff to give him his handcuffs or “to pay” then left with Plaintiff still handcuffed and returned with a can of pepper spray. (Id.) Lt. Denson released a full can of “riot pepper spray” into Plaintiff's face while handcuffed and left Plaintiff there for ten minutes. (Id.) Plaintiff panicked because he could not breathe, and in an attempt to breathe, he opened his cell window to let in fresh air. (Id.) However, an officer jammed the flap with a “net bag.” (Id.) Ten minutes later, Plaintiff was taken out of his cell and placed in a shower for two minutes without any soap or rag. (Id.) Plaintiff returned to his cell and was instructed to strip naked. (Id.) Plaintiff remained naked for eighteen hours. (Id.) During this time, Plaintiff was never transported to medical, and he constantly asked for water. (Id.)

         On November 16, 2017, Plaintiff ate no breakfast or dinner because Lt. Denson and Unit Manager Johnson gave orders to refuse Plaintiff food. (Id.) On November 17, 2017, officials denied Plaintiff food again, but Warden Phillip Hall, in making his rounds, instructed officers to give Plaintiff his meal despite Lt. Denson and Unit Manager Johnson's orders. (Id.) Warden Hall stated he would speak to Lt. Denson and Unit Manager Johnson about refusing food. (Id. at 4.) On November 18, 2017, Lt. Denson told Plaintiff “it is what it is, let's move on, ” and Unit Manager Johnson refused to speak when he saw Plaintiff leaving the shower. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges he filed a grievance concerning the above allegations. (Id.) However, he states his grievances were denied. (Id.) Plaintiff does not allege he appealed the denial. Plaintiff seeks $25, 000 in compensatory damages against Defendants jointly and severally and $25, 000 in punitive damages. (Id.) Plaintiff is suing Defendants in their individual capacities. (Id.; doc. no. 25, p. 3.)

         On November 15, 2018, Defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing (1) Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his claims; (2) Defendant Rodney McCloud cannot be held under the respondeat superior doctrine; (3) Plaintiff failed to state a claim for excessive force against Defendants McCloud, Johnson, and Howard; and (4) Plaintiff failed to state a claim based on conditions of confinement under the Eighth Amendment for his faulty toilet and sink. (Doc. no. 15-1.) Defendants attached Plaintiff's grievance history, the Georgia Department of Corrections Standard Operating Procedure (“GDOC SOP”) for grievances, and a declaration by Cathy Lewis concerning the grievance procedure and Plaintiff's grievances. (Doc. nos. 15-2 - 15-4.) Plaintiff's grievance history shows he did not file any grievances after November 11, 2017, until July 6, 2018, at Hancock State Prison. (Doc. no. 15-4.) Plaintiff responded to Defendants' motion, but he has not provided any evidence in dispute. (Doc. nos. 25, 25-1.)


         A. The Legal Framework

         “Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate where there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Perez v. Wells Fargo N.A., 774 F.3d 1329, 1335 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation omitted). “We accept as true all material facts alleged in the non-moving party's pleadings, and we view those facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Id. As a motion for judgment on the pleadings under 12(c) and a motion to dismiss under 12(b)(6) are almost identical in form and relief, courts apply the same legal standard in assessing both motions. See Mobile Telecommunications Techs., LLC v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 173 F.Supp.3d 1324, 1327 (N.D.Ga. 2016) (“The legal standard for assessing a motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same as the standard for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”) (citing Hawthorne v. Mac Adjustment, Inc., 140 F.3d 1367, 1370 (11th Cir. 1998)).

         Under the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, the court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail on the merits. Adinolfe v. United Tech. Corp., 768 F.3d 1161, 1168 (11th Cir. 2014). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must “state a claim for 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' ...

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