Murdock v. McClelland et al
ORDER Plaintiffs Complaint survives initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Clerk shall send Plaintiff summons forms to fill out so that service may be made on Defendants. Once the Court receives the summons forms, the U.S. Marshal shall effectuate service on Defendants in accordance with Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.1. Signed by Chief Judge Frank D. Whitney on 12/1/17. (Pro se litigant served by US Mail.)(clc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
FNU HASSAN, et al.,
THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and § 1915A, (Doc. No. 16). On June 21, 2017, the Court
entered an order waiving the initial filing fee and directing monthly payments to be made from
Plaintiff’s prison account. (Doc. No. 6). Thus, Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
Pro se Plaintiff Ajanaku Murdock is a North Carolina prisoner incarcerated at Lanesboro
Correctional Institution in Polkton, North Carolina. Plaintiff filed this action on May 23, 2017,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to this Court’s order instructing Plaintiff to file an
Amended Complaint that complies with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20, Plaintiff filed the
Amended Complaint on November 27, 2017. (Doc. No. 16). Plaintiff has named the following
persons as Defendants, all alleged to have been employed at Lanesboro at all relevant times: (1)
prison physician Sami Hassan; (2) David Mitchell, Lanesboro Superintendent; (3) prison
physician FNU Haines; and (4) prison nurse FNU Dixon. Plaintiff purports to bring an Eighth
Amendment claim against Defendants for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs based
on Defendants’ refusal to provide him with medical care and to acknowledge his serious medical
needs arising from his physical disability (caused by a previous injury) and related ailments
while incarcerated at Lanesboro. Plaintiff seeks damages and injunctive and declaratory relief.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Because Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint
to determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous or malicious
[or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Furthermore,
§ 1915A requires an initial review of a “complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks
redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity,” and the
court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint,
if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. In its
frivolity review, this Court must determine whether the Complaint raises an indisputably
meritless legal theory or is founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as fantastic or
delusional scenarios. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989).
Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on an alleged lack of or inappropriate medical
treatment fall within the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, a
plaintiff must show a “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs” of the inmate. Id.
“Deliberate indifference requires a showing that the defendants actually knew of and disregarded
a substantial risk of serious injury to the detainee or that they actually knew of and ignored a
detainee’s serious need for medical care.” Young v. City of Mt. Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 575-76
(4th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). “To establish that a health care provider’s actions constitute
deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, the treatment must be so grossly incompetent,
inadequate, or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental fairness.”
Miltier v. Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990).
Allegations that might be sufficient to support negligence and medical malpractice claims
do not, without more, rise to the level of a cognizable § 1983 claim. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106;
Grayson v. Peed, 195 F.3d 692, 695 (4th Cir. 1999) (“Deliberate indifference is a very high
standard—a showing of mere negligence will not meet it.”). To be found liable under the Eighth
Amendment, a prison official must know of and consciously or intentionally disregard “an
excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994);
Johnson v. Quinones, 145 F.3d 164, 167 (4th Cir. 1998). “[E]ven if a prison doctor is mistaken
or negligent in his diagnosis or treatment, no constitutional issue is raised absent evidence of
abuse, intentional mistreatment, or denial of medical attention.” Stokes v. Hurdle, 393 F. Supp.
757, 762 (D. Md. 1975), aff’d, 535 F.2d 1250 (4th Cir. 1976). The constitutional right is to
medical care. No right exists to the type or scope of care desired by the individual prisoner. Id.
at 763. Therefore, a disagreement “between an inmate and a physician over the inmate’s proper
medical care [does] not state a § 1983 claim unless exceptional circumstances are alleged.”
Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 849 (4th Cir. 1985) (dismissing the plaintiff’s § 1983 claim
against a defendant physician for allegedly discharging the plaintiff too early from a medical
clinic, as such claim did not rise to the level of deliberate indifference but would, “at most,
constitute a claim of medical malpractice”).
The Court finds that, assuming that Plaintiff’s allegations are true, and drawing all
reasonable inferences in his favor, Plaintiff’s claim against Defendants for deliberate indifference
to serious medical needs is not clearly frivolous.1
For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff has alleged a claim for deliberate indifference to
serious medical needs against Defendants sufficient to survive this Court’s initial review.
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED that:
Plaintiff’s Complaint survives initial review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
The Clerk shall send Plaintiff summons forms to fill out so that service may be
made on Defendants. Once the Court receives the summons forms, the U.S.
Marshal shall effectuate service on Defendants in accordance with Rule 4 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Signed: December 1, 2017
As to Defendant Lanesboro Superintendent David Mitchell, it is well settled that individual
liability under Section 1983 must be based on personal participation in the constitutional
violation. See Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (stating that under
Section 1983, liability is personal in nature, and the doctrine of respondeat superior does not
apply). A supervisor may be liable for acts of his subordinates if (1) the supervisor is actually or
constructively aware of pervasive, unreasonable risk of harm from a specified source, (2) the
official is deliberately indifferent to that risk, and (3) there exists an affirmative causal link
between the supervisor’s inaction and the constitutional injury. Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791,
799 (4th Cir. 1994). Here, Plaintiff has alleged the minimal facts sufficient to survive initial
review as to Mitchell based on supervisor liability. That is, he alleges that he wrote Mitchell
numerous letters complaining about the other Defendants’ refusal to treat him adequately for his
serious medical needs, and Mitchell did nothing. See (Doc. No. 16 at 18).
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