GOOLSBY v. GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al
ORDER of Dismissal without prejudice. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE C ASHLEY ROYAL on 9/26/16. (lap)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
DERONTAY GLENNZELL GOOLSBY, :
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF
CORRECTIONS, et al.,
CASE NO. 5:16-CV-330-CAR-CHW
In accordance with the Court’s previous Order, pro se Plaintiff Derontay Glenzell
Goolsby, a prisoner incarcerated at Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, Georgia, has paid
the required initial partial filing fee. Plaintiff’s claims are now ripe for preliminary
review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Because Plaintiff is a prisoner “seeking redress from a governmental entity or [an]
officer or employee of a governmental entity,” the Court is required to conduct a
preliminary screening of his Complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Having now done
so, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to state any colorable constitutional claim
against Defendants, and this case should therefore be DISMISSED without prejudice.
Standard of Review
When conducting preliminary screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must
accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true. Boxer X v. Harris, 437 F.3d 1107,
1110 (11th Cir. 2006). Pro se pleadings, like the one in this case, are “held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally
construed.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Still, the Court must dismiss a
prisoner complaint if it “(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief.” 28 U.S.C. §1915A(b).
A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Miller
v. Donald, 541 F.3d 1091, 1100 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). The
Court may dismiss claims that are based on “indisputably meritless legal” theories and
“claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not include “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)). The factual allegations in a complaint “must be enough to raise a right to
relief above the speculative level” and cannot “merely create a suspicion [of] a legally
cognizable right of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (first alteration in original). In
other words, the complaint must allege enough facts “to raise a reasonable expectation
that discovery will reveal evidence” supporting a claim. Id. at 556. “Threadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) an act or
omission deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or a
statute of the United States; and (2) the act or omission was committed by a person acting
under color of state law. Hale v. Tallapoosa County, 50 F.3d 1579, 1582 (11th Cir.
If a litigant cannot satisfy these requirements or fails to provide factual
allegations in support of his claim or claims, the complaint is subject to dismissal. See
Chappell v. Rich, 340 F.3d 1279, 1282-84 (11th Cir. 2003).
Plaintiff’s claims arise from injuries he suffered as the result of a slip and fall at
the Macon State Prison. (Compl. 5, ECF No. 1.) According to the Complaint, on July 9,
2015, Defendant Hill, a prison guard, escorted him from the prison yard to the
segregation unit where Plaintiff was housed. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hill
handcuffed him and then “rushed” him into the building. Id. Upon entering the building,
Plaintiff “stopped” because he noticed there was “water all over the floor” where another
inmate had flooded his cell. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hill then “pushed [him]
in [his] back and caused [him] to slip on the water that was all over the
floor.” Id. Plaintiff landed on his right shoulder, and Defendant Hill fell on top of
him. Id. Plaintiff “started crying from the excruciating pain” and told Defendant
Henderson, a prison sergeant, he thought his shoulder was broken and that his handcuffs
had tightened to the point where his wrists were going numb. Id. at 6. At that point,
Defendant Henderson radioed the medical department to come to Plaintiff’s
dorm. Id. Plaintiff states that he has had several surgeries on his right shoulder as the
result of his fall and that he is “still suffering” from his injuries, and he seeks primarily
compensatory damages from the named Defendants. Id. at 7-8.
A. Claims against the Georgia Department of Corrections
First, to the extent Plaintiff attempts to sue the Georgia Department of Corrections,
Plaintiff’s claims must fail. The Georgia Department of Corrections is a state entity
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Stevens v. Gay, 864 F.2d 113, 115 (11th
Cir. 1989) (“The Eleventh Amendment bars [the plaintiff’s § 1983] action against the
Georgia Department of Corrections[.]”); see also Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491
U.S. 58, 70 (1989) (states and governmental entities that are considered “arms of the
state” are not considered “persons” capable of being sued under § 1983). Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims against the Georgia Department of Corrections must be
B. Excessive Force Claims against Defendants Hill and Henderson
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hill should be liable for the injuries he suffered as
the result of Defendant Hill pushing him, causing him to slip and fall in the water on the
floor. Plaintiff may be attempting to assert an excessive force claim. Force that is
applied to a prisoner “maliciously and sadistically to cause harm” can violate the Eighth
Amendment and give rise to claims under § 1983. See, e.g., Skrtich v. Thornton, 280
F.3d 1295, 1300 (11th Cir. 2002). However, not “every malevolent touch by a prison
guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992).
Although it is unfortunate that Plaintiff appears to have suffered serious injury as the
result of his fall, Plaintiff’s Complaint is devoid of any direct allegation—or any fact
suggesting—that Defendant Hill maliciously and sadistically intended to cause harm by
pushing Plaintiff when Plaintiff stopped moving as Defendant Hill transported him back
to his cell. At most, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hill was “rush[ing]” and did not
follow protocol by waiting for another officer to help him escort Plaintiff back to his cell.
(Compl. 5, 7.) These facts suggest Defendant Hill was at best merely negligent, and not
deliberately indifferent as would be required to state a § 1983 claim. See, e.g., Taylor v.
Adams, 221 F.3d 1254, 1259 (11th Cir. 2000) (“[F]ailure to follow procedures does not,
by itself, rise to the level of deliberate indifference because doing so is at most a form of
negligence.”). As such, Plaintiff’s excessive force claims against Defendant Hill must be
DISMISSED without prejudice.
Although Plaintiff names Defendant Henderson specifically in his facts and
statement of claims, it is unclear how he believes Defendant Henderson violated his
constitutional rights. It appears from Plaintiff’s allegations that when Plaintiff informed
Defendant Henderson of his belief that his shoulder was seriously injured, Defendant
Henderson contacted the prison’s medical department to assist Plaintiff. (Compl. 6.)
This allegation, standing alone, does not demonstrate that Defendant Henderson violated
any of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. As such, Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant
Henderson related to Plaintiff’s slip and fall should be DISMISSED without prejudice.
C. Supervisory Liability Claims against Defendants McLaughlin, Blakely,
Jones, Sales, Eiddy, Grace, and Henderson
Plaintiff also names a number of supervisory prison officials as Defendants in this
action: Defendant McLaughlin, the prison warden; Defendant Blakely, the warden of
security; Defendant Jones, the warden of care and treatment; Defendant Sales, the unit
manager; Defendant Eiddy, a captain; Defendant Grace, a lieutenant; and Defendant
Henderson, the prison sergeant mentioned above.
contends each of these Defendants should be liable for his injuries because they were
responsible for inmate safety, failed to protect Plaintiff, and/or were unresponsive to
Plaintiff’s complaints. See id. Even if Plaintiff had sufficiently alleged a constitutional
violation—which he has not in this case—he fails to state a claim against these
Supervisors can only be held liable under § 1983 if they personally
participated in the allegedly unconstitutional conduct or if there is a causal connection
between their actions and the alleged constitutional violation.
See, e.g., Hendrix v.
Tucker, 535 F. App’x 803, 805 (11th Cir. 2013) (per curiam). A causal connection can
be established if the plaintiff shows
(1) “a history of widespread abuse puts the responsible supervisor on
notice of the need to correct the alleged deprivation and he fail[ed]
to do so; (2) the supervisor’s improper custom or policy le[d] to
deliberate indifference to constitutional rights; or (3) facts support an
inference that the supervisor directed the subordinates to act
unlawfully or knew that the subordinates would act unlawfully and
failed to stop them from doing so.
Id. “The standard by which a supervisor is held liable in her individual capacity for the
actions of a subordinate is extremely rigorous.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff’s Complaint does not allege that any of these Defendants personally
participated in any decision-making regarding Plaintiff, had any customs or policies that
could have led to Plaintiff’s injuries, directed any of their subordinates to act unlawfully,
or knew they were doing so, had an opportunity to act, and failed to stop them. The mere
fact that a supervisor receives a complaint does not establish the supervisor’s liability for
the allegedly unconstitutional conduct described in the complaint. See, e.g., Lee v. Mich.
Parole Bd., 104 F. App’x 490, 492 (6th Cir. 2004) (“Section 1983 liability may not be
imposed simply because a defendant denied an administrative grievance or failed to act
based upon information contained in a grievance.”); Smith v. Prine, No. 7:09-CV-153
(HL), 2012 WL 2308639, at *4 (M.D. Ga. May 2, 2012) (filing a grievance does not
alone show that a supervisor had subjective knowledge of a substantial risk of serious
harm sufficient to impose § 1983 liability on the supervisor); Nichols v. Burnside, No.
5:11-CV-116 (MTT), 2011 WL 2036709, at *3 (M.D. Ga. Apr. 21, 2011) (same). Nor
does the fact that Plaintiff allegedly complained about his treatment establish the kind of
“widespread abuse” that is required to impose supervisory liability on a prison official.
See Hendrix, 535 F. App’x at 805 (plaintiff’s contention that supervisors were on notice
of need to correct constitutional deprivations because supervisors were aware of his
administrative grievances and state court litigation was insufficient to establish that any
alleged abuse was more than just an isolated occurrence). Thus, any claims against the
supervisory Defendants must be DISMISSED without prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons, and because it does not appear that the applicable
statute of limitations would prevent Plaintiff from refiling his claims, the Court
DISMISSES without prejudice each of Plaintiff’s claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
SO ORDERED, this 26th day of September, 2016.
S/ C. Ashley Royal
C. ASHLEY ROYAL, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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