Colvin #192744 v. Prison Health Services et al
OPINION ; signed by Judge Robert Holmes Bell (Judge Robert Holmes Bell, kcb)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:12-cv-347
Honorable Robert Holmes Bell
PRISON HEALTH SERVICES, 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 Defendant Prison Health Services. The Court will serve the complaint
against Defendants Michael L. Brostoski and Theresa M. Merling.1
Because Plaintiff has failed to identify the identity of “Unknown Morning Nurse,” the
complaint may not be served on this individual. Therefore, “Unknown Morning Nurse” is not
properly a party to this action.
Plaintiff Kenneth Colvin, a state prisoner confined at the Alger Maximum
Correctional Facility (LMF) alleges that while he was incarcerated at the Chippewa Correctional
Facility (URF), Defendants Dr.. Michael L. Brostoski and Nurse Theresa M. Merling denied him his
prescribed pain medication for several days at a time for a serious injury to his finger. Plaintiff
asserts that as a result, he suffered excruciating pain from February 12, 2012, until February 18,
2012, and from April 16, 2012, until April 21, 2012. Plaintiff contends that Defendant Prison Health
Services (PHS) is responsible for the actions of Defendants Brostoski and Merling because they are
employed by PHS. Plaintiff seeks compensatory, punitive and nominal damages, as well as costs.
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, 45-46 (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).
Liability under Section 1983 must be based on more than merely the right to control
employees. Polk Co. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325-26 (1981); Monell v. New York City Department
of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). Thus, Section 1983 liability cannot be premised upon mere
allegations of respondeat superior. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Polk, 454 U.S. at 325. A party cannot
be held liable under Section 1983 absent a showing that the party personally participated in, or
otherwise authorized, approved or knowingly acquiesced in, the allegedly unconstitutional conduct.
See e.g. Leach v. Shelby Co. Sheriff, 891 F.2d 1241, 1246 (6th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 495 U.S. 932
(1990); Hays v. Jefferson, 668 F.2d 869, 874 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 833 (1982). See also
Bellamy v. Bradley, 729 F.2d 416, 421 (6th Cir.), cert. denied 469 U.S. 845 (1984).
Supervisory officials can be held liable for the acts of their subordinates only if
plaintiff establishes that the supervisor failed to appropriately discharge his supervisory duties, and
that this failure resulted in a denial or deprivation of plaintiff’s federal rights. See e.g. Leach, 891
F.2d at 1246; Hayes v. Vessey, 777 F.2d 1149, 1154 (6th Cir. 1985). However, the failure of a
supervisor to supervise, control or train the offending employee is not actionable absent a showing
that the official implicitly encouraged, authorized, approved or knowingly acquiesced in, or in some
other way directly participated in, the offensive conduct. Leach, 891 F.2d at 1246. Such a claim
requires, at a minimum, that the official had knowledge of the offending employee’s conduct at a
time when the conduct could be prevented, or that such conduct was otherwise foreseeable or
predictable. See e.g. Gibson v. Foltz, 963 F.2d 851, 854 (6th Cir. 1992). In addition, plaintiff must
show that defendant had some duty or authority to act. See e.g. Birrell v. Brown, 867 F.2d 956, 959
(6th Cir. 1989) (lower level official not liable for shortcomings of building); Ghandi v. Police Dept.
of City of Detroit, 747 F.2d 338, 351 (6th Cir. 1984) (mere presence at the scene is insufficient
grounds to impose Section 1983 liability in the absence of a duty to act); accord Hall v. Shipley, 932
F.2d 1147 (6th Cir. 1991). In addition, merely bringing a problem to the attention of a supervisory
official is not sufficient to impose such liability. See Shelly v. Johnson, 684 F. Supp. 941, 946 (W.D.
Mich. 1987) (Hillman, C.J.), aff’d 849 F.2d 228 (6th Cir. 1988). Finally, supervisory liability claims
cannot be based on simple negligence. Leach, 891 F.2d at 1246; Weaver v. Toombs, 756 F. Supp.
335, 337 (W.D. Mich. 1989), aff’d 915 F.2d 1574 (6th Cir. 1990).
Plaintiff has not alleged facts establishing that Defendant PHS was personally
involved in the activity which forms the basis of his claim. The only role that Defendant PHS had
in this action was that it was the asserted employer of Defendants Brostoski and Merling. Defendant
PHS cannot be liable for such conduct under § 1983. Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir.
1999), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1264 (2000). Accordingly, the Court concludes that Plaintiff’s claims
against Defendant PHS are properly dismissed for lack of personal involvement.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Defendant PHS 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 Brostoski and Merling.
An Order consistent with this Opinion will be entered.
Dated: November 6, 2012
/s/ Robert Holmes Bell
ROBERT HOLMES BELL
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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