Edwards v. Clark et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. (See Full Order.) Because the Court finds that plaintiff sufficiently pleaded a failure-to-protect claim, defendants' argument fails. Additionally, defendants have not argued that plaintiff's right to be free from s ubstantial risks of serious harm is not a clearly established right. Therefore, defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity, and the motion is denied. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss [ECF No. 26 ] is DENIED. Signed by District Judge E. Richard Webber on 8/4/2016. (CBL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
PAMELA CLARK, et al.,
No. 4:16-CV-331 ERW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Before the Court is defendants’ motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion is denied.
To state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A pleading
need not include “detailed factual allegations,” but it is not sufficient to tender “naked
assertion[s]” that are “devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). A complaint must do more than allege “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id.
Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, brings this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for failure to protect him from harm in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Defendants are correctional officers at MSI.
Plaintiff alleges that on separate occasions he told each of the defendants that he was
being threatened by inmate Charles Clemmins and that he needed to be placed in protective
custody. He claims that defendants refused his request for protective custody. He alleges that
defendant Russell Roberts “did nothing”; that defendant Timothy Mann told him “if everybody
threatened wanted P.C., there would be a waiting list,” and did nothing; that defendant Derrick
Honeywood “rolled his eyes and did nothing”; and that defendant Pamela Clark told him “that
she was busy and to write a kite.”
Plaintiff alleges that shortly after he asked for protective custody Clemmins attacked him,
fracturing multiple bones in his face.
To state a failure-to-protect claim, a plaintiff is required to allege that defendants were
aware of facts from which they could infer the existence of a substantial risk of serious harm to
him, they actually drew the inference, and they failed to take reasonable steps to protect him.
See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 836-38, 844 (1994).
Assault by a fellow inmate
constitutes “serious harm.” Jensen v. Clarke, 94 F.3d 1191, 1198 (8th Cir. 1996). A single
incident of violence may, in some circumstances, support a failure-to-protect claim. See Young
v. Selk, 508 F.3d 868, 870-73 (8th Cir. 2007) (discussing potential for substantial risk where
inmate told officials of cellmate’s threats, requested to be removed from cell immediately, said it
was an emergency, and was subsequently attacked).
Defendants argue that plaintiff’s allegations fail to demonstrate that they “actually drew
an inference” that there was a substantial risk of serious harm. For example, defendants argue
that Mann’s statement demonstrates that he did not believe plaintiff was in real danger. And
they claim that defendant Honeywood’s eye-rolling suggests he did not believe plaintiff was in
danger of serious harm, either.
The problem with defendants’ argument is that it requires the Court to draw all
reasonable inferences in their favor. However, in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must take all facts alleged in the
complaint to be true and must construe the pleadings in the light most favorable to plaintiff.
Gregory v. Dillard’s, 494 F.3d 694, 709 (8th Cir. 2007). Taking the pleadings in the light most
favorable to plaintiff, the Court finds that defendants’ reactions to plaintiff’s request for
protective custody could also have been the result of their deliberate indifference to his
circumstances. As a result, the Court finds that the pleadings state a plausible claim for relief.
Defendants also argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity because plaintiff failed
to sufficiently allege a failure-to-protect claim.
“The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials ‘from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223,
231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). “The protection of
qualified immunity applies regardless of whether the government official’s error is ‘a mistake of
law, a mistake of fact, or a mistake based on mixed questions of law and fact.’” Id. (quoting
Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 567 (2004)).
Because the Court finds that plaintiff sufficiently pleaded a failure-to-protect claim,
defendants’ argument fails. Additionally, defendants have not argued that plaintiff’s right to be
free from substantial risks of serious harm is not a clearly established right.
defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity, and the motion is denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ motion to dismiss [ECF No. 26] is
So Ordered this 4th day of August, 2016.
E. RICHARD WEBBER
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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