Benjamin v. Norris et al
RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION recommending that Plaintiff's claims be dismissed without prejudice. Objections to R&R due 11 days from the date the Recommended Disposition is received. Signed by Magistrate Judge Beth Deere on 11/12/09. (hph)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT E A S T E R N DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS P I N E BLUFF DIVISION M I C H A E L BENJAMIN A D C #139727 V. L A R R Y NORRIS, et al. C A S E NO. 5:09CV00277 WRW-BD DEFENDANTS
P L A IN T IF F
R E C O M M E N D E D DISPOSITION I. P r o c e d u r e for Filing Objections: T h e following recommended disposition has been sent to United States District J u d g e William R. Wilson, Jr. Any party may file written objections to this re c o m m e n d a tio n . Objections should be specific and should include the factual or legal b a s is for the objection. If the objection is to a factual finding, specifically identify that f in d in g and the evidence that supports your objection. An original and one copy of your o b je c tio n s must be received in the office of the United States District Court Clerk no later th a n eleven (11) days from the date you receive the Recommended Disposition. A copy w ill be furnished to the opposing party. Failure to file timely objections may result in w a iv e r of the right to appeal questions of fact. M a il your objections and "Statement of Necessity" to: C le rk , United States District Court E a s te rn District of Arkansas 6 0 0 West Capitol Avenue, Suite A149 L ittle Rock, AR 72201-3325
Background: O n September 1, 2009, Plaintiff Michael Benjamin, an inmate at the Cummins Unit
o f the Arkansas Department of Correction ("ADC"), filed his original Complaint in this m a tte r under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the Western District or Arkansas. (Docket entry #1) On th e same day, the case was transferred to the Eastern District of Arkansas. (#3) The C o m p la in t was deficient, and the Plaintiff was ordered to file an Amended Complaint. (#7) P la in tif f now has filed an Amended Complaint. (#9) In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that Larry Norris and Gaylin Lay "are a p a rt [sic] of this complaint for the personal injury claim, as [he is] under there [sic] c u s to d ia l care." In addition, Plaintiff seeks to add Dr. Blackmon, Dr. Murray, and Nurse S a v o y as Defendants in this matter for allegedly ignoring his "serious [medical] issue." Plaintiff has failed to state an actionable constitutional claim against these D e f e n d a n ts . Plaintiff's claims should be DISMISSED without prejudice. III. D is c u s s io n : A. S ta n d a rd
F e d e ra l courts are required to screen prisoner complaints seeking relief against a g o v e rn m e n ta l entity, officer, or employee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court must dismiss a c o m p la in t, or portion thereof, if the prisoner has raised claims that: (a) are legally frivolous o r malicious; (b) fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (c) seek m o n e ta ry relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C § 1915(e)(2).
To state a cognizable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the c o n d u c t of a defendant acting under color of state law deprived him of a right, privilege, or im m u n ity secured by the federal Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although "detailed factual allegations are not required," the complaint must c o n ta in sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, __ U.S.__, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. T w o m b ly , 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the p le a d e d factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. at 1940. While a court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and hold a p la in tif f 's pro se complaint "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by la w ye rs," Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (per curiam), a plaintiff still must a s s e rt facts sufficient to state a claim as a matter of law. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1 3 3 7 (8th Cir. 1985). Plaintiff filed this action alleging that on October 22, 2008, he slipped and fell while re tu rn in g to his cell, causing injury to his lower back. Plaintiff attaches to his original C o m p la in t a number of documents in which he requests treatment for pain in his lower b a c k and shoulder blades, as well as for headaches. Plaintiff claims that Defendants have a c te d with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. Plaintiff's claims fail.
D e f e n d a n ts Norris and Lay
P la in tif f fails to identify the alleged unconstitutional action or inaction of either D e f e n d a n t Norris or Lay. See Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (w h e re complaint did not allege defendant's personal involvement in or direct re s p o n s ib ility for incidents that injured him, plaintiff's claims were not cognizable under § 1983). Plaintiff states that he has named Defendants Norris and Lay as Defendants b e c a u s e he was under their "custodial care," but he fails to allege that they engaged in any u n c o n stitu tio n a l conduct. Further, Plaintiff fails to state that these Defendants caused him to suffer any injury. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against D e f e n d a n ts Norris and Lay fail.1 C. D e lib e ra te Indifference
D e lib e ra te indifference by prison personnel to an inmate's serious medical needs v io la te s the inmate's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
To the extent that Plaintiff seeks to hold these Defendants liable based upon their s u p e rv is o ry positions at the ADC, Plaintiff's claims still fail. Respondeat superior does n o t apply to claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Tlamka v. Serrell, 244 F.3d 628, 635 (8 th Cir. 2001). "Liability under §1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility f o r, the deprivation of rights." Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990). An individual cannot be held liable solely on the action or inactions of a subordinate. Tlamka, 244 F.3d at 635 (citing Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d 966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995)). 4
punishment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976); Gregoire v. Class, 236 F.3d 4 1 3 , 417 (8th Cir. 2000). An Eighth Amendment claim that prison officials were d e lib e ra te ly indifferent to the medical needs of an inmate involves both an objective and a s u b je c tiv e component. Butler v. Fletcher, 465 F.3d 340, 345 (8th Cir. 2006). Inmates must d e m o n s tra te (1) that they suffered objectively serious medical needs, and (2) that the prison o f f ic ia ls actually knew of but deliberately disregarded those needs. Vaughn v. Gray, 557 F .3 d 904 (8th Cir. 2009). Here, Plaintiff has failed to state the serious medical need that is not being met and w h a t injury he has suffered as a result of any alleged delay in treatment or medical care. Although Plaintiff states that he informed the medical staff that he was passing blood in his s to o l on one occasion and that the medical staff declined to grant his request for either m e d ic a l testing or an MRI, a mere disagreement in the treatment provided without more f a lls short of stating a deliberate-indifference claim. See Jolly v. Knudson, 205 F.3d 1094, 1 0 9 6 (8th Cir. 2000). F u rth e r, although Plaintiff states that Defendants Blackmon, Murray, and Savoy ig n o re d his "serious [medical] issue," other than complaining about aches and pains and s ta tin g that he experienced rectal bleeding on one occasion, Plaintiff fails to state what s e rio u s medical need from which he suffers. In addition, Plaintiff fails to specifically state th a t these individuals were aware of any serious medical need and failed to act. Plaintiff's
conclusory allegation contained in his Amended Complaint that these Defendants ignored h is "serious [medical] issue" is insufficient to state a constitutional claim.2 IV . C o n c lu s io n : T h e Court recommends that Plaintiff's claims be DISMISSED without prejudice. D A T E D this 12th day of November, 2009.
____________________________________ U N IT E D STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
In the documents attached to Plaintiff's original Complaint, he states that D e f e n d a n t Blackmon denied him a mat script on October 28, 2009. Without more, the C o u rt cannot state that Defendant Blackmon acted with deliberate indifference to serious m e d ic a l needs. At most, Plaintiff disagrees with the Defendant Blackmon's treatment d e c is io n s . See Long v. Nix, 86 F.3d 761, 765 (8th Cir. 1996) (stating that prisoners "do n o t have a constitutional right to any particular type of treatment[,]" and "nothing in the E ig h th Amendment prevents prison doctors from exercising their independent medical ju d g m e n t" ). 6
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