Walker #932129 v. Lewis et al
OPINION; signed by District Judge Hala Y. Jarbou (aks)
Case 2:20-cv-00222-HYJ-MV ECF No. 5, PageID.22 Filed 11/19/20 Page 1 of 7
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 2:20-cv-222
Honorable Hala Y. Jarbou
PATRICIA LEWIS et al.,
This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (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.
Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections
(MDOC) at the Baraga Correctional Facility (AMF) in Baraga, Baraga County, Michigan. The
events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues Nurse Practitioner Patricia
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Lewis, Healthcare Supervisor Jamie Monville, Dawn Coon, RN, Amy Rajala, RN, and Vicki
Plaintiff alleges that between February 11, 2019, and the present date, Plaintiff was
denied his prescribed “Vontolin HFA.”1 (ECF No. 1, PageID.4.) Plaintiff states that the inhaler
is for his breathing treatment and that he has not received it for a period of one year and six months.
Plaintiff seeks damages.
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.
The Court assumes that Plaintiff is referring to Ventolin HFA.
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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)(i)).
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
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.”
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Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 899 (6th Cir. 2004); see also Phillips v. Roane
Cnty., 534 F.3d 531, 540 (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, 466, 451
(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 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
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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)).
However, 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
[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, 749 F.3d at 448; Perez v. Oakland
Cnty., 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
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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). “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
Mitchell v. Hininger, 553 F. App’x 602, 605 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Alspaugh v.
McConnell, 643 F.3d 162, 169 (6th Cir. 2011)). He must demonstrate that the care he received
was “so grossly incompetent, inadequate, or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be
intolerable to fundamental fairness.” See Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 819 (6th Cir.
2005) (quoting Waldrop v. Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1033 (11th Cir. 1989)).
In this case, Plaintiff’s assertion of wrongdoing is entirely conclusory. Conclusory
allegations of unconstitutional conduct without specific factual allegations fail to state a claim
under § 1983. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Plaintiff merely alleges that he was denied his prescription inhaler for
a period of one and a half years. However, Plaintiff fails to allege the nature of his diagnosis,
whether he suffered any ill effects from the denial of his inhaler, and whether he was given any
other medication during the pertinent time period. Because Plaintiff fails to allege any facts
showing that the named Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need,
his complaint is properly dismissed.
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
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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.
November 19, 2020
/s/ Hala Y. Jarbou
HALA Y. JARBOU
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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