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Moore v. Allen

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

January 15, 2020

WARDEN MARTY ALLEN, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action while incarcerated at Georgia State Prison in Reidsville, Georgia, to challenge certain conditions of his confinement. Doc. 1. Plaintiff also submitted a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which this Court granted. Docs. 2, 4. Additionally, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Release of Information. Doc. 12. For the reasons set forth below, I RECOMMEND the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Defendant Allen. However, after the requisite frivolity review, the Court FINDS Plaintiff sets forth non-frivolous deliberate indifference claims against Defendants Dugger, Heard, and Patton. Thus, the Court DIRECTS the United States Marshal to serve Defendants Dugger, Heard, and Patton with a copy of Plaintiff's Complaint, doc. 1, and this Order without prepayment of cost. Finally, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Release of Information, doc. 12, as premature.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Plaintiff filed this action on July 16, 2018. Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges Defendants Marty Allen, Sergeant Dugger, Officer Heard, and Officer Patton were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, violating the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 1. On April 4, 2018, around 8:30 a.m., Plaintiff heard Sgt. Dugger and Officer Heard approach his dormitory, and he told them he was feeling suicidal. Id. at 5. The two guards told Plaintiff they would call someone to come talk to him, but no one came. Id. At approximately 3:50 p.m., Plaintiff made a cut on his right upper arm. Id. When Officer Patton arrived to perform an inmate count, Plaintiff told her he had cut himself. Id. Officer Patton responded that she did not care and left. Id. Some time later the same day, Officer Heard passed by Plaintiff's dorm for the inmate count, and Plaintiff told her he had cut himself. Id. Officer Heard told Plaintiff to tell the next shift. Id. During the next shift, an officer, who is unknown to Plaintiff, arrived in Plaintiff's dormitory, and he told her he had cut himself, to which she responded “okay” and walked away. Id. At 10:30 a.m. the next day, 18.5 hours after cutting himself, Sergeant Woods brought Plaintiff to the medical ward for treatment. Id. While Plaintiff was in a holding cell in the medical ward, Warden Allen approached him and told him, “I heard my officers let you bleed out until today, I bet you won't be cutting again.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff never received mental health treatment related to the incident. Id.

         Plaintiff sues each Defendant in his or her official and individual capacity. Id. at 7. As relief, Plaintiff requests $3, 600, 000 in compensatory damages from each Defendant, $3, 600, 000 in punitive damages from each Defendant, along with costs, and an injunction requiring the warden to “make a policy ordering all COs, Sgt., and Lts., to call for help as soon as they see that someone has cut or is hanging.” Id.


         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, 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 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.”).


         I. Claims Against Defendants in Their Official Capacities

         Plaintiff sues all Defendants in both their individual and official capacities. Doc. 1 at 1, 7. However, Plaintiff cannot sustain a § 1983 claim for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities. States are immune from private suits pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment and traditional principles of state sovereignty. Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 712- 13 (1999). Because a lawsuit against a state officer in his official capacity is “no different from a suit against the [s]tate itself, ” such a defendant is immune from suit under Section 1983. Id. at 71. Here, the State of Georgia would be the real party in interest in a suit against Defendants in their official capacities as employees and officers of the Georgia Department of Corrections. Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment immunizes these actors from suit for monetary damages in their official capacities. See Free v. Granger, 887 F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir. 1989). Absent a waiver of that immunity, Plaintiff cannot sustain any constitutional claims for monetary damages against Defendants in their official capacities. Section 1983 does not abrogate the well-established immunities of a state from suit without its consent. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 67 (1989). Therefore, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff's § 1983 claims for monetary relief against Defendants in their official capacities.

         II. Deliberate Indifference to Serious Medical Needs

         The cruel and unusual punishment standard of the Eighth Amendment requires prison officials to “ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). Moreover, the right to receive medical care “encompasses a right to psychiatric and mental health care, and a right to be protected from self-inflicted injuries, including suicide.” Cook ex rel. Estate of Tessier v. Sheriff of Monroe County, 402 F.3d 1092, 1115 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing to Belcher v. City of Foley, 30 F.3d 1390, 1396 (11th Cir. 1994)); see also Cagle v. Sutherland, 334 F.3d 980, 985 (11th Cir. 2003). In the medical care context, the standard for cruel and unusual punishment is whether a prison official exhibits a deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of an inmate. Id. at 828. To prove a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim, a prisoner must: (1) “satisfy the objective component by showing that [he] had a serious medical need”; (2) “satisfy the subjective component by showing that the prison official acted with deliberate indifference to [his] serious medical need”; and (3) “show that the injury was caused by the defendant's wrongful conduct.” Goebert v. Lee County, 510 F.3d 1312, 1326 (11th Cir. 2007). For the following reasons, I find Plaintiff states a cognizable claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs against Defendants Dugger, Heard, and Patton in their individual capacities.

         A. Whether Plaintiff had ...

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