Haag #667757 v. Washington et al
OPINION; Order to issue; signed by Judge Janet T. Neff (Judge Janet T. Neff, clb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 1:17-cv-311
Honorable Janet T. Neff
HEIDI WASHINGTON 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 Aiken, Alton, Lamb, and Harbaugh. The Court will serve the
complaint against Defendants Washington, Corizon Health Services, Burke, and Kerstein.
Plaintiff Brian Haag is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) in Ionia, Michigan. Plaintiff
complains that Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s serious medical need (he
suffers from restless leg syndrome) at IBC and at his prior placement, the Saginaw Correctional
Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Michigan. Plaintiff sues MDOC Director Heidi Washington and MDOC
contracted healthcare provider Corizon Health Services in their respective official capacities. He
sues MDOC Nurse R. Harbaugh, IBC Doctor Gail Burke, IBC Nurse S. Aiken, SRF Doctor
Unknown Kerstein, SRF Nurse S. Alton, and SRF Nurse Patricia Lamb, all in their official and
Plaintiff’s complaint is straightforward. He suffers from restless leg syndrome. He
enjoyed some relief on a drug known as Sinemet. Defendant Kerstein took Plaintiff off the drug.
Thereafter Plaintiff suffered pain and sleep disturbance and his restlessness caused strife with
bunkmates. Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Kerstein. Defendant Alton denied the
grievance at the first step. Defendant Lamb denied the grievance at the second step.
When Plaintiff was transferred to IBC, he raised the issue with Defendant Burke. Dr.
Burke also failed to provide the treatment Plaintiff wanted. Plaintiff filed a grievance against Dr.
Burke. It was denied at each step. Defendant Harbaugh authored the denial at Step III.
Plaintiff has offered to pay for the medication. He has offered to pay for outside
medical treatment for his condition. Defendants have simply refused to provide the care he wants.
At IBC, Plaintiff has been referred to mental health healthcare providers instead.
Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief compelling the MDOC and Corizon to treat the pain
and other symptoms associated with his restless leg syndrome. Plaintiff seeks compensatory
damages in the amount of $50,000.00 and punitive damages in the amount of $10,000.00 per
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).
Here, Plaintiff contends that the Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical
needs. Such indifference would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and
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 mention Defendant Aiken in the body of his complaint.
His allegations 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 claim
against Defendant Aiken is properly dismissed.
Defendants Alton, Lamb, and Harbaugh
Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendants Alton, Lamb
and Harbaugh, other than his claim that they failed to appropriately respond to his grievances.
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 Defendants Alton, Lamb,
and Harbaugh engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. They did not deny Plaintiff
medications or other treatment for his condition; they simply denied his grievances against other
providers who had denied treatment. Accordingly, Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendants
Alton, Lamb and Harbaugh.
Eighth Amendment claim against the remaining Defendants
Plaintiff’s allegations suffice to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment
for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need against the remaining Defendants.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendants Aiken, Alton, Lamb, and Harbaugh 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 Washington, Corizon, Kerstein, and Burke.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: May 1, 2017
/s/ Janet T. Neff
Janet T. Neff
United States District Judge
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