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Esquivel v. Jones

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

July 16, 2019

ARTURO HERNANDEZ ESQUIVEL, Plaintiff,
v.
TRACY JONES, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, while incarcerated at the D. Ray James Correctional Facility in Folkston, Georgia (“D. Ray James”), filed this action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), in order to challenge certain conditions of his confinement. Doc. 1. After a thorough and careful review of the docket, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint, doc. 1, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal.[1]

         BACKGROUND [2]

         Plaintiff challenges alleged deficiencies in the medical care he received while incarcerated at the D. Ray James Correctional Institution in Folkston, Georgia. Doc. 1. Plaintiff struggles with basic mobility due to an injury to the tendons and ligaments in his left foot. Doc. 1-1. When Plaintiff arrived at D. Ray James, he used an orthopedic boot to help him walk. Id. Though Plaintiff used a similar boot while incarcerated in an Alabama correctional institution, upon his arrival at D. Ray James, Dr. Peter Riggs removed the boot and provided Plaintiff crutches as an alternative. Id. Around two or three months later, Dr. Riggs took the crutches back from Plaintiff, telling Plaintiff that he did not require the crutches to walk. Id. Plaintiff requested a walking stick, citing his medical history and records which discussed his disability. Id. Dr. Riggs initially provided Plaintiff with a walking stick but two months later removed the walking stick, leaving Plaintiff with no other device to assist his mobility.[3] Id. For over a week, Plaintiff attempted to walk without support, moving only with assistance from other inmates or by “clinging [to] the perimeter fence.” Id.

         On April 24, 2018, Plaintiff was sitting at a chair next to the phone. Doc. 1 at 4-5. When he stood up to go to bed, he fell. Id. He could not get up until other inmates assisted him. Id. According to Plaintiff, the fall occurred “because [he] didn't have a walking stick because the medical doctor [refused] to give” it back to him. Id. Plaintiff sustained injuries from the fall, including bruising and a “hard pain” in his ribs. Doc. 1-1.

         Prison staff brought Plaintiff to the medical unit the same day as his fall, but Plaintiff did not receive medical assistance at that time. Doc. 1 at 4-5. Rather, Plaintiff's appointment with medical staff occurred three days later. Id. While Plaintiff does not describe the treatment provided at that appointment, at some point, Plaintiff submitted a medical request for another walking stick. Doc. 1-1. About a month after submitting this request, he met with Dr. Rick Thomas. Id. Dr. Thomas provided Plaintiff with a walking stick. Id. Since that appointment, the prison has provided Plaintiff with a walking stick. Id. However, Plaintiff still experiences “continuous pain” in his back from his fall. Doc. 1 at 5.

         Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that he experienced an adverse reaction to a pill the medical staff prescribed him upon his arrival at D. Ray James. Doc. 1-1. After taking the pill for the first time, Plaintiff experienced a loss of breath. Id. Defendants sent Plaintiff to a doctor who connected Plaintiff to an artificial ventilator. Id. The second time Plaintiff took the pill, he “felt a lack of sight (vision) [in his] eyes” and “couldn't speak.” Id. He has since refused to take this pill. Id. However, Plaintiff's vision has continued to worsen. Id. Plaintiff “sent copouts” to see an eye doctor, but this treatment has not been provided. Id.

         On November 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant Jones, the prison's warden, in his official capacity only. Doc. 1 at 2. As relief, Plaintiff seeks $500, 000 in damages for his continued loss of vision and his back pain.[4] Doc. 1 at 5.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court may authorize the filing of a civil lawsuit without the prepayment of fees if the plaintiff submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all his assets and shows an inability to pay the filing fee and also includes a statement of the nature of the action which shows that he is entitled to redress. Even if the plaintiff proves indigence, the Court must dismiss the action if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity. Upon such screening, the Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or which seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         When reviewing a complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 (“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain [among other things] . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”); Fed.R.Civ.P. 10 (requiring that claims be set forth in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances). Further, a claim is frivolous under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) “if it is ‘without arguable merit either in law or fact.'” Napier v. Preslicka, 314 F.3d 528, 531 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001)).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Thompson v. Rundle, 393 Fed.Appx. 675, 678 (11th Cir. 2010). Under that standard, this Court must determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff must assert “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not” suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Section 1915 also “accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)).

         In its analysis, the Court will abide by the long-standing principle that the pleadings of unrepresented parties are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys and, therefore, must be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107, 1110 (11th Cir. 2006) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys . . . .” (emphasis omitted) (quoting Hughes v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1160 (11th Cir. 2003))). However, Plaintiff's unrepresented status will not excuse mistakes regarding procedural rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 ...


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