Wright v. Busby et al
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART 10 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. Amended Pleading due by 3/9/2018. Signed by Judge Brian Morris on 2/14/2018. Mailed to Wright with form (TAG)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
GREAT FALLS DIVISION
ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND
REJECTING IN PART MAGISTRATE
JUDGE’S FINDINGS AND
A. BUSBY, et al.,
Plaintiff Timothy Wright (“Wright”), a prisoner proceeding pro se, filed his
Complaint on September 6, 2016. (Doc. 2.) United States Magistrate Judge John
Johnston found on July 10, 2017 that Wright’s Complaint failed to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. 8.) Judge Johnston afforded Wright the
opportunity to amend his Complaint by August 4, 2017. Id. Wright timely filed his
Amended Complaint on August 2, 2017. (Doc. 9.)
The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants violated Wright’s Eighth
and Fourteenth Amendment rights by deliberate indifference to potential physical
abuse by other inmates, and denial of medical care.
Judge Johnston issued Findings and Recommendations in this matter on
January 22, 2018. (Doc. 10.) Judge Johnston recommended that the Court dismiss
Wright’s Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. (Doc. 10 at 1.)
The Court reviews de novo findings and recommendations to which
objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Portions of findings and
recommendations to which no party specifically objects are reviewed for clear
error. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309,
1313 (9th Cir. 1981).
Wright filed an objection. (Doc. 11.) The document requests leave to file a
Second Amended Complaint and provides additional factual allegations that
Wright argues meet the standard detailed by Judge Johnston’s order. The Court
will review de novo Judge Johnston’s recommendations to dismiss Wright’s
Wright alleges that he engaged in a physical relationship with a female staff
member of Crossroads Correctional Center. (Doc. 9-1 at 2.) Wright further alleges
that another inmate learned of the relationship and attempted to “blackmail” the
staff member with the information. (Doc. 9-1 at 2.) Crossroads discharged the staff
member after she reported the relationship and blackmail attempt to her superiors.
(Doc. 9-1 at 2.) The inmate who attempted the blackmail allegedly earned an
infraction report and placement in restricted housing. (Doc. 9-1 at 3.) Wright
alleges that he was interviewed by the Warden, but was not disciplined. (Doc. 9-1
Wright further alleges that he was assaulted by other inmates on March 18,
2015 and March 19, 2015. (Doc. 9-1 at 3.) Wright claims that this assault caused
serious injury to his head. (Doc. 9-1 at 3.) Wright seeks to hold Defendants Fender,
Busby, and Stewart responsible for the assault. (Doc. 9-1 at 2-3.)
Prison officials have a duty “to take reasonable steps to protect inmates from
physical abuse.” Hoptowit v. Ray, 682 F.2d 1237, 1250-51 (9th Cir. 1982). A
prisoner alleging a violation of this duty must show that prison officials acted
“deliberately indifferent” to serious safety threats. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1994). This standard requires the prisoner to demonstrate both: 1) that a
prison official was “aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a
substantial risk of serious harm” to the prisoner existed; and 2) that the prison
official in fact drew such inference. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
Judge Johnston found that Wright’s Amended Complaint failed to allege facts
regarding whether Defendants knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to his
safety. (Doc. 10 at 4.) Judge Johnston explained that Wright failed specifically to
allege that Defendants knew or should have known that he was in danger. (Doc. 10
at 4.) Specifically, Judge Johnston noted that “[e]ven if Defendants were aware” of
Wright’s relationship with the staff member, “that does not automatically translate
that he would be in danger of assault from other inmates.” (Doc. 10 at 4.) Judge
Johnston concluded that granting Wright further leave to amend would be futile.
(Doc. 10 at 8.)
Wright objects to Judge Johnston’s recommendation that the Court should
dismiss his deliberate indifference claim. (Doc. 11 at 2.) Wright specifically
contends that amendment would not be futile. (Doc. 11 at 3.) Wright alleges new
facts in his objection. (Doc. 11 at 3.) Wright’s objection alleges that Wright
informed Defendants on March 18, 2015, that he feared returning to his assigned
housing. (Doc. 11 at 3.) Wright alleges that he informed Defendants of his fear that
other inmates would see Defendants’ failure to discipline Wright as “favorable
treatment” for “being a ‘snitch.’” (Doc. 11 at 3.) Wright contends that Defendants
dismissed these concerns and nevertheless returned him to his housing unit where
he was assaulted on March 18 and 19, 2015. (Docs. 11 at 3; 9-1 at 3.)
The Court remains mindful of Archer’s pro se status. The Court must “liberally
construe” pro se filings. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Further,
“[d]ismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to amend is proper only if it is
absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by
amendment.” Weilburg v. Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007).
Wright has alleged that Defendants had knowledge that Wright perceived that
he was in danger. Wright has further alleged that Defendants dismissed these
concerns. These factual allegations could arguably support that Defendants were
aware of a substantial risk of serious harm to Wright. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
Therefore, it is not “absolutely clear” that granting Wright further leave to amend
his deliberate indifference claim would be futile. Weilburg, 488 U.S. at 1205. The
Court rejects Judge Johnston’s recommendation to dismiss Wright’s deliberate
Denial of Medical Care
Wright alleges that following the March 18, 2015, and March 19, 2015,
assaults, Defendants failed to provide adequate medical care to treat his head
injuries. (Doc. 9-1 at 3.) Wright claims that he was not treated for his injuries until
he was transported to the hospital on March 24, 2015. (Doc. 9-1 at 3.)
Judge Johnston found that Wright’s denial of medical care claim failed to allege
sufficient facts to support that the delay in care led to further harm. (Doc. 5 at 10.)
The Eighth Amendment mandates that prison officials afford prisoners adequate
medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A prisoner must
demonstrate that the delay in care led to further harm, however, to state an arguable
claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. McGuckin v. Smith, 974
F.2d 1050, 1059 (9th Cir. 1992), overruled on other grounds by WMX
Technologies, Inc. v. Miller, 104 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 1997).
Wright argues that granting leave to amend his denial of medical care claim
would not be futile. (Doc. 11 at 3.) Wright alleges additional facts in support. (Doc.
11 at 3.) These additional facts include that Wright has yet to recover fully from
the injuries. (Doc. 11 at 3.)
Wright’s additional facts, liberally construed, still fail to demonstrate how any
alleged delay in treatment led to further harm. Not even the most liberal reading of
Wright’s additional facts allege further harm. It is “absolutely clear” that the
deficiencies in Wright’s denial of medical care claim cannot be cured by
amendment. Weilburg, 488 U.S. at 1205.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Johnston’s Findings
and Recommendations (Doc. 63) are ADOPTED IN PART and REJECTED IN
PART in accordance with the above order.
Wright’s denial of medical care claim is DISMISSED for failure to state a
claim. Defendants Medical Staff are DISMISSED.
On or before March 9, 2018, Wright may file a Second Amended Complaint
on the form to be provided by the Clerk of Court’s Office.
DATED this 14th day of February, 2018.
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