Davies v. Corsen
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS of the Magistrate Judge that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff's monetary damages claims against Defendant in his official capacity re 10 Amended Complaint filed by Dale Scott Davies. The Court ORDERS any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation to file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and Recommendation is entered (Objections to R&R due by 5/26/2017). ORDER directing service of the REPORT AND RECOMMENDAION of the Magistrate Judge. Signed by Magistrate Judge R. Stan Baker on 5/12/2017. (ca)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
DALE SCOTT DAVIES,
CIVIL ACTION NO.: 5:17-cv-15
ORDER and MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Plaintiff, who is currently housed at Valdosta State Prison in Valdosta, Georgia,
submitted a Complaint in the above-captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contesting
the conditions of his confinement while he was housed at Ware State Prison in Waycross,
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff’s allegations arguably state
colorable claims for relief against Defendant. The Court DIRECTS the United States Marshal
to serve Defendant with a copy of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, (doc. 10), and this Order.
However, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff’s monetary damages claims
against Defendant in his official capacity.
Plaintiff alleges that, on the morning of October 24, 2016, he “stuck [his] arm out of the
tray flap in order to get a higher ranking officer . . . to come feed [another inmate] his breakfast
tray.” (Doc. 10, p. 2.) Plaintiff then contends that Defendant and Officer Walker opened his cell
door “without justification and against policy.” (Id.) Defendant then allegedly proceeded to pull
The below recited facts are taken from Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, the operative Complaint in this
action, (doc. 10), and are accepted as true, as they must be at this stage.
Plaintiff out of his cell, grab him by the throat, choke him, and punch him twice in the right eye.
(Id. at p. 3.) Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff reported the incident to another officer and requested
medical attention. Plaintiff was taken to the Tier II Program Lieutenant to fill out a statement
form and then to the medical unit for treatment. (Id.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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 and 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 or malicious, or 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 or malicious, or 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).
When reviewing a Complaint on an application to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court is
guided by the instructions for pleading contained in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 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 Section 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 Section 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 F. App’x 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.”) (emphasis omitted) (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.”).
Claims Against Defendant in His Official Capacity
Plaintiff cannot sustain his Section 1983 claims for monetary damages against Defendant
in his official capacity.
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). 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). 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 Defendant in his official
capacity as an employee of the Georgia Department of Corrections. Accordingly, the Eleventh
Amendment immunizes Defendant from suit in his official capacity. See Free v. Granger, 887
F.2d 1552, 1557 (11th Cir. 1989).
Consequently, the Court should DISMISS Plaintiff’s
monetary damages claims against Defendant in his official capacity.
Excessive Force Claim
The Eighth Amendment’s proscription against cruel and unusual punishment governs the
amount of force that prison officials are entitled to use against inmates. Campbell v. Sikes, 169
F.3d 1353, 1374 (11th Cir. 1999). An excessive force claim has two requisite parts: an objective
and a subjective component. Sims v. Mashburn, 25 F.3d 980, 983 (11th Cir. 1994). In order to
satisfy the objective component, the inmate must show that the prison official’s conduct was
“sufficiently serious.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). The subjective component requires a showing that the force used
was “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm” rather than “a good faith
effort to maintain or restore discipline.” Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320–21 (1986). In
order to determine whether the force was used for the malicious and sadistic purpose of causing
harm or whether the force was applied in good faith, courts consider the following factors: the
need for the exercise of force, the relationship between the need for force and the force applied,
the extent of injury that the inmate suffered, the extent of the threat to the safety of staff and
other inmates, and any efforts taken to temper the severity of a forceful response. Skelly v.
Okaloosa Cty. Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs, 456 F. App’x 845, 848 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fennell v.
Gilstrap, 559 F.3d 1212, 1217 (11th Cir. 2009)).
Plaintiff has made sufficient allegations to state a plausible claim that Defendant used
excessive force against him on the date of the incident. He alleges that Defendant forcefully
pulled him from his cell, choked him, and punched him twice in the eye without any provocation
or reason. Accordingly, these claims survive frivolity review.
Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs
In the medical care context, the Eighth Amendment standard for cruel and unusual
punishment, embodied in the principles expressed in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976),
is whether a prison official exhibits a deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of an
inmate. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828. However, “not every claim by a prisoner that he has not
received adequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth Amendment.” Harris v.
Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1505 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105). Rather, “an
inmate must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs.” Hill v. DeKalb Reg’l Youth Det. Ctr., 40 F.3d 1176, 1186 (11th Cir.
In order to prove a deliberate indifference claim, a prisoner must overcome three
obstacles. The 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 Cnty., 510 F.3d 1312, 1326
(11th Cir. 2007). A medical need is serious if it “‘has been diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment or [is] one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize
the necessity for a doctor’s attention.’” Id. (quoting Hill, 40 F.3d at 1187) (emphasis supplied).
As for the subjective component, the Eleventh Circuit has consistently required that “a
defendant know of and disregard an excessive risk to an inmate’s health and safety.” Haney v.
City of Cumming, 69 F.3d 1098, 1102 (11th Cir. 1995). Under the subjective prong, an inmate
“must prove three things: (1) subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregard of that
risk; (3) by conduct that is more than [gross] negligence.” Goebert, 510 F.3d at 1327. “The
meaning of ‘more than gross negligence’ is not self-evident[.]” Id.
According to Plaintiff, after Defendant punched him he was bleeding profusely and very
bruised. These medical needs are so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the
necessity for a doctor’s attention. Goebert, 510 F.3d at 1326. Based on these allegations,
Plaintiff has stated a plausible claim for relief against Defendant.
For the reasons set forth above, I RECOMMEND that the Court DISMISS Plaintiff’s
monetary damages claims against Defendant in his official capacity.
The Court ORDERS any party seeking to object to this Report and Recommendation to
file specific written objections within fourteen (14) days of the date on which this Report and
Recommendation is entered. Any objections asserting that the Magistrate Judge failed to address
any contention raised in the Complaint must also be included. Failure to do so will bar any later
challenge or review of the factual findings or legal conclusions of the Magistrate Judge. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). A copy of the objections must be
served upon all other parties to the action. The filing of objections is not a proper vehicle
through which to make new allegations or present additional evidence.
Upon receipt of Objections meeting the specificity requirement set out above, a United
States District Judge will make a de novo determination of those portions of the report, proposed
findings, or recommendation to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify in
whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. Objections not
meeting the specificity requirement set out above will not be considered by a District Judge. A
party may not appeal a Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation directly to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Appeals may be made only from a final
judgment entered by or at the direction of a District Judge. The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of
Court to serve a copy of this Report and Recommendation upon the parties.
REMAINING CLAIMS AND DEFENDANT
As stated above, Plaintiff’s allegations in his Complaint arguably state colorable claims
against Defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Eighth Amendment. Consequently, a copy of
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint and a copy of this Order shall be served upon Defendant by the
United States Marshal without prepayment of cost. The Court also provides the following
instructions to the parties that will apply to the remainder of this action and which the Court
urges the parties to read and follow.
INSTRUCTIONS TO DEFENDANT
Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the undersigned directs that service be
effected by the United States Marshal. Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(3). In most cases, the marshal will
first mail a copy of the complaint to the defendant by first-class mail and request that the
defendant waive formal service of summons. Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d); Local Rule 4.7. Individual
and corporate defendants have a duty to avoid unnecessary costs of serving the summons, and
any such defendant who fails to comply with the request for waiver must bear the costs of
personal service unless good cause can be shown for the failure to return the waiver. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 4(d)(2). Generally, a defendant who timely returns the waiver is not required to answer
the complaint until sixty (60) days after the date that the marshal sent the request for waiver.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(3).
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant is hereby granted leave of court to take
the deposition of Plaintiff upon oral examination. Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(a). Defendant is further
advised that the Court’s standard 140 day discovery period will commence upon the filing of the
last answer. Local Rule 26.1. Defendant shall ensure that all discovery, including Plaintiff’s
deposition and any other depositions in the case, is completed within that discovery period.
In the event that Defendant takes the deposition of any other person, Defendant is ordered
to comply with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30. As Plaintiff will likely
not be in attendance for such a deposition, Defendant shall notify Plaintiff of the deposition and
advise him that he may serve on Defendant, in a sealed envelope, within ten (10) days of the
notice of deposition, written questions Plaintiff wishes to propound to the witness, if any.
Defendant shall present such questions to the witness seriatim during the deposition. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 30(c).
INSTRUCTIONS TO PLAINTIFF
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendant or, if
appearance has been entered by counsel, upon his attorney, a copy of every further pleading or
other document submitted for consideration by the Court. Plaintiff shall include with the original
paper to be filed with the Clerk of Court a certificate stating the date on which a true and correct
copy of any document was mailed to Defendant or his counsel. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5. “Every
pleading shall contain a caption setting forth the name of the court, the title of the action, [and]
the file number.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a).
Plaintiff is charged with the responsibility of immediately informing this Court and
defense counsel of any change of address during the pendency of this action. Local Rule 11.1.
Plaintiff’s failure to notify the Court of a change in his address may result in dismissal of this
Plaintiff has the responsibility for pursuing this case. For example, if Plaintiff wishes to
obtain facts and information about the case from Defendant, Plaintiff must initiate discovery.
See generally, Fed. R. Civ. P. 26, et seq. The discovery period in this case will expire 140 days
after the filing of the last answer. Local Rule 26.1. Plaintiff does not need the permission of the
Court to begin discovery, and Plaintiff should begin discovery promptly and complete it within
this time period. Local Rule 26.1. Discovery materials should not be filed routinely with the
Clerk of Court; exceptions include: when the Court directs filing; when a party needs such
materials in connection with a motion or response, and then only to the extent necessary; and
when needed for use at trial. Local Rule 26.4.
Interrogatories are a practical method of discovery for incarcerated persons. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 33. Interrogatories may be served only on a party to the litigation, and, for the purposes
of the instant case, this means that interrogatories should not be directed to persons or
organizations who are not named as a defendant. Interrogatories are not to contain more than
twenty-five (25) questions. Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a). If Plaintiff wishes to propound more than
twenty-five (25) interrogatories to a party, Plaintiff must have permission of the Court. If
Plaintiff wishes to file a motion to compel, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, he
should first contact the attorney for Defendant and try to work out the problem; if Plaintiff
proceeds with the motion to compel, he should also file a statement certifying that he has
contacted opposing counsel in a good faith effort to resolve any dispute about discovery. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 26(c); 37(a)(2)(A); Local Rule 26.7.
Plaintiff has the responsibility for maintaining his own records of the case. If Plaintiff
loses papers and needs new copies, he may obtain them from the Clerk of Court at the standard
cost of fifty cents ($.50) per page. If Plaintiff seeks copies, he should request them directly
from the Clerk of Court and is advised that the Court will authorize and require the
collection of fees from his prison trust fund account to pay the cost of the copies at the
aforementioned rate of fifty cents ($.50) per page.
If Plaintiff does not press his case forward, the court may dismiss it for want of
prosecution. Fed. R. Civ. P. 41; Local Rule 41.1.
It is Plaintiff’s duty to cooperate fully in any discovery which may be initiated by
Defendant. Upon no less than five (5) days’ notice of the scheduled deposition date, Plaintiff
shall appear and permit his deposition to be taken and shall answer, under oath or solemn
affirmation, any question which seeks information relevant to the subject matter of the pending
action. Failing to answer questions at the deposition or giving evasive or incomplete responses
to questions will not be tolerated and may subject Plaintiff to severe sanctions, including
dismissal of this case.
As the case progresses, Plaintiff may receive a notice addressed to “counsel of record”
directing the parties to prepare and submit a Joint Status Report and a Proposed Pretrial Order.
A plaintiff proceeding without counsel may prepare and file a unilateral Status Report and is
required to prepare and file his own version of the Proposed Pretrial Order. A plaintiff who is
incarcerated shall not be required or entitled to attend any status or pretrial conference which
may be scheduled by the Court.
ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS TO PLAINTIFF REGARDING
MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Under this Court’s Local Rules, a party opposing a motion to dismiss shall file and serve
his response to the motion within fourteen (14) days of its service. “Failure to respond shall
indicate that there is no opposition to a motion.” Local Rule 7.5. Therefore, if Plaintiff fails to
respond to a motion to dismiss, the Court will assume that he does not oppose the Defendant’s
motion. Plaintiff’s case may be dismissed for lack of prosecution if Plaintiff fails to respond to a
motion to dismiss.
Plaintiff’s response to a motion for summary judgment must be filed within twentyone (21) days after service of the motion. Local Rules 7.5, 56.1. The failure to respond to such a
motion shall indicate that there is no opposition to the motion. Furthermore, each material fact
set forth in Defendant’s statement of material facts will be deemed admitted unless specifically
controverted by an opposition statement.
Should Defendant file a motion for summary
judgment, Plaintiff is advised that he will have the burden of establishing the existence of a
genuine dispute as to any material fact in this case. That burden cannot be carried by reliance on
the conclusory allegations contained within the complaint. Should Defendant’s motion for
summary judgment be supported by affidavit, Plaintiff must file counter-affidavits if he desires
to contest Defendant’s statement of the facts. Should Plaintiff fail to file opposing affidavits
setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute for trial, any factual assertions
made in Defendant’s affidavits will be accepted as true and summary judgment may be entered
against Plaintiff pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.
SO ORDERED and REPORTED and RECOMMENDED, this 12th day of May,
R. STAN BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
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