Ryan #787263 v. Garlach et al
OPINION ; signed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell (Judge Robert Holmes Bell, kcb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SEAN MICHAEL RYAN,
Case No. 1:14-cv-736
Honorable Robert Holmes Bell
RICHARD GARLACH et al.,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, PUB. L. NO . 104-134, 110 STAT . 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any
prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such
relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s pro
se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s
allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504
U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint for failure
to state a claim against Defendants MDOC, Corizon, Heyns, Warden Smith, RUM Smith, Huss,
Haynes and Bunting. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendant Garlach.
Plaintiff Sean Michael Ryan presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department
of Corrections (MDOC) at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF). He names the following as
Defendants: MDOC; MDOC Director Daniel Heyns; Corizon Health Care (Corizon); ICF Warden
William Smith (Warden Smith); ICF Deputy Warden Erica Huss; Richard Garlach M.D.; ICF
Resident Unit Manager (Unknown) Smith (RUM Smith); ICF Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor
(Unknown) Haynes; and ICF Nurse (Unknown) Bunting.
Plaintiff alleges that he has spinal injuries which require him to use a cane and a
wheelchair, to receive in-cell meals and to receive a ground-floor housing assignment, all of which
were specifically authorized by medical details. Plaintiff alleges that in violation of the Eighth
Amendment and in retaliation for Plaintiff filing lawsuits, Defendant Garlach has refused to renew
Plaintiff’s medical details, removed Plaintiff’s ground-floor housing accommodation and denied
Plaintiff medical care. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Garlach knew about Plaintiff’s lawsuits
because on April 4, 2014, Plaintiff started sending in medical “kites” which reflected the docketing
number of his civil case. Since April 4, 2014, Plaintiff has submitted over 130 medical kites which
included his civil case number. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Garlach knew about
his lawsuits because Plaintiff was not even scheduled for a medical appointment until 17 days after
the expiration of his existing medical details. Finally, Defendant Garlach did not examine Plaintiff
before he refused to renew Plaintiff’s medical details and before he took away Plaintiff’s groundfloor housing detail, which had not even expired. Plaintiff alleges there was no legitimate reason
for Defendant Garlach to take away his medical details and ground-floor housing accommodation.
On May 30, 2014, Plaintiff attempted to talk to Defendant Bunting about the removal
of the medical details and ground-floor housing accommodation. Defendant Bunting explained that
the medical details and ground-floor housing accommodation were removed because Plaintiff
refused his medical appointment. When Defendant Bunting walked away, Plaintiff heard her say,
“You shouldn’t sue people.” (Compl., docket #1, Page ID#6.) Plaintiff alleges that he did not refuse
his medical appointment and, even if he had refused, the appointment was scheduled for 14 days
after the details expired.
Plaintiff sought assistance from Defendants Haynes, RUM Smith, Huss, Warden
Smith and Haynes. His requests for help were ignored.
Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages.
Plaintiff may not maintain a § 1983 action against the Michigan Department of
Corrections. Regardless of the form of relief requested, the states and their departments are immune
under the Eleventh Amendment from suit in the federal courts, unless the state has waived immunity
or Congress has expressly abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute. See Pennhurst State
Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-101 (1984); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782
(1978); O’Hara v. Wigginton, 24 F.3d 823, 826 (6th Cir. 1993). Congress has not expressly
abrogated Eleventh Amendment immunity by statute, Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979),
and the State of Michigan has not consented to civil rights suits in federal court. Abick v. Michigan,
803 F.2d 874, 877 (6th Cir. 1986). In numerous unpublished opinions, the Sixth Circuit has
specifically held that the MDOC is absolutely immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment.
See, e.g., McCoy v. Michigan, 369 F. App’x 646, 653-54 (6th Cir. 2010); Turnboe v. Stegall, No. 00-3-
1182, 2000 WL1679478, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 1, 2000). In addition, the State of Michigan (acting
through the Michigan Department of Corrections) is not a “person” who may be sued under § 1983
for money damages. See Lapides v. Bd. of Regents, 535 U.S. 613 (2002) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep’t
of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989)). Therefore, the Court dismisses the Michigan Department of
Failure to state a claim
A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s allegations must include more
than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although
the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,’ . . . it asks for more than
a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but it has not ‘show[n]’ – that the
pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting FED . R. CIV . P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill
v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility
standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1)
To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right
secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by
a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr.
Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal
rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify
the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).
With respect to Defendant Corizon, Plaintiff fails to set forth any factual allegations.
It is a basic pleading essential that a plaintiff attribute factual allegations to particular defendants.
See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544 (holding that, in order to state a claim, a plaintiff must make sufficient
allegations to give a defendant fair notice of the claim). Where a person or entity is named as a
defendant without an allegation of specific conduct, the complaint is subject to dismissal, even under
the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints. See Gilmore v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 92 F.
App’x 188, 190 (6th Cir. 2004) (dismissing complaint where plaintiff failed to allege how any named
defendant was involved in the violation of his rights); Frazier v. Michigan, 41 F. App’x 762, 764
(6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing plaintiff’s claims where the complaint did not allege with any degree of
specificity which of the named defendants were personally involved in or responsible for each
alleged violation of rights); Griffin v. Montgomery, No. 00-3402, 2000 WL 1800569, at *2 (6th Cir.
Nov. 30, 2000) (requiring allegations of personal involvement against each defendant); Rodriguez
v. Jabe, No. 90-1010, 1990 WL 82722, at *1 (6th Cir. June 19, 1990) (“Plaintiff’s claims against
those individuals are without a basis in law as the complaint is totally devoid of allegations as to
them which would suggest their involvement in the events leading to his injuries”). Because
Plaintiff’s claims fall far short of the minimal pleading standards under FED . R. CIV . P. 8 (requiring
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief”), his complaint
must be dismissed against Defendant Corizon.
Eighth Amendment - Garlach
Plaintiff alleges that despite his spinal injuries which require him to use a cane and
wheelchair, to receive in-cell meals and to receive ground-floor housing and despite having received
medical details authorizing these accommodations, Defendant Garlach refused to renew his medical
details, removed his ground-floor housing assignment and denied him medical care.
At this juncture, Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient to warrant service of the
complaint on Defendant Garlach.
Eighth Amendment - Bunting
Plaintiff alleges that when he spoke to Defendant Bunting about his medical details,
she explained that Plaintiff’s medical details were removed because he refused a medical
appointment. Additionally, as she was walking away from Plaintiff, Defendant Bunting stated, “You
shouldn’t sue people.” (Compl., docket #1, Page ID#6.)
The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment
against those convicted of crimes. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The Eighth Amendment obligates
prison authorities to provide medical care to incarcerated individuals, as a failure to provide such
care would be inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
102, 103-04 (1976). The Eighth Amendment is violated when a prison official is deliberately
indifferent to the serious medical needs of a prisoner. Id. at 104-05; Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d
693, 702 (6th Cir. 2001).
A claim for the deprivation of adequate medical care has an objective and a subjective
component. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). To satisfy the objective component, the
plaintiff must allege that the medical need at issue is sufficiently serious. Id. In other words, the
inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.
Id. The objective component of the adequate medical care test is satisfied “[w]here the seriousness
of a prisoner’s need[ ] for medical care is obvious even to a lay person.” Blackmore v. Kalamazoo
Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 899 (6th Cir. 2004). If, however the need involves “minor maladies or
non-obvious complaints of a serious need for medical care,” Blackmore, 390 F.3d at 898, the inmate
must “place verifying medical evidence in the record to establish the detrimental effect of the delay
in medical treatment.” Napier v. Madison Cnty., 238 F.3d 739, 742 (6th Cir. 2001).
The subjective component requires an inmate to show that prison officials have “a
sufficiently culpable state of mind in denying medical care.” Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867
(6th Cir. 2000) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). Deliberate indifference “entails something more
than mere negligence,” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835, but can be “satisfied by something less than acts
or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result.” Id.
Under Farmer, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn
that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837.
Even if Plaintiff had alleged sufficient facts to establish that Defendant Bunting was
aware that he had a serious medical need, Plaintiff fails to establish that Defendant Bunting was
deliberately indifferent to that need. Plaintiff merely alleges that he asked Defendant Bunting about
the removal of his medical details and that she explained to him what she knew about why they had
been removed. Plaintiff does not explain how he came to communicate with Defendant Bunting or
whether Defendant Bunting had anything to do with his medical details being removed or not being
renewed. Moreover, Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant Bunting had any authority to remove
or renew his medical details. Plaintiff simply fails to set forth any facts to suggest deliberate
indifference by Defendant Bunting.
To the extent Plaintiff brings a claim against Defendant Bunting for failure to protect
Plaintiff, the analysis is the same. An Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claim has both an
objective and subjective component. First, “to establish a constitutional violation based on failure
to protect, a prison inmate . . . must show that the failure to protect from risk of harm is objectively
‘sufficiently serious.’” Bishop v. Hackel, 636 F.3d 757, 766 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Farmer, 511
U.S. at 833). “The inmate must show that ‘he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial
risk of serious harm.’” Id.
Second, “a plaintiff also must show that prison officials acted with [subjective]
‘deliberate indifference’ to inmate health or safety.” Id. (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). A
plaintiff must show “more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner’s interests or safety.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. The subjective requirement is met only where a plaintiff demonstrates that
prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference” to a substantial risk of harm. An official is
deliberately indifferent where “the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate
health or safety; the official must both be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn
that a substantial risk of harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Id. at 837. “[A]n
official’s failure to alleviate a significant risk that he should have perceived but did not, while no
cause for commendation, cannot . . . be condemned as the infliction of punishment.” Id. at 838. In
analyzing the subjective component, a district court should consider each defendant’s state of mind
individually, not collectively. Bishop, 636 F.3d at 767. Additionally, “prison officials who actually
knew of a substantial risk to inmate health or safety may be found free from liability if they
responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted.” Farmer, 511 U.S.
at 844. “Whether one puts it in terms of duty or deliberate indifference, prison officials who act
reasonably cannot be found liable under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause.” Id. at 845.
Even if Plaintiff can establish that Defendant Bunting failed to protect him from a
sufficiently serious harm - living without the accommodations authorized by his medical details Plaintiff has not alleged facts to suggest that Defendant Bunting deliberately disregarded the risk of
harm. Plaintiff offers no facts to suggest that Defendant Bunting’s deliberate failure to act was the
reason his medical details were removed or the reason that his medical details were not renewed.
Plaintiff fails to state an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Bunting.
Retaliation - Garlach
Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Garlach refused to renew his medical details, groundfloor housing accommodation and failed to provide him with medical care in retaliation for
Plaintiff’s filing lawsuits. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Garlach knew about
Plaintiff’s lawsuit because Plaintiff placed the civil case docketing number on his medical kites,
because Plaintiff was not even scheduled for a medical appointment until 17 days after the expiration
of his existing medical details and because Defendant Garlach did not examine Plaintiff before he
refused to renew Plaintiff’s medical details and took away Plaintiff’s ground-floor housing detail.
At this juncture, Plaintiff’s allegations are sufficient to warrant service of the
complaint on Defendant Garlach.
Retailiation - Bunting
Plaintiff alleges that when he asked Defendant Bunting why his medical details were
removed, she responded that the details were removed because Plaintiff refused a medical
appointment and that, as she walked away, she stated, “You shouldn’t sue people.” (Compl.,
docket #1, Page ID#6.)
Retaliation based upon a prisoner’s exercise of his or her constitutional rights violates
the Constitution. See Thaddeus-X v. Blatter, 175 F.3d 378, 394 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). In order
to set forth a First Amendment retaliation claim, a plaintiff must establish that: (1) he was engaged
in protected conduct; (2) an adverse action was taken against him that would deter a person of
ordinary firmness from engaging in that conduct; and (3) the adverse action was motivated, at least
in part, by the protected conduct. Id. Moreover, a plaintiff must be able to prove that the exercise
of the protected right was a substantial or motivating factor in the defendant’s alleged retaliatory
conduct. See Smith v. Campbell, 250 F.3d 1032, 1037 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Mount Healthy City
Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 287 (1977)).
Temporal proximity may be
“‘significant enough to constitute indirect evidence of a causal connection so as to create an
inference of retaliatory motive.’” Muhammad v. Close, 379 F.3d 413, 417-18 (6th Cir. 2004)
(quoting DiCarlo v. Potter, 358 F.3d 408, 422 (6th Cir. 2004)). However, “[c]onclusory allegations
of temporal proximity are not sufficient to show a retaliatory motive.” Skinner v. Bolden, 89 F.
App’x 579, 580 (6th Cir. 2004).
With respect to Defendant Bunting, Plaintiff fails to allege facts to suggest that
Defendant Bunting took any action, let alone adverse action, against Plaintiff as a result of his filing
a lawsuit. Plaintiff alleges only that he and Defendant Bunting spoke about his medical details and
that, as Defendant Bunting walked away he heard Defendant Bunting say that Plaintiff should not
sue people. Plaintiff does not allege that Defendant Bunting took any action against him at all.
Consequently, he fails to state a retaliation claim against Defendant Bunting.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Heyns, Warden Smith, RUM Smith, Huss and
Haynes failed to “act on my notification of abuse.” (Compl., docket #1, Page ID#6.) Government
officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory
of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell v. New York City Dep’t
of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691(1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009). A
claimed constitutional violation must be based upon active unconstitutional behavior. Grinter v.
Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 575 (6th Cir. 2008); Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002).
The acts of one’s subordinates are not enough, nor can supervisory liability be based upon the mere
failure to act. Grinter, 532 F.3d at 575; Greene, 310 F.3d at 899; Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881,
888 (6th Cir. 2004). Moreover, § 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a supervisor
denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained in a grievance.
See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each
Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendants Heyns, Warden
Smith, RUM Smith, Huss and Haynes engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly,
he fails to state a claim against them.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants MDOC, Corizon, Heyns, Warden Smith, RUM Smith, Huss, Haynes and
Bunting will be dismissed on grounds of immunity and/or for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court will serve the complaint
against Defendant Garlach.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: September 17, 2014
/s/ Robert Holmes Bell
ROBERT HOLMES BELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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