Brooks et al v. Daniels et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION by Judge Charles R. Simpson, III on 11/16/2012; the court will by separate order dismiss the instant action.cc: plaintiffs pro se, defendants, Jefferson County Attorney (TLB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
ROBERT L. BROOKS, II et al.
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:12CV-P446-S
OFFICER DANIELS et al.
Plaintiffs, Robert L. Brooks, II and Joseph Greer, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis
complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.1 This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). For the
reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed.
I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
Plaintiffs are pretrial detainees at the Louisville Metro Jail. They sue Louisville Metro
Jail Officers Daniels, Shirely, James and Stingle in their individual and official capacities. They
allege that on July 21, 2012, they were served dinner but that some of the trays did not have
forks. The officers said that they would get forks, but after they were gone for 10 to 20 minutes
other officers (Daniels and Stingle) came by and were told about the fork situation. Plaintiffs
allege that Defendant Daniels said to tear the corner of a tray and eat with that. This suggestion
apparently resulted in Defendant Daniels having “a few words with a inmate” and then
Defendant Daniels put them on lockdown, during which time Defendant Shirely threw away the
inmates’ trays. After an hour in lockdown, Defendant Daniels let them out.
Plaintiffs further allege that some cells have working smoke alarms and some do not;
The complaint also was signed by and listed as Plaintiff, Michael York. Plaintiff York
has been dismissed from this action.
some cells have hot water and some do not; and some cells have spiders. The complaint states,
“I have told sgts. of some of the problems but they seem not to care.” Plaintiffs ask for punitive
When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity,
officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, if the court
determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The court may, therefore,
dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where
the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. When determining whether a plaintiff
has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must construe the complaint in a
light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v.
City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally
construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid
dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Claim relating to missed meal
The due-process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of pretrial detainees, like
Plaintiffs, are analogous to the Eighth Amendment rights of convicted prisoners. Barber v. City
of Salem, Ohio, 953 F.2d 232, 235 (6th Cir. 1992). The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners
by requiring that prison officials “ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter,
and medical care.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). An Eighth Amendment claim
has both an objective and subjective component: (1) a sufficiently grave deprivation of a basic
human need; and (2) a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298
(1991). A prison’s conditions of confinement are sufficiently grave if they fall beneath “the
minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities” as measured by a “contemporary standard of
decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981).
Isolated deprivations of meals to prisoners do not rise to the level of an Eighth
Amendment violation where the daily meal or meals provided are sufficient to maintain normal
health. See Cunningham v. Jones, 667 F.2d 565, 566 (6th Cir. 1982) (per curiam) (holding that
one meal per day, over fifteen days, that provided sufficient nutrition to sustain normal health
did not violate the Eighth Amendment); Waring v. Meachum, 175 F. Supp. 2d 230, 240-41 (D.
Conn. 2001) (finding no Eighth Amendment claim where inmate missed two meals and there
was no indication that future meals were missed); Cagle v. Perry, No. 9:04-CV-1151, 2007 WL
3124806, at *14 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 24, 2007) (finding deprivation of two meals is “not sufficiently
numerous, prolonged or severe to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation”). Here,
Plaintiffs have alleged only that they missed one meal. Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim
under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Claim relating to hot water
The lack of hot water in some cells does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
See Starnes v. Green Cnty. Sheriff’s Dep’t, No. 2:08-cv-244, 2010 WL 2165368, at *4 (E.D.
Tenn. May 26, 2010) (“At most, the lack of hot water was a temporary inconvenience and is not
something which society is unwilling to tolerate. After all, society does tolerate this condition
since, even in the free world, hot water interruptions occur—hot water heaters fail, pipes burst,
and plumbers may not be readily known or available.”). Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim
regarding lack of hot water.
Claim regarding smoke alarm
With regard to their claim about working smoke alarms, Plaintiffs simply allege that
some cells have working smoke alarms and some do not. “The Eighth Amendment requires that
prison officials provide adequate fire safety to inmates.” Johnson v. Tex. Bd. of Criminal
Justice, 281 F. App’x 319, 321 (5th Cir. 2008) (per curiam). However, “[w]hile fire and
electrical codes can be helpful in determining whether a lack of fire safety can constitute a
violation of the Eighth Amendment, they are not determinative, and the Eighth Amendment does
not require that prisons meet fire and electrical codes.” Id. at 322. “[N]ot every deviation from
ideally safe conditions constitutes a violation of the constitution.” Hunnewell v. Warden, Me.
State Prison, No. 93-1917, 1994 WL 52643, at *4 (1st Cir. Feb. 23, 1994) (per curiam).
Moreover, Plaintiffs’ complaint in this regard is entirely conclusory and fails to state a claim
under § 1983. Id. (plaintiff’s conclusory statement that his cell was unsafe due to fire hazards
fails to state a claim where he does not address the existence of fire detectors, fire extinguishers,
or an evacuation plan). Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim regarding smoke alarms.
Claim regarding spiders
Finally, with regard to their claim about spiders in some of the cells, Plaintiffs do not
allege any injury to themselves, nor do they allege that the spiders should be considered a
dangerous condition, such as that they are poisonous. While unpleasant, the alleged conditions
of having insects in a cell is not below the constitutional standard of “the minimal civilized
measures of life’s necessities.” See Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; see also Sanders v. Smith, No. 926351, 1993 WL 94077, at *1 (6th Cir. 1993) (prisoner’s six-day stay in a segregation cell that did
not have hot water or adequate ventilation and was infested with roaches did not violate the
Eighth Amendment); Brown v. Withrow, No. 92-1765, 1993 WL 15141, at *1 (6th Cir. Jan. 22,
1993) (prisoner’s four-day stay in a detention cell that did not have adequate bedding or hot
water and was infested with rats, roaches and ants did not violate the Eighth Amendment);
Newsom v. Hall, No. 3:12-cv-811, 2012 WL 3579547, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 17, 2012) (“The
Court therefore finds that his allegations regarding the insect in his food and the sight of insects
in the dining room do not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.”); Wilson v. Schomig, 863
F. Supp. 789, 794-95 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (allegations that the plaintiff’s “cell contained dirt, dust
and roaches, and that his ceiling leaked during rainstorms” are “not sufficiently serious” to
violate the Eighth Amendment). Consequently, Plaintiffs have not stated a claim related to the
alleged presence of spiders in some of the cells.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will by separate Order dismiss the instant action.
November 16, 2012
Plaintiffs, pro se
Jefferson County Attorney
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