Eddins v. State of Alabama
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 9/24/2015. (KEK)
2015 Sep-24 PM 03:07
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
GREGORY JAMES EDDINS,
WARDEN CHERYL PRICE,
Case No. 2:14-cv-00067-MHH-HGD
On January 6, 2014, plaintiff Gregory James Eddins filed a pro se complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Eddins alleges that, during his incarceration at
W. E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, he has been
deprived of rights, privileges, and immunities afforded him under the United States
Constitution. (Doc. 1). On March 25, 2014, the magistrate judge ordered Mr.
Eddins to amend his complaint to correct deficiencies (Doc. 9), and on April 14,
2014, Mr. Eddins filed an amended complaint (Doc. 10).
In the amended complaint, Mr. Eddins names as defendants Warden Cheryl
Price, Warden Loyd Hicks, Dr. Roy Rodham, Director of Nursing Mrs. Claybourn,
and Nurse Practitioner James Butler.
(Doc. 10, p. 3).
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Mr. Eddins demands
declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for constitutional violations arising
under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution. (Doc. 10, pp. 4–5).
On December 5, 2014, the magistrate judge filed a report in which he
recommended that the Court dismiss all claims against all defendants as frivolous
and/or for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and/or (2).
On December 15, 2014 and
December 16, 2014, Mr. Eddins filed objections to the report and recommendation
and moved to file additional objections. (Docs. 13 & 14). Mr. Eddins’s motion to
submit additional objections is GRANTED. (Doc. 14).
Standard of Review
A district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
When a party makes timely objections to a report and recommendation, the district
court “make[s] a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” Id. The
Court examines each of Mr. Eddins’s objections below.
Mr. Eddins’s Objections
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Mr. Eddins objects only to dismissal of his claims against Dr. Roy Rodham,
Director of Nursing Mrs. Claybourn, and Nurse Practitioner James Butler. Mr.
Eddins argues that the Court should allow him to pursue his claim that these
defendants violated his Eighth Amendment constitutional right to adequate medical
care for a diabetic condition.
(Docs. 13 & 14).
The magistrate judge
recommended dismissal of this claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief
may be granted. (Doc. 12, pp. 9–10).
In support of his argument that the Court should not dismiss his Eighth
Amendment medical care claim against defendants Rodham, Claybourn, and
Butler, Mr. Eddins points to an Alabama Court of Civil Appeals opinion in a state
court civil case that Mr. Eddins pursued simultaneously with the present action.
(Doc. 13, pp. 3–10; Gregory James Eddins v. State of Alabama, CR 2130769 (Ala.
Civ. App. Aug. 1, 2014)).
Contrary to Mr. Eddins’s assertion, the state
proceedings support the magistrate judge’s recommendation of dismissal.
Mr. Eddins’s State Court Case
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals considered Mr. Eddins’s state action
In January 2014, Eddins filed a form “Petition for Relief from
Conviction or Sentence,” purportedly pursuant to Rule 32, Ala. R.
Crim. P. In his verified petition, Eddins alleged that in September
2010, while he was incarcerated, laboratory tests indicated that he has
diabetes. He also alleges that annual laboratory tests performed since
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2010 support his claim that he is diabetic. Nonetheless, Eddins says,
he is not being treated for diabetes, and, thus, he asserts, he runs the
risk of going blind, losing a limb, going into a diabetic coma, or
dying. Among the relief Eddins requested in his petition is an order
directing the State of Alabama—presumably the DOC—to provide
him with necessary or appropriate medical care to treat his diabetes.
In other words, Eddins’s action is actually a civil action alleging that
the State has acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs.
Although Eddins’s petition was written on a form intended for
inmates to use in seeking Rule 32 relief from their convictions or
sentences, the substance of the petition clearly alleges that the State
improperly and intentionally denied him medical treatment. The trial
court recognized the nature of Eddins’s claim in its judgment of
dismissal, in which it stated that, “[i]n his present Rule 32 petition
Eddins complains that the medical treatment given him by the State is
either inadequate or improper.” . . . [T]he trial court should have
treated Eddins’s petition according to its substance rather than its
caption; that is to say, it should have treated Eddins’s petition as a
complaint alleging deliberate indifference to Eddins’s medical care.
“An inmate in a state penal institution has a
constitutional right to adequate medical treatment.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S. Ct. 285, 50 L. Ed.
2d 251 (1976); Fountain v. State, 648 So. 2d 591 (Ala.
Civ. App. 1994). This court has further held that “[a]n
evidentiary hearing is warranted in order for the trial
court to determine whether an inmate in a state penal
institution is receiving adequate medical attention.”
Fountain, 648 So. 2d at 592 (citations omitted).
Perry [v. Dep’t of Corr.,] 694 So. 2d [24,] 25 [(Ala. Civ. App. 1997)].
To the extent that Eddins’s petition sought an order directing
the State to provide him with adequate medical testing and treatment
for his alleged diabetic condition, there is no question that Eddins
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would be entitled to the relief he sought if he is able to make the
proper showing of proof. In other words, Eddins has stated a claim
for which relief can be granted. Accordingly, the trial court erred in
dismissing the action.
In reaching this conclusion, this court is not expressing an
opinion as to the substantive merits of Eddins’s claim. We merely
hold that, at this stage of the litigation, Eddins has alleged a set of
circumstances that, if proved, would entitle him to the injunctive relief
he seeks. We note that such relief would not affect Eddins’s
conviction or sentence.
Eddins v. State, 160 So. 3d 18, 19–21 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014).
The appellate court remanded the case to the Circuit Court of Madison
County, Alabama. Id. at 21. Because this Court “may take judicial notice” of
“state court proceedings,” the Court has examined Mr. Eddins’s state court case.
Coney v. Smith, 738 F.2d 1199, 1200 (11th Cir. 1984) (citing Moore v. Estelle, 526
F.2d 690, 694 (5th Cir. 1976)); see also Fed. R. Evid. 201(b)(2) (“The court may
judicially notice a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it . . . can
be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot
reasonably be questioned.”).
After remand, the trial court ordered the State of Alabama to respond to Mr.
Eddins’s state court claim. State of Alabama v. Gregory James Eddins, CC-2004997.61, www.alacourt.com.
On August 15, 2014, the State of Alabama filed a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Alabama Rules of Civil
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Procedure. (Id.). The State asserted that Mr. Eddins had failed to state an Eighth
Amendment medical care claim. (Id.). The State also argued that the Alabama
Court of Civil Appeals’s remand order was incorrect and moved to dismiss the
case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the State of Alabama is immune
from civil actions. (Id.).
On August 21, 2014, the trial court determined Mr. Eddins’s case was a civil
action for injunctive relief filed by a prisoner and, pursuant to the Alabama
Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, transferred the case sua sponte to the Circuit Court
of Jefferson County, Alabama, the county where Mr. Eddins is incarcerated. (Id.).
The case again was dismissed as a state habeas petition. State of Alabama v.
Gregory James Eddins, CC-2014-2167.60, www.alacourt.com.
appealed, and on January 16, 2015, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals reversed
the trial court’s decision a second time and remanded the case for further
proceedings consistent with the appellate court’s opinions. Eddins v. State, --- So.
3d ---, 2015 WL 232262, at *2 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 16, 2015). On the same date,
the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama provided injunctive relief to Mr.
Eddins. The court held:
In comportment withe (sic) [the] finding of the Appellate Court that
this Court has jurisdiction to rule in this matter, despite the form of the
pleading, it is ordered, adjudged and decreed that the State of
Alabama and or its applicable agents provide the Petitioner with
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proper and adequate medical treatment and attention. Therefore, the
Petition for relief is hereby GRANTED.
State of Alabama v. Gregory James Eddins, CC-2014-2167.60, www.alacourt.com.
Although the trial court granted the relief Mr. Eddins requested, the trial court took
no evidence and made no factual findings regarding Mr. Eddins’s claim. Pursuant
to Rule 4 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure, the parties had forty-two
(42) days to file a Notice of Appeal from the trial court’s January 16, 2015
judgment. A Notice of Appeal was not filed.
The Effect of Mr. Eddins’s State Court Case
To the extent Mr. Eddins sues defendants Rodham, Claybourn, and Butler in
their official capacities and requests injunctive relief to compel treatment for his
diabetes, the Court must consider the effect of the state court injunction. “When [a
federal court] consider[s] whether to give res judicata effect to a state court
judgment, [it] must apply the res judicata principles of the law of the state whose
decision is set up as a bar to further litigation.” Muhammad v. Secretary, Fla.
Dep’t of Corrections, 739 F.3d 683, 688 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Green v.
Jefferson Cnty. Comm’n, 563 F.3d 1243, 1252 (11th Cir. 2009)) (internal quotation
In Alabama, “[t]he doctrine of res judicata bars subsequent
claims that involve the ‘identical parties, facts and subject matter litigated, or those
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which could have been litigated, in an earlier lawsuit.’” Higgins v. Henderson, 551
So. 2d 1050, 1052 (Ala. 1989) (quoting Chavers v. National Sec. Fire & Cas. Co.,
456 So. 2d 293, 294 (Ala. 1984)). Stated differently,
[t]he traditional res judicata case (frequently referred to as a claim
preclusion) involves prior litigation between a plaintiff and a
defendant, which is decided on the merits by a court of competent
jurisdiction, and then a subsequent attempt by the prior plaintiff to
relitigate the same cause of action against the same defendant, or
perhaps to relitigate a different claim not previously litigated but
which arises out of the same evidence. Alabama law is well settled
that this will not be allowed. A valid, final judgment on the merits of
the claim extinguishes the claim. If the plaintiff won, the claim is
merged into the judgment; if the defendant won, the plaintiff is barred
from relitigating any matter which could have been litigated in the
prior action. Lesley v. City of Montgomery, supra; Ozley v. Guthrie,
supra; Wheeler v. First Alabama Bank of Birmingham, supra;
McGruder v. B & L Construction, Inc., supra.
Whisman v. Alabama Power Co., 512 So. 2d 78, 81 (Ala. 1987).
Mr. Eddins’s state court action and this federal action involve the same
parties. Although Mr. Eddins named only the State of Alabama as a defendant in
the state action, “a government official sued in his or her official capacity is
considered to be in privity with the government.” Lozman v. City of Riviera
Beach, Fla., 713 F.3d 1066, 1075 n.7 (11th Cir. 2013). Therefore, to the extent
Mr. Eddins sues W. E. Donaldson Correctional Facility employees Dr. Roy
Rodham, Director of Nursing Mrs. Claybourn, and Nurse Practitioner James Butler
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as defendants in their official capacities, the suit is against the State of Alabama,
the same defendant named in Mr. Eddins’s state court lawsuit.
Mr. Eddins’s state and federal actions concern the same type of relief for the
same alleged conduct.
“‘Section 1983 plaintiffs may sue official-capacity
defendants only for injunctive relief.’” Jones v. Buckner, 963 F. Supp. 2d 1267,
1281 (N.D. Ala. 2013) (quoting Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1161 n.5 (10th
Cir. 2011)). Mr. Eddins received a state court judgment granting him injunctive
relief from alleged indifference to his diabetic condition.
Because the parties, facts, and subject matter litigated in the state court
lawsuit are identical to the case before this Court with regard to Mr. Eddins’s
official capacity claims, the doctrine of res judicata precludes adjudication of those
“Section 1983 plaintiffs may sue individual-capacity defendants only for
money damages . . . .” Jones, 963 F. Supp. 2d at 1281 (internal quotation marks
omitted). Therefore, Mr. Eddins may seek compensatory and punitive damages
from defendants Rodham, Clayborn, and Butler under § 1983. (Doc. 10, p. 4).
“To prevail on a deliberate indifference to serious medical need claim, [Mr.
Eddins] must show: (1) a serious medical need; (2) the defendants’ deliberate
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indifference to that need; and (3) causation between that indifference and the
plaintiff’s injury.” Craig v. Floyd County, Ga., 643 F.3d 1306, 1310 (11th Cir.
2011) (quoting Mann v. Taser Int’l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1306–07 (11th Cir.
Mr. Eddins has failed to state an Eighth Amendment claim against
defendants Rodham, Claybourn, and Butler for deliberate indifference to his
serious medical needs. Mr. Eddins asserts that prison officials diagnosed him with
diabetes in 2010 and that the defendants refuse to provide him adequate medical
care for the condition. (Doc. 10, p. 3). Assuming that a diagnosis of diabetes
constitutes a serious medical need, Mr. Eddins’s claim still fails because he does
not allege that he has ever experienced symptoms of illness, discomfort, or any
other injury as a result of his untreated diabetes.
At best, Mr. Eddins assertion that, if left untreated, his diabetes could cause
him to go blind, lose a limb, or die states a claim for potential future injury. (Doc.
10, p. 3). In light of the potentially severe consequences faced by Mr. Eddins, the
state court ordered the State of Alabama to provide Mr. Eddins with appropriate
medical care. However, because Mr. Eddins does not allege that any of the
potential harms has materialized, his claim for compensatory and punitive damages
is not ripe. In re Jacks, 642 F.3d 1323, 1332 (11th Cir. 2011) (“A claim is not ripe
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when it is based on speculative possibilities.”). In addition, the issuance of the
state court injunction makes it unlikely that any of Mr. Eddins’s claims for money
damages will ever ripen. Mr. Eddins may not pursue a damages claim that is not
ripe. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 598 n.2 (1992) (discussing
“the settled requirement that the injury complained of be, if not actual, then at least
imminent”) (emphasis in original).
Having carefully reviewed and considered de novo all the materials in the
court record, including the report and recommendation and the objections thereto,
the Court overrules Mr. Eddins’s objections and ACCEPTS the magistrate judge’s
recommendation that the Court dismiss Mr. Eddins’s claim. Accordingly, the
complaint is due to be dismissed as frivolous and/or for failing to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and/or (2). The
Court will enter a final judgment consistent with this memorandum opinion.
DONE and ORDERED this September 24, 2015.
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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