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Fields v. State

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

September 10, 2019

OLIVER WENDELL FIELDS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF GEORGIA, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BENJAMIN W. CHEESBRO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, who is presently incarcerated at Rogers State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as a result of injuries he sustained on April 8, 2018 while being transported from Reidsville Hospital to Rogers State Prison. Doc. 1. After the requisite frivolity review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal and CLOSE this case, and DENY Plaintiff in forma pauperis status on appeal.[1]

         BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff alleges that on the morning of April 8, 2018, he was transported via van from Reidsville Hospital to Rogers State Prison by two prison officials. Doc. 1 at 2. Upon arriving at Rogers State Prison's detail back gate at approximately 6:30 a.m., an officer proceeded to remove Plaintiff from the transport van. Id. The officer opened the side door of the van and placed a crate on the ground for Plaintiff to step on when he exited the van. Id. At the time, Plaintiff's legs were shackled and his hands were shackled and cuffed to his side. Id. The officer held Plaintiff's left arm as Plaintiff stepped out of the van and onto the crate but let go before both of Plaintiff's legs were on the crate. Id. Plaintiff proceeded to fall to the ground, injuring his eye, forehead, cheekbone, and lips. Id. Plaintiff was immediately taken to medical by the officer. Id.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Plaintiff is bringing this action in forma pauperis. 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 of his assets, 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 if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). Additionally, under 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 pleadings 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.”).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Plaintiff's Claim Against the State of Georgia

         Plaintiff names the State of Georgia as his sole Defendant. See Doc. 1. “To establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show that he ‘was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law.'” Gardner v. Riska, 444 Fed.Appx. 353, 355 (11th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). In the case of Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, the United States Supreme Court, citing to longstanding principles of state immunity, concluded that “a State is not a person within the meaning of § 1983.” 491 U.S. 58, 64 (1989). The Supreme Court, in reaching its conclusion, stated that, “We find nothing substantial in the legislative history that leads us to believe that Congress intended that the word ‘person' in § 1983 included the States of the Union.” Id. at 69. Additionally, states have long been considered immune from suit in federal courts under the provisions of the Eleventh Amendment, unless such immunity is waived. See Welch v. Tex. Dep't of Highways & Pub. Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 472 (1987) (“[T]he Court long ago held that the Eleventh Amendment bars a citizen from bringing suit against the citizen's own State in federal court. . . .”); see also Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979) (“[Section] 1983 does not explicitly and by clear language indicate on its face an intent to sweep away the immunity of the States.”). For these reasons, Plaintiff cannot sustain a § 1983 action against the State of Georgia, and I, therefore, RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's action.

         II. Plaintiff's Deliberate Indifference Claim

         Even if Plaintiff had sued a viable defendant, he would still fail to state a claim. As detailed in Plaintiff's Complaint, he seeks monetary damages for injuries he sustained while disembarking from a prison transport van. Doc. 1 at 2. He alleges he fell when the officer who was assisting him off the van let go of his arm. Id. Plaintiff does not challenge the response of the officer after the fall, as he notes that the officer immediately took Plaintiff to ...


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