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Roberson v. West

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

July 24, 2019

SANDI WEST; MR. CLARK; MR. SMITH; and MS. ERIN, all in their individual capacities, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Hays State Prison in Trion, Georgia, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint contesting certain events occurring during his confinement at Smith State Prison in Glennville, Georgia. Doc. 1. The Court now screens Plaintiff's Complaint and supplements, as directed by 28 U.S.C. §1915A. For the following reasons, I find that Plaintiff makes non-frivolous allegations that Defendants West, Erin, and Clarke were deliberately indifferent to a known danger to Plaintiff and that Defendants McIntosh and Whitley were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. I DIRECT the United States Marshal to serve a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint and Supplement, docs. 1, 22, and this Order on Defendants. I also DIRECT the Clerk of Court to add Nurse McIntosh and Lieutenant Whitley as Defendants upon the docket and record of this case. I DENY as moot Plaintiff's Motion for Continuance, doc. 16, and GRANT Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, doc. 18, and Motions for Leave to File Supplemental Complaints, docs. 19, 22. I further RECOMMEND the Court GRANT Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Mr. Smith from this case, doc. 20, and DISMISS Defendant Smith from this action without prejudice.


         On April 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that he was assaulted on January 14, 2018 at approximately 10:45 p.m. and beaten unconscious by several gang members while incarcerated at Smith State Prison.[1] Doc. 1 at 6. Plaintiff alleges that in November 2017, he wrote to Defendant West, his Unit Manager, and Defendants Smith, Erin, and Clark, all Deputy Wardens. Id. at 5. Plaintiff claims that he informed Defendants that if he was placed in general population there would likely be a conflict due to his cousin, who was also apparently Plaintiff's codefendant in a criminal case, being housed at Smith State Prison. Id. However, Defendants allegedly took no action to protect Plaintiff, and he was subsequently assaulted by various gang members. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the assault left him with two swollen eyes and multiple fractures to his face. Id. at 10. Plaintiff alleges that, after the assault, Lieutenant Whitfield took Plaintiff's statement in Tier II, but that Plaintiff did not receive medical treatment until approximately 15 hours later when he was taken to the hospital. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Director of Nursing McIntosh is liable for the delay in his medical treatment for “not having here medical staff on post.” Id. at 8. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants West, Smith, Erin, and Clark are liable for exhibiting deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's safety and failing to protect him from the threat posed by other inmates. Id. at 8-9. Plaintiff requests nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. Id. at 11.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a Motion for a Continuance, asking the Court to delay proceedings, as he had been transferred to Valdosta State Prison and had lost access to his “legal materials and court documents at Smith State Prison.” Doc. 16. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, doc. 18, and two Motions to File Supplemental Complaints, docs. 19, 22. In his final proposed supplement, Plaintiff appears to allege a claim against Lieutenant Whitfield for the delay in obtaining medical treatment for Plaintiff. Doc. 22 at 5. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Lieutenant Whitfield left Plaintiff in the shower for several hours before taking him to a Tier II cell. Id. Plaintiff requests that the Court disregard his previous two proposed amendments. Doc. 22-1. Plaintiff also filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss Defendant Smith from this case. Doc. 20.


         Plaintiff brings this action in forma pauperis. 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).

         The Court looks to the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when reviewing a complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis. 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. . . .”) (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 (1993) (“We have never suggested that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation should be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel.”).


         I. Plaintiff's Operative Complaint and Allegations

         Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint and two Motions to File Supplemental Complaints. Plaintiff may amend his Complaint once as a matter of right because no Defendants have been served in this case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). The Court, accordingly, GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion to Amend. Doc. 18. Additional amendments require Plaintiff to obtain leave from the Court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Because no party has been served in this case, the Court finds that it is in the interests of justice to allow Plaintiff to supplement his Complaint and GRANTS Plaintiff's Motions for Leave to File Supplemental Complaints. Docs. 19, 22. Plaintiff requests in his final proposed Supplemental Complaint that the Court not ...

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