Ragless #951819 v. Hodshire et al

Filing 9

OPINION; signed by Magistrate Judge Sally J. Berens (jln)

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Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.28 Filed 01/18/23 Page 1 of 11 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN SOUTHERN DIVISION ______ KYLE HENRY RAGLESS, Plaintiff, v. Case No. 1:22-cv-995 Honorable Sally J. Berens SCOTT HODSHIRE et al., Defendants. ____________________________/ OPINION This is a civil rights action brought by a county prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 7.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff consented to proceed in all matters in this action under the jurisdiction of a United States magistrate judge. (ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) This case is presently before the Court for preliminary review under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court is required to conduct this initial review prior to the service of the complaint. See In re Prison Litig. Reform Act, 105 F.3d 1131, 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1997); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604–05 (6th Cir. 1997). Service of the complaint on the named defendants is of particular significance in defining a putative defendant’s relationship to the proceedings. “An individual or entity named as a defendant is not obliged to engage in litigation unless notified of the action, and brought under a court’s authority, by formal process.” Murphy Bros. v. Michetti Pipe Stringing, Inc., 526 U.S. 344, 347 (1999). “Service of process, under longstanding tradition in our system of justice, is Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.29 Filed 01/18/23 Page 2 of 11 fundamental to any procedural imposition on a named defendant.” Id. at 350. “[O]ne becomes a party officially, and is required to take action in that capacity, only upon service of a summons or other authority-asserting measure stating the time within which the party served must appear and defend.” Id. (citations omitted). That is, “[u]nless a named defendant agrees to waive service, the summons continues to function as the sine qua non directing an individual or entity to participate in a civil action or forgo procedural or substantive rights.” Id. at 351. Therefore, the PLRA, by requiring courts to review and even resolve a plaintiff’s claims before service, creates a circumstance where there may only be one party to the proceeding—the plaintiff—at the district court level and on appeal. See, e.g., Conway v. Fayette Cnty. Gov’t, 212 F. App’x 418 (6th Cir. 2007) (“Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the district court screened the complaint and dismissed it without prejudice before service was made upon any of the defendants . . . [such that] . . . only [the plaintiff] [wa]s a party to this appeal.”). Here, Plaintiff has consented to a United States magistrate judge conducting all proceedings in this case under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). That statute provides that “[u]pon the consent of the parties, a full-time United States magistrate judge . . . may conduct any or all proceedings . . . and order the entry of judgment in the case . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). Because the named Defendants have not yet been served, the undersigned concludes that they are not presently parties whose consent is required to permit the undersigned to conduct a preliminary review under the PLRA, in the same way they are not parties who will be served with or given notice of this opinion. See Neals v. Norwood, 59 F.3d 530, 532 (5th Cir. 1995) (“The record does not contain a 2 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.30 Filed 01/18/23 Page 3 of 11 consent from the defendants[; h]owever, because they had not been served, they were not parties to th[e] action at the time the magistrate entered judgment.”).1 Under the PLRA, 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. Discussion Factual Allegations Plaintiff is presently incarcerated in the Hillsdale County Jail. The events of which he complains occurred in the jail. Public records indicate that Plaintiff is currently serving concurrent sentences for aggravated assault, a weapons offense, and a probation violation. See https://omsweb.public-safety-cloud.com/jtclientweb/jailtracker/index/Hillsdale_MI (complete validation challenge, search First Name “Kyle,” Last Name “Ragless,” select “View More”) (last visited Jan. 12, 2022). 1 But see Coleman v. Lab. & Indus. Rev. Comm’n of Wis., 860 F.3d 461, 471 (7th Cir. 2017) (concluding that, when determining which parties are required to consent to proceed before a United States magistrate judge under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), “context matters” and the context the United States Supreme Court considered in Murphy Bros. was nothing like the context of a screening dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)); Williams v. King, 875 F.3d 500, 503–04 (9th Cir. 2017) (relying on Black’s Law Dictionary for the definition of “parties” and not addressing Murphy Bros.); Burton v. Schamp, 25 F.4th 198, 207 n.26 (3d Cir. 2022) (premising its discussion of “the term ‘parties’ solely in relation to its meaning in Section 636(c)(1), and . . . not tak[ing] an opinion on the meaning of ‘parties’ in other contexts”). 3 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.31 Filed 01/18/23 Page 4 of 11 In his complaint, Plaintiff sues Hillsdale County Sheriff Scott Hodshire and Hillsdale County Undersheriff Nathan Lambright. Plaintiff alleges that he has “seen a lot of unsafe condi[]tions” at the jail. (ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) Plaintiff states that there is mold growing on the showers. (Id.) There is also mold in the “max seg” part of the jail. (Id.) Plaintiff has also seen mold growing on the bunks in the “newer part” of the jail. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that he had an issue with his breathing and attributes that to the mold, but that “they” never came to help him. (Id.) Plaintiff also claims that although there are sprinklers in the “new part” of the jail, the “old part” of the jail does not have sprinklers, except in the “detox” cell. (Id.) The “detox” cell is all brick, and the cells in the “old part” of the jail have bars. (Id.) Plaintiff opines that these features are not safe for people who are suicidal. (Id.) Plaintiff notes that the only way to communicate with a guard is to wave at a camera, but that sometimes the guard will not even come. (Id.) Plaintiff reports that he told both Defendants about the conditions described above, but the conditions continue to exist. (Id.) Based on the foregoing, the Court construes Plaintiff’s complaint to assert Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement and deliberate indifference to medical needs claims. As relief, Plaintiff seeks $25,000.00 from each Defendant. (Id., PageID.4.) He also asks the Court to order “a federal inspect[o]r to come in and to have this place shut down.” (Id.) 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. Id.; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the 4 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.32 Filed 01/18/23 Page 5 of 11 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.” Id. 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.” Id. 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) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)). 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 Section 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under Section 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). A. Eighth Amendment—Conditions of Confinement As noted above, Plaintiff’s claim that Defendants are permitting unsafe conditions at the jail implicates the protections of the Eighth Amendment. 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 5 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.33 Filed 01/18/23 Page 6 of 11 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. “Routine discomfort is ‘part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.’” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347). Consequently, “extreme deprivations are required to make out a conditions-ofconfinement claim.” Id. For a prisoner to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, he must show that he faced a sufficiently serious risk to his health or safety and that the defendant official acted with “‘deliberate indifference’ to [his] health or safety.” Mingus v. Butler, 591 F.3d 474, 479–80 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)) (applying deliberate indifference standard to medical claims); see also Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993) (applying deliberate indifference standard to conditions of confinement claims). The deliberate-indifference standard includes both objective and subjective components. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; Helling, 509 U.S. at 35–37. To satisfy the objective prong, an inmate must show “that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Under the subjective prong, an official must “know[] of and disregard[] an excessive risk to inmate health or 6 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.34 Filed 01/18/23 Page 7 of 11 safety.” Id. at 837. “[I]t is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. at 842. “It is, indeed, fair to say that acting or failing to act with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to a prisoner is the equivalent of recklessly disregarding that risk.” Id. at 836. “[P]rison 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.” Id. at 844. Plaintiff complains about the presence of mold in various areas of the jail. Exposure to black mold may, in an appropriate case, be sufficiently serious as to satisfy the objective component of the Eighth Amendment. See Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 486–87 (7th Cir. 2005) (mold in the ventilation system violates Eighth Amendment); Causey v. Allison, No. 1:08cv-155-RHW, 2008 WL 4191746, at *1 (S.D. Miss. Sept. 9, 2008) (concluding that there was no Eighth Amendment violation where prisoner claimed black mold was growing in the shower but admitted that “he has had no medical problems resulting from the black mold”); McIntyre v. Phillips, No. 1:07-cv-527, 2007 WL 2986470, at *2–4 (W.D. Mich. Sept. 10, 2007) (dismissing prisoner action and holding that “some exposure to black mold is a risk that society has chosen to tolerate”). Here, Plaintiff does not suggest that the mold is airborne. Although Plaintiff states that he once had a problem with his breathing, he attributes that to the mold without providing any further explanation or any supporting allegations that could permit the Court to infer that the mold “created a substantial risk to his health.” See Rogers v. Maclaren, No. 1:20-cv-263, 2020 WL 3481541, at *8 (W.D. Mich. June 26, 2020). Plaintiff’s general “allegations about the presence of mold do not demonstrate the existence of a sufficiently serious risk to prisoner health.” Id. Plaintiff also complains about the fact that the jail cells have brick walls and bars, and that such features might pose some danger to inmates who are determined to hurt themselves. Those 7 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.35 Filed 01/18/23 Page 8 of 11 features, however, are the sort of routine discomforts that the Hudson Court concluded were simply part of the penalty that follows the commission of criminal offenses. If the presence of brick walls and bars constituted cruel and unusual punishment, there could be no prisons. Additionally, Plaintiff contends that the cells in the “old part” of the jail are unsafe because they lack fire suppression sprinklers. That allegation, without more, is insufficient to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment. See Deas v. Ingham Cnty. Jail, No. 1:18-cv-838, 2018 WL 3853521, at *4 (W.D. Mich. Aug. 14, 2018) (dismissing claim alleging lack of sprinklers on initial review and finding “[t]he presence of sprinklers in the cells and common areas might enhance safety in the jail; however, the absence of sprinklers does not make the jail inherently dangerous”). Taken together, Plaintiff’s allegations regarding the conditions at the Hillsdale County Jail fail to meet the objective prong of the deliberate indifference standard. With respect to the subjective prong, Plaintiff alleges only that he told both Defendants about the conditions described above, but the conditions continue to exist. (ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) Plaintiff’s conclusory allegations do not rise to the level of the deliberate indifference required to state an Eighth Amendment claim. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835 (holding that an Eighth Amendment violation requires a “state of mind more blameworthy than negligence”). Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claims will, therefore, be dismissed. B. Eighth Amendment—Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs The Court has liberally construed Plaintiff’s complaint to assert an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim. As set forth above, Plaintiff claims that he experienced breathing problems (which he attributes to the mold), but that a guard never came to assist him. 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 8 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.36 Filed 01/18/23 Page 9 of 11 of decency. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 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). Deliberate indifference may be manifested by a doctor’s failure to respond to the medical needs of a prisoner, or by “prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed. Regardless of how evidenced, deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious illness or injury states a cause of action under § 1983.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104–05. 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); see also Phillips v. Roane Cnty., 534 F.3d 531, 539–40 (6th Cir. 2008). Obviousness, however, is not strictly limited to what is detectable to the eye. Even if the layman cannot see the medical need, a condition may be obviously medically serious where a layman, if informed of the true medical situation, would deem the need for medical attention clear. See, e.g., Rouster v. Saginaw Cnty., 749 F.3d 437, 446–51 (6th Cir. 2014) (holding that a prisoner who died from a perforated duodenum exhibited an “objectively serious need for medical treatment,” even though his symptoms appeared to the medical staff at the time to be consistent with alcohol withdrawal); Johnson v. Karnes, 398 F.3d 868, 874 (6th Cir. 2005) (holding that prisoner’s severed tendon was a “quite obvious” medical need, since “any lay person would realize to be serious,” even though the condition was not visually obvious). If the plaintiff’s 9 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.37 Filed 01/18/23 Page 10 of 11 claim, however, is based on “the prison’s failure to treat a condition adequately, or where the prisoner’s affliction is seemingly minor or non-obvious,” Blackmore, 390 F.3d at 898, the plaintiff 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) (internal quotation marks omitted). 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). Deliberate indifference “entails something more than mere negligence,” 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.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. “[T]he 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. To prove a defendant’s subjective knowledge, “[a] plaintiff may rely on circumstantial evidence . . . : A jury is entitled to ‘conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.’” Rhinehart v. Scutt, 894 F.3d 721, 738 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842)). Although breathing issues may well constitute a serious medical need, Plaintiff’s complaint is devoid of facts regarding the severity of his issue. Plaintiff does not allege any facts from which the Court might infer that he suffered a serious medical need. He does not describe any of the circumstances from that occasion; he does not suggest what treatment he required; and he does not suggest any consequences of not receiving treatment. With respect to the subjective component of the relevant two-prong test, Plaintiff fails to allege facts suggesting that Defendants were personally aware of Plaintiff’s breathing issue and disregarded any risk. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835 (finding that allegations of negligence are 10 Case 1:22-cv-00995-SJB ECF No. 9, PageID.38 Filed 01/18/23 Page 11 of 11 insufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim). Thus, any intended Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim against Defendants will also be dismissed. Conclusion Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court determines that Plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must next decide whether an appeal of this action would be in good faith within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3). See McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 611 (6th Cir. 1997). Although the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s claims are properly dismissed, the Court does not conclude that any issue Plaintiff might raise on appeal would be frivolous. Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962). Accordingly, the Court does not certify that an appeal would not be taken in good faith. Should Plaintiff appeal this decision, the Court will assess the $505.00 appellate filing fee pursuant to § 1915(b)(1), see McGore, 114 F.3d at 610–11, unless Plaintiff is barred from proceeding in forma pauperis, e.g., by the “three-strikes” rule of § 1915(g). If he is barred, he will be required to pay the $505.00 appellate filing fee in one lump sum. This is a dismissal as described by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). A judgment consistent with this opinion will be entered. Dated: January 18, 2023 /s/ Sally J. Berens SALLY J. BERENS U.S. Magistrate Judge 11

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