Knox v. Donnellon et al
ORDER summarily dismissing the complaint. Signed by District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds. (CBet)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CASE NO. 2:15-cv-12705
HON. NANCY G. EDMUNDS
TIM DONNELLON, THE CITY OF PORT HURON,
SERGEANT SZELOG, SERGEANT HILL,
DOCTOR KROUSE, SARAH RUSSELL, and
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT
Plaintiff Raymone Knox has filed a pro se civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. He appears to allege in his complaint that he is a federal detainee housed at the
St. Clair County Jail in Port Huron, Michigan. The defendants are St. Clair County
Sheriff Tim Donnellon; the city of Port Huron; Sergeants Szelog and Hill; Dr. Krouse;
nurse Sarah Russell; and the United States of America.
The complaint alleges that, when Plaintiff arrived at the St. Clair County Jail on
May 8, 2015, he informed an intake nurse about his medical issues and the medications
that he was taking.
He explained to the nurse that he was required to take his
medications with food to prevent his stomach from bleeding. The nurse responded that
a doctor would see Plaintiff, and on June 2, 2015, Plaintiff received his
medications(Naproxin, Geodon, and Cymbalta) with a bag of snacks to take with his
On June 11, 2015, defendant Sarah Russell informed Plaintiff that he should not
be getting a snack bag because he was not taking Geodon. On June 14, 2015, a
different nurse informed Plaintiff that he would no longer be receiving a snack bag.
When Plaintiff replied that he needed food when taking Naproxin to avoid stomach
bleeding, the nurse suggested that Plaintiff make a medical request.
subsequently submitted a medical request to jail officials with a grievance. Sergeant Hill
denied Plaintiff’s grievance on the basis that medical staff had said the snack bag was
required for Geodon, but not Naproxin. Plaintiff requested a drug fact sheet to show
that he was required to take food with Naproxin, but a nurse stated that Dr. Krouse
instructed her not to give him the drug fact sheet.
On June 23, 2015, Plaintiff spoke with Dr. Krouse, who informed Plaintiff that he
could not give him a snack bag because that would mean he had to give a snack bag to
everyone who took Naproxin. Plaintiff then filed another grievance, which Sergeant
Szelog denied on the basis that, according to Sarah Russell, Dr. Krouse discontinued
the snack bag because it was not needed.
Plaintiff claims that Sheriff Tim Donnellon and the City of Port Huron have a duty
to ensure that their employees are properly trained, and the United States of America
has a duty to ensure that he is in a safe environment. He seeks money damages for
alleged violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution. He also seeks to be transferred to another facility because
he fears retaliation and lacks access to a library.
II. Legal Framework
The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 requires federal district courts to screen
a prisoner’s complaint and to dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim for which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A; Flanory v.
Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir. 2010); Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1036 (6th
Cir. 2001). A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke
v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
“In determining whether a prisoner has failed to state a claim, [courts] construe
his complaint in the light most favorable to him, accept his factual allegations as true,
and determine whether he can prove any set of facts that would entitle him to relief.”
Harbin-Bey v. Rutter, 420 F.3d 571, 575 (6th Cir. 2005). To prevail on a claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, a prisoner must prove “(1) that he . . . was deprived of a right secured by
the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by
a person acting under color of law.” Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 614 (6th Cir.
While a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations,” the “[f]actual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citations
omitted). In other words, “a complaint must contain 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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
“A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
A. The Claim against Dr. Krouse and Nurse Sarah Russell
Plaintiff alleges that the defendants have violated his Eighth Amendment right not
to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
A prison doctor violates the Eighth Amendment when she exhibits
“deliberate indifference to [the] serious medical needs” of a prisoner.
Estelle [v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)]. An Eighth Amendment
claim has an objective component and a subjective component.
Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d 693, 702 (6th Cir. 2001). The objective
component requires a plaintiff to prove a “sufficiently serious” medical
need, and the subjective component requires a plaintiff to prove that the
doctors had a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811 (1994) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Santiago v. Ringle, 734 F.3d 585, 590 (6th Cir. 2013). To be liable under the subjective
component of this test,
the doctors need not act “for the very purpose of causing harm or with
knowledge that harm will result,” id. at 835, but they must act with more
than mere negligence, Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 813 (6th Cir.
2005). . . .
An official is deliberately indifferent where she (1) “subjectively perceived
facts from which to infer substantial risk to the prisoner,” (2) “did in fact
draw the inference,” and (3) “then disregarded that risk.” Comstock, 273
F.3d at 703 (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837, 114 S.Ct. 1970).
Id. at 591.
Plaintiff’s bone of contention is that his snack bag was taken away despite the
fact that he allegedly needs food when he takes his medication to prevent his stomach
from bleeding. Dr. Krouse and Sarah Russell, however, determined that Plaintiff did not
need a snack bag with his medications. When, as here, “a prisoner has received some
medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of the treatment, federal courts
are generally reluctant to second guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize
claims which sound in state tort law.” Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th
Cir. 1976). Plaintiff’s allegations establish nothing more than a difference of opinion
about whether he needed food when taking his medications. A medical decision not to
order certain measures does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Estelle, 429
U.S. at 107, and a mere “difference in opinion between a prisoner and the medical staff
about treatment does not state a cause of action.” Kirkham v. Wilkinson, 101 F. App’x
628, 630 (6th Cir. 2004).
Plaintiff has not alleged that he suffered any ill effects after the defendants
discontinued his snack bag, and he has not demonstrated that the defendants
perceived a substantial risk to him without the snack bag and then disregarded the risk.
Therefore, Plaintiff has not satisfied the subjective component of an Eighth Amendment
claim, namely, a culpable state of mind. As such, his allegations under the Eighth
Amendment fail to state a plausible claim for relief.
B. The Claims against Sergeants Szelof and Hill and the United States
Plaintiff alleges that Sergeants Szelof and Hill denied his grievances concerning
the discontinuation of snack bags. The denial of administrative grievances is not a
basis for holding a person liable under § 1983. Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300
(6th Cir. 1999); Barnett v. Luttrell, 414 F. App’x 784, 787 (6th Cir. 2011). Consequently,
Plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim against defendants Szelof and Hill. As for
Plaintiff’s attempt to hold the United States liable for not ensuring that he is confined in a
safe environment, “[t]he United States, as sovereign, is immune from suit” unless it
consents to be sued. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941); see also
FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (stating that, “[a]bsent a waiver, sovereign
immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit.
immunity is jurisdictional in nature.”) (internal citations omitted). The United States has
not consented to be sued in this § 1983 action and, therefore, it is immune from suit.
C. The Claim against the Sheriff and the City
Plaintiff alleges that Sheriff Donnellon and the City of Port Huron have a duty to
make sure that their employees are properly trained and held accountable for any
wrongdoing. It appears, however, that all the individual defendants are employed by St.
Clair County, not the City of Port Huron. Thus, the City had no obligation to train the
defendants or to hold them accountable for any wrongdoing.
Sheriff Tim Donnellon, on the other hand, apparently supervises deputy sheriffs
Szelof and Hill.
But “a prerequisite of supervisory liability under § 1983 is
unconstitutional conduct by a subordinate of the supervisor.” McQueen v. Beecher
Community Schools, 433 F.3d 460, 470 (6th Cir. 2006). Szelof and Hill did not violate
Plaintiff’s constitutional rights when they denied Plaintiff’s grievances on the basis of a
medical opinion that Plaintiff did not need a snack bag with his medications.
Furthermore, “a supervisory official’s failure to supervise, control or train
the offending individual is not actionable unless the supervisor ‘either
encouraged the specific incident of misconduct or in some other way
directly participated in it.’ ” Sheehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir.
1999) (quoting Hays v. Jefferson County, 668 F.2d 869, 874 (6th Cir.
1982)). “At a minimum a plaintiff must show that the [supervisor] at least
implicitly authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced in the
unconstitutional conduct of the offending officers.” Id. (quoting Hays, 668
F.2d at 874).
The facts as alleged in the complaint fail to show that defendant Donnellon
encouraged any misconduct or had any involvement in the incidents about which
Plaintiff complains. Therefore, Donnellon is not liable for Szelof and Hill’s conduct.
For the reasons given above, Plaintiff’s request for money damages lacks an
arguable basis in law and fails to state a plausible claim for which relief may be granted.
The request for injunctive relief (a transfer to a different facility) is moot because records
maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons on its official website indicate that Plaintiff
currently is being housed in Detroit. See http://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/. The Court
therefore summarily dismisses the complaint (ECF No. 1) under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
An appeal from this decision would be
frivolous and could not be taken in good faith. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); Coppedge v.
United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962).
s/ Nancy G. Edmunds_
NANCY G. EDMUNDS
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?