Morgan #596132 v. Johnson 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
ROBERT JAMES MORGAN,
Case No. 1:17-cv-0206
Honorable Gordon J. Quist
GEORGE JOHNSON 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 Russell and Buskirk. The Court will serve the complaint against
Defendants Johnson, Aiken, Papendick, Lindout, Mindlin, and Harbaugh.
Plaintiff Robert James Morgan is presently incarcerated with the Michigan
Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility in Kincheloe, Michigan.
The incidents of which he complains, however, occurred when Plaintiff was at Bellamy Creek
Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan.
During May of 2015, Plaintiff tore his bicep tendon and ligaments in an accident.
He claims that Defendants have failed to treat him. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Defendants
refused to provide him surgery to repair the damage caused by the accident. As a result, Plaintiff
suffers constant pain, lack of mobility, and loss of strength.
Plaintiff is suing Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility healthcare providers Dr.
George Johnson and nurses S. Aiken, and Andrea Lindout; Duane L. Waters Health Center doctors
Keith Papendick and Lyle Mindlin; and MDOC Bureau of Healthcare Services nurse R. Harbaugh.
Plaintiff contends that each of these Defendants participated in the failure to treat his injury.
Plaintiff also sues Bellamy Creek Housing Unit Manager Sue Buskirk and MDOC
Legal Affairs Grievance Manager Richard Russell. Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants Buskirk
and Russell denied him care. Instead he alleges that their review of his disputes regarding healthcare
(presumably grievances against the healthcare personnel) were not satisfactory.
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).
Plaintiff’s allegations are sketchy. Nonetheless, construed liberally, Plaintiff alleges
that Defendants Johnson, Aiken, Papendick, Lindout, Mindlin, and Harbaugh, as healthcare
providers, were deliberately indifferent to the serious medical need arising from Plaintiff accidental
injury during May of 2015.
Plaintiff’s allegations suffice to state a claim against Defendants
Johnson, Aiken, Papendick, Lindout, Mindlin, and Harbaugh for violation of the Eighth
Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendants Buskirk and
Russell, other than to suggest that their response was insufficient to his complaints regarding the
healthcare provided (or not provided) by the other Defendants.
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). 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). 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.
Notwithstanding his allegations that Defendants Buskirk and Russell did not
“attempt to help . . . [or] do[ their] job to the fullest” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4), his
allegations suggest only that Defendants did not intervene in response to Plaintiff’s complaints.
Such allegations are insufficient to support a conclusion that Defendants engaged in active
unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendants Buskirk
and Russell based on their failures to respond to Plaintiff’s complaints.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants Buskirk and Russell 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 Defendants Johnson, Aiken, Papendick, Lindout, Mindlin, and Harbaugh.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: April 14, 2017
/s/ Gordon J. Quist
GORDON J. QUIST
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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