Harden #490307 v. Hoover et al

Filing 6

OPINION; signed by Magistrate Judge Ray Kent (fhw)

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Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.48 Filed 01/18/23 Page 1 of 9 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN SOUTHERN DIVISION ______ JUSTIN CARNAZ HARDEN, Plaintiff, Case No. 1:22-cv-1120 v. Honorable Ray Kent BARBARA HOOVER et al., Defendants. ____________________________/ OPINION This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 4.) 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. 5.) 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., Inc. v. Michetti Pipe Stringing, Inc., 526 U.S. 344, 347 (1999). “Service of process, under Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.49 Filed 01/18/23 Page 2 of 9 longstanding tradition in our system of justice, is 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-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.50 Filed 01/18/23 Page 3 of 9 consent from the defendants[; h]owever, because they had not been served, they were not parties to this action at th[e] 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 with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at the Muskegon Correctional Facility (MCF) in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues MCF Medical Providers Barbara Hoover and Michael Tomaszczyk. Plaintiff alleges that, on June 14, 2021, and September 9, 2021, Plaintiff had blood work drawn per request by non-party MCF Mental Health Providers. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.2.) 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-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.51 Filed 01/18/23 Page 4 of 9 Plaintiff was not informed of the results; however, the laboratory reports indicate that Plaintiff’s blood sugar levels were elevated to diabetic or pre-diabetic levels. (Id.) Plaintiff was not scheduled to be seen by a medical provider following these laboratory reports, and Plaintiff did not receive any medical treatment for his elevated blood sugar. (Id.) On March 23, 2022, “after seeking medical attention regarding genitourinary complaints,” a blood draw was conducted, this time revealing that Plaintiff had become diabetic. (Id.) Non-party medial provider Sarah Henson reviewed these results with Plaintiff and developed a treatment plan. (Id.) However, by this time, Plaintiff had developed Type II diabetes and diabetic neuropathy. (Id., PageID.2–3.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s medical condition “when they failed to inform and discuss the results of the June 14, 2021, and September 9, 2021[,] blood draw[] . . .” or develop a treatment plan that would prevent further harm to Plaintiff. (Id., PageID.3.) Defendant Hoover is listed as the “Provider” on the June 14, 2021, lab report, attached to Plaintiff’s complaint as Exhibit A (ECF No. 1-2, PageID.10–13), while Defendant Tomaszczyk is listed as the “Provider” on the lab report dated September 9, 2021, attached to Plaintiff’s complaint as Exhibit B (ECF No. 1-3, PageID.14–16). The grievance response, attached to Plaintiff’s complaint as “Attachment A,” indicates that neither Defendant was informed of the laboratory results ordered by the mental health providers. (ECF No. 1-5, PageID.23, 25.) Based on the foregoing allegations, Plaintiff avers that Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. (Id., PagID.4.) As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment and compensatory and punitive damages. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) 4 Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.52 Filed 01/18/23 Page 5 of 9 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 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 § 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 5 Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.53 Filed 01/18/23 Page 6 of 9 identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994). “The Supreme Court has long recognized that the government has a constitutional obligation to provide medical care to those whom it detains.” Griffith v. Franklin Cnty., 975 F.3d 554, 566 (6th Cir. 2020) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Rhinehart v. Scutt, 894 F.3d 721, 736–37 (6th Cir. 2018); Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004)). The Eighth Amendment is violated when a prison official is deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of a prisoner. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104–05; Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d 693, 702 (6th Cir. 2001). Deliberate indifference may be manifested by a medical professional’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. An Eighth Amendment 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, 390 F.3d at 899; see also Phillips v. Roane Cnty., 534 F.3d 531, 539–40 (6th Cir. 2008). If the plaintiff’s 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 6 Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.54 Filed 01/18/23 Page 7 of 9 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 Eighth Amendment’s 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, 894 F.3d at 738 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842). Assuming without deciding that Plaintiff suffers from a sufficiently serious medical need, Plaintiff’s complaint contains no factual allegations that would plausibly show that Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk were deliberate indifferent to that medical need, as required to state an Eighth Amendment claim. That Plaintiff was not notified of his June 14 and September 9, 2021, test results is unfortunate. However, government officials like Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk may not be held liable under § 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. “[E]ach [g]overnment official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own misconduct.” Id. Thus, to properly plead a claim of Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference against Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk, Plaintiff must plead facts to demonstrate that each Defendant “‘subjectively perceived facts from which to infer substantial risk to the 7 Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.55 Filed 01/18/23 Page 8 of 9 prisoner, that he did in fact draw the inference, and that he then disregarded that risk’ by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Rhinehart, 894 F.3d at 738–39 (quoting Comstock, 273 F.3d at 703). Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk appear to hinge on the fact that each Defendant is listed as a “Provider” on Plaintiff’s lab reports showing elevated blood sugar. However, Plaintiff explicitly alleges—and the complaint exhibits confirm—that non-party “Mental Health Providers,” not the Defendant Medical Providers, ordered the June 14th and September 9th blood work. (ECF No. 1, PageID.2; ECF No. 1-5, PageID.23, 25.) How Defendants became listed on the lab reports is unclear. However, Plaintiff has alleged no facts to suggest that either Defendant was informed of these test results or otherwise aware of Plaintiff’s elevated blood sugar levels at any time. Thus, Plaintiff has not alleged that either Defendant subjectively perceived facts to infer any substantial risk to Plaintiff, let alone drew that inference or was deliberately indifferent to the same. See Rhinehart, 894 F.3d at 738–39. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Hoover and Tomaszczyk in their entirety. 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, 114 F.3d at 611. 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 8 Case 1:22-cv-01120-RSK ECF No. 6, PageID.56 Filed 01/18/23 Page 9 of 9 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/ Ray Kent Ray Kent United States Magistrate Judge 9

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