Taylor #597646 v. Carney et al
OPINION; signed by Judge Gordon J. Quist (Judge Gordon J. Quist, jmt)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:16-cv-1073
Honorable Gordon J. Quist
UNKNOWN CARNEY 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 Thomas and Mackie. The Court will serve the complaint against
Plaintiff Zachary Taylor presently is incarcerated at the Oaks Correctional Facility
(ECF). He sues the following ECF officials: Correctional Officer (unknown) Carney; Resident Unit
Manager J. Thomas, and Warden T. Mackie.
Plaintiff alleges that he had been having difficulty with Defendant Carney for some
time. Over the period of two months, Defendant Carney allegedly made disparaging comments
about Plaintiff and his father and ordered a misconduct ticket issued against Plaintiff, which Plaintiff
did not believe he deserved. Plaintiff alleges that he complained to Defendant Thomas about the
conflict with Defendant Carney and asked to be moved to a different housing unit to avoid further
problems with Carney. Thomas refused to transfer Plaintiff.
On an unspecified date in 2016, Plaintiff was ordered to allow himself to be
handcuffed and escorted out of his cell, so that certain items could be removed from the cell.
Plaintiff apparently complied with the order to be handcuffed, but he spit in Defendant Carney’s
face. Defendant Carney allegedly responded by hitting Plaintiff in the face with sufficient force to
cause Plaintiff’s head to hit the floor and split open. Carney then ground Plaintiff’s head into the
floor, causing his face to be smeared with blood. Carney grabbed Plaintiff’s right wrist and twisted
backward and upward, causing deep, red abrasions and bruising on Plaintiff’s right wrist. When
Plaintiff complaint that Carney was hurting his wrist, Carnet responded, “Shut up or I’ll crack your
f**king head open again.” (Statement in Supp. of Compl., ECF No. 1-1, Page ID.8.) As a result
of Defendant Carney’s actions, Plaintiff was taken to health care, where he was kept under
observation for 12 hours. In addition, Plaintiff had bruising and deep, red grooves on his wrist that
remained for four or five days.
Plaintiff contends that Defendant Carney used excessive force, in violation of the
Eighth Amendment. He also alleges that Defendant Thomas knew of Plaintiff’s bad relationship
with Defendant Carney, but did nothing to protect Plaintiff from Carney. For relief, Plaintiff seeks
$250,000 in compensatory damages.
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).
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 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 Frazier v. Michigan, 41 F. App’x
762, 764 (6th Cir. 2002) (dismissing the 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.”); see also
Wright v. Smith, 21 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1994); Krych v. Hvass, 83 F. App’x 854, 855 (8th Cir.
2003); Potter v. Clark, 497 F.2d 1206, 1207 (7th Cir. 1974); Williams v. Hopkins, No. 06-14064,
2007 WL 2572406, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 6, 2007); McCoy v. McBride, No. 3:96-cv-227RP, 1996
WL 697937, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 5, 1996); Eckford-El v. Toombs, 760 F. Supp. 1267, 1272-73
(W.D. Mich. 1991). Plaintiff fails to even to mention Defendant Mackie in the body of his
complaint. His allegations therefore 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
Moreover, to the extent that he intends to suggest that Defendant Mackie is liable for
Defendant Carney’s conduct because of his failure to supervise his subordinates, Plaintiff fails to
state a claim. 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, 575-76 (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 576; 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 Defendant Mackie engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails
to state a claim against Defendant Mackie.
Plaintiff’s allegations against Defendant Thomas also fail to state a claim. The
Eighth Amendment imposes a constitutional limitation on the power of the states to punish those
convicted of crimes. Punishment may not be “barbarous” nor may it contravene society’s “evolving
standards of decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345-46 (1981). The Amendment,
therefore, prohibits conduct by prison officials that involves the “unnecessary and wanton infliction
of pain.” Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S.
at 346). The deprivation alleged must result in the denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life’s
necessities.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; see also Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 600-01 (6th Cir.
1998). The Eighth Amendment is only concerned with “deprivations of essential food, medical care,
or sanitation” or “other conditions intolerable for prison confinement.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348
(citation omitted). Moreover, “[n]ot every unpleasant experience a prisoner might endure while
incarcerated constitutes cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth
Amendment.” Ivey, 832 F.2d at 954.
Inmates have a constitutionally protected right to personal safety grounded in the
Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994). Thus, prison staff are obliged
“to take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates” in their care. Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984). To establish liability under the Eighth Amendment for a
claim based on a failure to prevent harm to a prisoner, plaintiffs must show that the prison officials
acted with “deliberate indifference” to a substantial risk that the defendant would cause the prisoner
serious harm. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993); Woods v.
Lecureux, 110 F.3d 1215, 1222 (6th Cir. 1997); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th
Cir. 1996); Taylor v. Mich. Dep’t of Corr. 69 F.3d 76, 79 (6th Cir. 1995). See Curry v. Scott, 249
F.3d 493, 506 (6th Cir. 2001).
Plaintiff alleges only that Defendant Thomas was aware that Plaintiff had had
interpersonal conflicts with Defendant Carney that included name-calling and the filing of
misconduct tickets. The complaint is devoid of allegations that Defendant Thomas was aware that
Defendant Carney might assault Plaintiff. Under these circumstances, Plaintiff fails to allege that
Thomas was deliberately indifferent to the substantial risk of serious harm posed by Carney. As a
consequence, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendant Thomas.
At this juncture, the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s allegations against Defendant
Carney are sufficient to warrant service of the complaint on him.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants Thomas and Mackie will be dismissed 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 Carney.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: October 14, 2016
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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