United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
LEONTAE V. DUNCAN, Plaintiff,
CCSO, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Christopher L. Ray United States Magistrate Judge.
Duncan, proceeding pro se and in forma
pauperis, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint
alleging unlawful force and inadequate medical care. Doc. 1.
The Court granted his Motion for Leave to proceed in
forma pauperis (IFP), doc. 3, and he has provided all
requested documentation, docs. 4 & 5. The Court now
screens the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
alleges that on January 9th, 2019, he was being transferred
to a new unit when he was struck by Ofc. White with a closed
fist while he was in restraints and unresisting. Doc. 1 at 4.
He alleges that the assault was witnessed by Lt. Blanton,
Sgt. Johnson, Ofc. Johnson, and Ofc. Gordon although he
explicitly notes that none of those officers contributed to
the assault. Id. at 5. He alleges that following the
assault he was denied medical care or follow up care by RN
Dambach. Id. As a result of the assault, he claims
to suffer from frequent, sharp, excruciating pain the right
side of his skull and that his vision on his right side has
deteriorated. Id. at 4-5.
initial matter, the Chatham County Sheriff's Office is
not an entity subject to suit. Logue v. Chatham Cty. Det.
Ctr., 2008 WL 895717 at * 2 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 2, 2008);
see Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir.
1992) (noting that sheriff's departments are not usually
subject to suit or liability under § 1983, but deferring
to state law as determinative of capacity to sue and be
sued); Shelby v. City of Atlanta, 578 F.Supp. 1368,
1370 (N.D.Ga. 1984) (city police department is not an entity
subject to suit under § 1983 because it “is merely
the vehicle through which the [c]ity government fulfills its
policing instructions.”). Accordingly, any claims
against it should be DISMISSED.
any claims against Sheriff Wilcher should be dismissed.
Section 1983 claims require an allegation of a causal
connection between a defendant's acts or omissions and an
alleged constitutional deprivation. See Zalter v.
Wainwright, 802 F.2 397, 401 (11th Cir. 1986)
(defendant's position of Secretary of Florida Department
of Corrections was not alone sufficient to establish a causal
connection to plaintiff's sexual assault). Plaintiff has
not alleged that Sheriff Wilcher was in any way connected to
plaintiff's treatment, beyond his role as head of the
Sheriff's Department. This alone is insufficient as
theories of respondeat superior and vicarious
liability cannot carry § 1983 claims. See Polk Cnty
v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981) (“Section 1983
will not support a claim based on respondeat
superior theory of liability.”); Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs. of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 691
(1978) (“Congress did not intend municipalities to be
held liable unless action pursuant to official municipal
policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort.”);
Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 671 (11th Cir.
1990) (“Supervisory liability occurs either when the
supervisor personally participates in the alleged
constitutional violation or when there is a causal connection
between actions of the supervising official and the alleged
construing the remaining allegations in plaintiff's
complaint, he brings claims for excessive use of force,
failure to protect and denial of adequate medical care in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To establish a claim
under § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that an
offense (1) was committed by a person acting under the color
of law and (2) deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege,
or immunity under the Constitution or federal law. 42 U.S.C.
has pleaded facts sufficient for a claim of excessive force
in violation of the Eighth Amendment against Ofc. White. The
use of force in a custodial setting violates the Eighth
Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment when it is not applied in a good-faith effort to
maintain or restore discipline but, rather, is administered
“maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.”
Hudson v. McMillan, 503 U.S. 1, 5-6 (1992);
Sears v. Roberts, 922 F.3d 1199, 1205 (11th Cir.
2019). It is not necessary that the use of force resulted in
a serious injury, as the focus is directed to the nature of
the act, not its degree. Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S.
34, 37-38 (2010).
adequately alleges that Ofc. White punched him with a closed
fist when he was in restraints and was not resisting. Though
reasonable force may be deployed to promote and ensure
compliance with instructions and rules, see Bailey v.
Hughes, 815 F.Supp.2d 1246 (M.D. Ala. 2011), plaintiff
alleges he was defenseless and posed no risk. Doc. 1 at 4.
Taking these allegations as true, there was no need for the
application of force.
the officers who watched the assault but did not intervene
may be liable for that failure. Skrtich v. Thornton,
280 F.3d 1295, 1302 (11th Cir. 2002) (“It is not
necessary that a police officer actually participate in the
use of excessive force in order to be held liable under
§ 1983. Rather, an officer who is present at the scene
and who fails to take reasonable steps to protect the victim
of another officer's use of excessive force, can be held
liable for his nonfeasance.” (internal quotations and
citations omitted)). As plaintiff has alleged facts
sufficiently supporting his claim of excessive force, this
claim survives the Court's screening.
has also pleaded facts sufficient to establish a claim of
denial of adequate medical care against RN Dambach. The
denial of medical care offends the Eighth Amendment when a
government official displays “deliberate indifference
to the serious medical needs of prisoners….”
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). This
involves an “objective component” demonstrating
the existence of a serious medical condition and a
“subjective component” showing that prison
officials acted with deliberate indifference toward that
satisfy the objective component, a plaintiff must set forth
evidence of a medical need that is sufficiently serious that,
if left unattended, it would “pos[e] a substantial risk
of serious harm.” Id. (quoting Taylor
v. Adams, 221 F.3d 1254, 1258 (11th Cir. 2000)). Serious
injuries are both those “diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment” and those that are “so
obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the
necessity for a doctor's attention.” Hill v.
Dekalb Reg'l Youth Det. Ctr., 40 F.3d 1176, 1187
(11th Cir. 1994) (internal citation and quotation marks
omitted), overruled in part on other grounds by Hope v.
Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730 (2002). They also include those
medical needs that would be worsened by a delay in treatment.
Mann v. Taser Int'l., Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1307
(11th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered from
continuing severe pain and loss of vision after a strong blow
to the head. A strong blow to the head-known by the treating
individual-is just such a case and at the screening phase, at
he has-at least at this point-adequately plead the subjective
component. A plaintiff must demonstrate that prison officials
were deliberately indifferent toward a serious medical
condition. This requires a showing that the prison official
(1) had a subjective knowledge of the risk of serious harm;
(2) disregarded that risk; and (3) was more ...