Turner #169637 v. Oh et al
OPINION ; signed by Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker (Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker, ymc)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
GREGORY S. TURNER,
Case No. 2:16-cv-256
Honorable Robert J. Jonker
UNKNOWN OH, 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, Plaintiff’s action will be dismissed for failure to state
Plaintiff Gregory S. Turner, a prisoner currently confined at the Baraga Maximum
Correctional Facility (AMF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendants Dr. Unknown Oh, Sabrina S. Snider, RN, David Finnagan, RN, and Unknown
Tolfkeson1, RN. Plaintiff’s complaint is somewhat garbled and consists largely of legal conclusions.
However, a review of Plaintiff’s allegations, as well as the exhibits to Plaintiff’s complaint, reveal
that he injured his finger playing basketball on July 3, 2014, and that Defendants failed to provide
him with adequate treatment or pain medication following his injury.
Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth
Amendments, as well as under state law. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well
as declaratory relief.
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
Also referred to as Unknown Tolkeson in the complaint.
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); Dominguez v. Corr.
Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). 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).
As noted above, Plaintiff claims that he was denied adequate medical care for an
injury to his finger, which violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment
prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment against those convicted of crimes. U.S.
Const. amend. VIII. 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 of decency. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 102, 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).
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). 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 v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 898 (6th Cir. 2004), 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
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) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). Deliberate indifference “entails something more
than mere negligence,” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835, 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.” Id.
Under Farmer, “the 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.
Not every claim by a prisoner that he has received inadequate medical treatment states
a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105. As the Supreme Court explained:
[A]n inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care cannot be
said to constitute an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain or to
be repugnant to the conscience of mankind. Thus, a complaint that
a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical
condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under
the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a
constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner. In
order to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must allege acts or
omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs.
Id. at 105-06 (quotations omitted). Thus, differences in judgment between an inmate and prison
medical personnel regarding the appropriate medical diagnoses or treatment are not enough to state
a deliberate indifference claim. Sanderfer v. Nichols, 62 F.3d 151, 154-55 (6th Cir. 1995); Ward v.
Smith, No. 95-6666, 1996 WL 627724, at *1 (6th Cir. Oct. 29, 1996). This is so even if the
misdiagnosis results in an inadequate course of treatment and considerable suffering. Gabehart v.
Chapleau, No. 96-5050, 1997 WL 160322, at *2 (6th Cir. Apr. 4, 1997).
The Sixth Circuit distinguishes “between cases where the complaint alleges a
complete denial of medical care and those cases where the claim is that a prisoner received
inadequate medical treatment.” Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th Cir. 1976). If “a
prisoner has received some medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of the treatment,
federal courts are generally reluctant to second guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize
claims which sound in state tort law.” Id.; see also Rouster v. Saginaw Cnty., 749 F.3d 437, 448 (6th
Cir. 2014); Perez v. Oakland County, 466 F.3d 416, 434 (6th Cir. 2006); Kellerman v. Simpson, 258
F. App’x 720, 727 (6th Cir. 2007); McFarland v. Austin, 196 F. App’x 410 (6th Cir. 2006); Edmonds
v. Horton, 113 F. App’x 62, 65 (6th Cir. 2004); Brock v. Crall, 8 F. App’x 439, 440 (6th Cir. 2001);
Berryman v. Rieger, 150 F.3d 561, 566 (6th Cir. 1998).
In this case, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Oh on July 3, 2014, after he “jammed”
his hand playing basketball. See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.37-38. Defendant Oh noted:
Inmate presents in Unit 7 barbers room. [Alert and oriented to person,
place and time,] conversing clearly, [vital signs] not taken. Examined
R hand which he jammed playing basketball. Middle finger -second
knuckle swollen, no discoloration. Extreme guarding with pain when
palpated. Gave bag of ice, with instructions. Education given, 7
packs of ibuprofen given with instruction. Cold and warm
compresses education. Taped to index finger using large bandaids.
Plaintiff kited health care on August 17, 2014, complaining of continued pain and
swelling in the fingers of his right hand. See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.39. On August 19, 2014,
Plaintiff was seen by A. LaJeuness Guidotti in health care, who noted that Plaintiff complained of
pain in his right middle finger when he squeezed his knuckle. Guidotti observed that Plaintiff had
tenderness, but not pain, in his finger, and that his knuckle showed a slight deformity. See ECF No.
1-1, PageID.49-50. On August 21, 2014, Plaintiff was again seen by a health care provider, who
noted that Plaintiff had suffered an injury to his right hand playing basketball, that there were no
aggravating factors, that pain was relieved by medication, and that Plaintiff’s symptoms included
tenderness. See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.47-48. He also noted, “Patient states that his right fingers
were jammed with basketball a few times. States that his fingers were [swollen] in May and June
this year. Denies any severe pain, can make a fist. Swelling is gone, but occasionally feels dull
On September 3, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by Patricia R. Lamb, RN, who noted that
Plaintiff complained that his injury was not getting better and that he needed x-rays. Lamb noted
a deformity and planned to refer Plaintiff to the Medical Practitioner for further evaluation. See ECF
No. 1-1, PageID.51-52 and PageID.55-56. On September 5, 2014, Plaintiff was seen by health care
for complaints of pain in his right hand. The provider noted that the pain was “aching,” did not
radiate, and that Plaintiff was experiencing tenderness in the area. Plaintiff had been taking
Ibuprofen for pain. The provider also observed that Plaintiff’s right hand did not show any joint
deformity, heat, swelling, erythema, or effusion, and that it had full range of motion. See ECF No.
Plaintiff’s hand was x-rayed on September 11, 2014. See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.5758. On September 16, 2014, Plaintiff kited health care requesting medication for finger pain, a
hearing aid, and prozac for depression. Plaintiff was instructed to purchase over-the-counter
medication for pain and was told that he would be referred to Mental Health for depression. See
ECF No. 1-1, PageID.77-78. On September 19, 2014, Plaintiff was informed of the results of his
x-rays, which showed a mild non-displaced fracture at the base of the middle finger of the third digit.
The medical provider noted that Plaintiff had no need for treatment, and that Plaintiff stated that his
finger was “not so painful” and seemed “fine.” See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.65-66. On September 23,
2014, Plaintiff kited that he wanted treatment for his fractured finger. Plaintiff was reminded that
he had already been told that no treatment was required.
“Where the claimant received treatment for his condition, as here, he must show that
his treatment was ‘so woefully inadequate as to amount to no treatment at all.’” Mitchell v.
Hininger, 553 F. App’x 602, 605 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Alspaugh v. McConnell, 643 F.3d 162,
169 (6th Cir. 2011)). Plaintiff in this case fails to allege facts which rise to the level of an Eighth
Amendment violation. Plaintiff was seen by medical professionals on multiple occasions for his
finger injury. Plaintiff was treated with ice, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers. A medical
provider on September 19, 2014, noted “no joint deformity, heat, swelling, erythema or effusion”
of Plaintiff’s right hand. See ECF No. 1-1, PageID.65-66. The Court concludes that Plaintiff
received appropriate care for his finger injury. Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims will be
Plaintiff also asserts a violation of his substantive due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits states from “depriv[ing] any person of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law[.]” U.S. Const. amend. XIV. “Substantive due process
prevents the government from engaging in conduct that shocks the conscience or interferes with
rights implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.” Prater v. City of Burnside, 289 F.3d 417, 431 (6th
Cir. 2002). “Substantive due process serves the goal of preventing governmental power from being
used for purposes of oppression, regardless of the fairness of the procedures used.” Pittman v.
Cuyahoga Cty. Dep’t of Children & Family Servs., 640 F.3d 716, 728 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Howard v. Grinage, 82 F.3d 1343, 1349 (6th Cir. 1996)). “Conduct shocks the conscience if it
‘violates the “decencies of civilized conduct.”’” Range v. Douglas, 763 F.3d 573, 589 (6th Cir.
2014) (quoting Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 846-47 (1998) (quoting Rochin v.
California, 342 U.S. 165, 172-73 (1952))).
“Where a particular [a]mendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional
protection against a particular sort of government behavior, that [a]mendment, not the more
generalized notion of ‘substantive due process,’ must be the guide for analyzing such a claim.”
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 266 (1994) (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989))
(holding that the Fourth Amendment, not substantive due process, provides the standard for
analyzing claims involving unreasonable search or seizure of free citizens, and the Eighth
Amendment provides the standard for such searches of prisoners)). If such an amendment exists,
the substantive due process claim is properly dismissed. Heike v. Guevara, 519 F. App’x 911, 923
(6th Cir. 2013).
In this case, there is a specific constitutional amendment that applies to Plaintiff’s
claims. As noted above, the Eighth Amendment provides an explicit source of constitutional
protection to Plaintiff concerning his medical claims. See Dodson v. Wilkinson, 304 F. App’x 434,
438 (6th Cir. 2008) (because the Eighth Amendment supplies the explicit textual source of
constitutional protection for claims governing a prisoner’s health and safety, the plaintiff’s
substantive due process claim was subject to dismissal). Consequently, Plaintiff’s substantive due
process claim will be dismissed.
Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his rights under state law. Claims
under§ 1983 can only be brought for “deprivation of rights secured by the constitution and laws of
the United States.” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982). Section 1983 does not
provide redress for a violation of a state law. Pyles v. Raisor, 60 F.3d 1211, 1215 (6th Cir. 1995);
Sweeton v. Brown, 27 F.3d 1162, 1166 (6th Cir. 1994). Plaintiff’s assertion that Defendants violated
state law therefore fails to state a claim under § 1983. Moreover, to the extent that Plaintiff seeks
to invoke this Court’s supplemental jurisdiction over a state-law claim, the Court declines to exercise
jurisdiction. In determining whether to retain supplemental jurisdiction, “[a] district court should
consider the interests of judicial economy and the avoidance of multiplicity of litigation and balance
those interests against needlessly deciding state law issues.” Landefeld v. Marion Gen. Hosp., Inc.,
994 F.2d 1178, 1182 (6th Cir. 1993). Ordinarily, where a district court has exercised jurisdiction
over a state-law claim solely by virtue of supplemental jurisdiction and the federal claims are
dismissed prior to trial, the court will dismiss the remaining state-law claims. Id. Dismissal,
however, remains “purely discretionary.” Carlsbad Tech., Inc. v. HIF Bio, Inc., 556 U.S. 635, 639
(2009) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)); Orton v. Johnny’s Lunch Franchise, LLC, 668 F.3d 843, 850
(6th Cir. 2012). Here, the balance of the relevant considerations weighs against the continued
exercise of supplemental jurisdiction. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s state-law claim will be dismissed
without prejudice to his ability to pursue those claims in state court.
The Court further notes that Plaintiff’s motions to amend his complaint to correct the
name of Defendant Oh (ECF No. 6) and to produce of a copy of the complaint at no cost (ECF No.
3) are properly denied as moot.
Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court
determines that Plaintiff’s action 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 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). For the same reasons that the Court dismisses the action, the Court discerns no
good-faith basis for an appeal. 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
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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.
July 10, 2017
/s/ Robert J. Jonker
ROBERT J. JONKER
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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