Jones v. Helder et al
OPINION AND ORDER denying 24 Motion to Dismiss Case. Signed by Honorable Timothy L. Brooks on March 31, 2017. (tg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
EZRA JOE JONES
SHERIFF TIM HELDER; SERGEANT BYRD;
CORPORAL CAUDLE; SERGEANT STANTON;
MEDICAL STAFF LANDON; ARAMARK
CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, LLC;
JOHN OR JANE DOE ARAMARK SUPERVISOR
FROM AUGUST 6, 2016, TO AUGUST 26, 2016;
JOHN OR JANE DOE Nos. 7 TO 18 ARAMARK KITCHEN
STAFF FOR DATES FROM AUGUST 7, 2016, TO
AUGUST 22, 2016; JOHN OR JANE DOE No. 19 ARAMARK
SUPERVISOR FROM OCTOBER 26, 2014, TO
MARCH 2, 2015; JOHN OR JANE DOE Nos. 20-37
ARAMARK KITCHEN STAFF FROM AUGUST 24, 2016,
TO OCTOBER 2016; DEPUTY C. CINK; LIEUTENANT
FOSTER; and CORPORAL CARRIER
OPINION AND ORDER
This is a civil rights case filed by Plaintiff Ezra Joe Jones pursuant to the
provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds prose and in forma pauperis.
Currently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 24) filed by Aramark
Correctional Services , LLC, the John Doe Kitchen Staff, the John Doe Kitchen
Supervisor, and Deputy C. Cink. Mr. Jones did not file a response to the Motion to
Mr. Jones is currently incarcerated in the Randall L. Williams Correctional Facility
of the Arkansas Department of Correction . When he filed this case on September 12,
2016 , he was incarcerated in the Washington County Detention Center ("WCDC"). The
claims asserted arise out of his incarceration in the WCDC .
According to the allegations of the Complaint (Doc. 1), Defendants failed to
provide Mr. Jones with: (1) a diet in keeping with his religious beliefs; (2) a well-balanced
diet; and (3) a diet meeting vegetarian standards. He also alleges that Aramark failed to
properly train its kitchen staff with respect to basic nutritional standards, portion control ,
appropriate substitutions, religious diets, and how to properly and timely respond to
requests or grievances about the food being served . He additionally alleges that kitchen
staff are not provided with a copy of the menu.
With respect to Deputy Cink, Mr. Jones alleges that she responded to his written
complaint regarding meals with-what he perceived to be-a veiled threat. Specifically,
he claims that Deputy Cink responded : "It seems that almost every day you have a
complaint. I will see if we can't get a scheduled visit with the Medical Dept. and see if
we can 't solve your issues. " (Doc. 8, p. 2) . Mr. Jones interpreted this as a threat to
"force sedation" on him. Id. at 3.
As relief, Mr. Jones seeks compensatory and punitive damages. He also asks for
the following to be placed on the jail kiosk in the document section : a copy of the
approved menu with portion size noted ; a copy of the "feeding policy"; and instructions
on how to obtain special/religious diets.
Rule 8(a) contains the general pleading rules and requires a complaint to present
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Fed . R. Civ. P. 8(a) (2). "In order to meet this standard , and survive a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b )(6), 'a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true , to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face ."' Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 , 678
"The plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to show at the pleading stage that
success on the merits is more than a 'sheer possibility."' Braden , 588 F.3d at 594
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
The standard does "not impose a probability
requirement at the pleading stage ; it simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable
expectation ," or reasonable inference , that the "defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S . at 678 ; see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912 , 914 (8th Cir.
2004) (while prose complaints are liberally construed , they must allege sufficient facts
to support the claims).
Aramark and Deputy Cink argue they are entitled to dismissal of the claims
against them on the following grounds: (1) Mr. Jones's allegations , accepted as true
for purposes of this Motion , do not allege a physical injury as required by 42 U.S .C.
§ 1997e (e) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA); and (2) his allegations fail to
state an Eighth Amendment claim.
Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation , under color
of law, of a citizen 's "rights , privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws" of the United States. In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C . § 1983, a plaintiff
must allege that the defendant acted under color of state law and violated a right
secured by the Constitution . West v. Adkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Dunham v. Wadley,
195 F.3d 1007, 1009 (8th Cir.1999).
The deprivation must be intentional ; mere
negligence will not suffice to state a claim for deprivation of a constitutional right under
§ 1983. Daniels v. Williams , 474 U.S. 327 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon , 474 U.S . 344
Defendants first maintain that the physical injury requirement of the PLRA bars Mr.
Jones's claims . Codified as 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) , section 803(d ) of the PLRA provides
as follows : "No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in jail , prison ,
or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody
without a prior showing of physical injury."
The provision limits the available damages in the absence of a physical injury, but
does not preclude a plaintiff from pursuing a claim. See Sisney v. Reisch , 674 F.3d 839,
843 (8th Cir. 2012) (plaintiff barred from recovering compensatory damages where there
was no allegation of physical injury); Royal v. Kautzky, 375 F.3d 720 , 723 (8th Cir. 2004)
(physical injury requirement of the PLRA "limit[s] recovery for mental or emotional injury
in all federal actions brought by prisoners" but does not bar the recovery of nominal and
punitive damages); see also Pool v. Sebastian Cnty. , 418 F.3d 934, 942 n.2 (8th Cir.
2005) (finding that Section 1997e(e) presents an issue of damages under the PLRA). As
the Court finds that Mr. Jones's claims survive Rule 12 dismissal , the Court declines at
this point to attempt to determine whether he suffered a physical injury sufficient to enable
him to recover compensatory damages for his mental pain and suffering under
Next, Defendants argue that Mr. Jones has failed to state a claim under the Eighth
The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment is violated if an inmate is not provided with meals adequate to maintain his
See e.g., Keenan v. Hall, 83 F.3d 1083, 1091 (9th Cir. 1996); Wishon v.
Gammon , 978 F.2d 446, 449 (8th Cir. 1992) (prisoners have a right to nutritionally
adequate food) ; Campbell v. Cauthron , 623 F.2d 503 , 508 (8th Cir. 1980) (prisoners
are guaranteed a reasonably adequate diet). To prevail on an Eighth Amendment
claim , a plaintiff must show that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his
dietary needs. Wishon , 978 F.2d at 449.
The Court finds that Mr. Jones has asserted sufficient facts in the Complaint to
show that he suffered an Eighth Amendment violation. In particular, he alleges that
during his incarceration in the WCDC, he was deprived of lunch on one day, dinner on
three days , and meals without protein on thirteen separate days. See Doc. 1, p. 8.
Later on in the Complaint, he contends that, due to Defendants' deliberate indifference
to his spiritually-based vegetarian dietary needs, he was forced to subsist on "less than
Yi meals" for seventeen days. See id. at 14. Assuming these facts , as pleaded , are
true , the Court finds that the Plaintiff has met his initial pleading burden of establishing
an objective deprivation that is sufficiently serious. He has also made a subjective
showing that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to his health or safety.
See Simmons v. Cook, 154 F.3d 805 , 807-08 (8th Cir. 1998) (explaining that an inmate
must satisfy both an objective and a subjective element to prevail on an Eighth
Amendment claim , and determining that the deprivation of four consecutive meals
meets the objective element).
For the reasons stated above , the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 24) is DENIED .
IT IS SO ORDERED on this
day of Ma
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