Womble v. Chrisman et al
OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge James H. Payne: Granting 73 defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Denying 77 Motion to Supplement original pleading. The court finds plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (case terminated) (acg, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA
JOSEPH Z. WOMBLE,
JERRY CHRISMAN, et al.,
No. CIV 14-385-JHP-SPS
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter comes before the court on Defendants Tommy Sharp and Jerry
Chrisman’s motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. The court has before it for
consideration plaintiff’s amended complaint (Docket No. 50), the defendants’ motion
(Docket No. 73), and plaintiff’s response to the motion (Docket No. 75). After receiving the
defendants’ motion, plaintiff filed a motion to supplement (Docket No. 77). No response was
filed to said motion.
Plaintiff, an inmate in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections
(DOC), is currently incarcerated at the Lawton Correctional Center (LCC). Plaintiff asserts
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking relief for alleged constitutional violations during his
incarceration while he was housed at the Mack Alford Correctional Center (MACC).
Plaintiff alleges this action arises from the extreme overcrowding at MACC. He claims in
Count 1 of the complaint that Defendants Sharp and Chrisman, acting as Deputy Warden and
Warden, respectively, directed rationing of his food starting in May of 2014 and that
Chrisman ordered funds be diverted from the food budget to a security budget due to the
overcrowding. Plaintiff further alleges he informed Sharp and Chrisman that he was getting
sick from the food “because of the rationed food portions, and the spoiled nature of the food
and the infestation of cockroaches in the kitchen.” Docket No. 50, at p. 6, ¶ 10.
In Count 2 plaintiff asserts Defendants Sharp and Chrisman have approved the
placement of extra inmates in the Alpha South dayroom at MACC without properly
screening the inmates.1 Plaintiff claims he was exposed to communicable disease while
housed in this dayroom and that he has frequently been sick as a result of the overcrowded
conditions. Further, plaintiff states he was forced to be housed in dormitories with mentally
and physically ill inmates causing him physical and emotional injuries.
In count 3 plaintiff alleges maintenance problems were not timely fixed from May of
2014 until August of 2015 and Defendants Sharp and Chrisman refused to order non-working
showers to be fixed. Plaintiff claims the bottom shower on A-South flooded in August of
2015 causing him unspecified injuries. Finally, plaintiff claims, due to the overcrowding,
there was not enough toilets causing him “stomach damage, severe emotional damage in the
form of embarassment (sic) and anxiety” (id., at p. 8, ¶ 2) and that he was somehow exposed
to feces. Originally, plaintiff was seeking damages, declaratory, and injunctive relief. In his
response, however, plaintiff advises “he is no longer moving for injunctive relief, but for
damages only” (Docket No. 75, at p. 1).
Plaintiff states while Defendants Sharp and Chrisman were responsible, from May of 2014 until June of 2014, for the
screening of new inmates at MACC, they did not screen any inmates prior to housing them on A-South.
Defendants request dismissal of this action pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6), a complaint must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, that “raise a right
to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). The complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.” Id. 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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d
868 (2009). A court must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true,
even if doubtful in fact, and must construe the allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Id. at 555. However, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not
raise a [plausible] claim of entitlement to relief,” the cause of action should be dismissed. Id.
A pro se plaintiff’s complaint must be broadly construed under this standard.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S.
519, 520 (1972). The generous construction to be given the pro se litigant’s allegations “does
not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal
claim could be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). A reviewing
court need not accept “mere conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson v. City of
Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th Cir. 1990); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (“While
a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires
more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.” (quotations and citations omitted)). The court “will not supply additional
factual allegations to round out a plaintiff’s complaint or construct a legal theory on a
plaintiff’s behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-1174 (10th Cir. 1997).
Conclusory allegations without supporting facts are insufficient to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Hall v. Bellmon, supra.
Plaintiff has sued Defendants Sharp and Chrisman in both their official and individual
capacities. A suit against a state official in his official capacity, however, is no different than
a suit against the State itself. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
Neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are “persons” under §1983.
Id. Moreover, claims against state officials, such as Defendants Sharp and Chrisman, in their
official capacity constitutes a suit for monetary damages against the sate and are barred by
sovereign immunity. Trujillo v. Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1223 (2006). As a result,
plaintiff’s amended complaint fails to state a cause of action against Defendants Sharp and
Chrisman in their official capacity. Therefore, these claims are dismissed.
In order to state a claim against Defendants Sharp and Chrisman in their individual
capacities, plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to establish that they personally participated
in the alleged violation of plaintiff’s constitutional rights. “Personal participation is an
essential allegation in a § 1983 claim.” Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63(10th Cir.
1976)(citations omitted). See also Mee v. Ortega, 967 F.2d 423, 430-31 (10th Cir. 1992). In
order to establish liability under § 1983, plaintiff must plead facts which show “an
affirmative link . . . between the constitutional deprivation and either the supervisor’s
personal participation, his exercise of control or direction, or his failure to supervise.”
Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th Cir. 2009). A prison official will not be held
liable under § 1983 solely based upon his supervisory position. Grimsley v. MacKay, 93
F.3d 676, 679 (10th Cir. 1996).
In regard to plaintiff’s individual claims against Defendants Sharp and Chrisman, an
inmate may bring a § 1983 claim regarding his conditions of confinement against individuals
when he can show “deliberate indifference” to attend to his basic food, clothing, shelter and
medical care needs. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811
(1994). See also, Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27, 104 S.Ct. 3194, 82 L.Ed.2d 393
A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment, however, only when two
requirements are met. Farmer, supra. First, the deprivation alleged must be “‘sufficiently
serious’ [in that] the ... official’s act or omission must result in the denial of ‘the minimal
civilized measure of life’s necessities.’” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347, 101 S.Ct. 2392, 2399, 69 L.Ed.2d 59 (1981). The second
subjective prong requires a plaintiff show that the prison official had a “sufficiently culpable
state of mind.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297, 111 S.Ct. 2321, 115 L.Ed.2d 271 (1991).
Specifically, to satisfy the subjective prong, “the plaintiff must allege facts which, if true,
would show that the official being sued subjectively perceived facts from which to infer
substantial risk to the prisoner, that he did in fact draw the inference, and that he then
disregarded the risk.” Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3rd 693, 703 (6th Cir.2001).
None of the facts alleged by plaintiff establishes that Defendants Sharp and Chrisman
were “deliberately indifferent” to plaintiff’s personal safety. “The Eighth Amendment does
not outlaw cruel and unusual ‘conditions’; it outlaws cruel and unusual ‘punishments.’”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837, 114 S.Ct. at 1979.
Additionally, plaintiff has not shown that Defendants Sharp and Chrisman were
personally responsible for the decisions which led to the alleged overcrowding at the prison
facility or the decisions regarding the amount of funding which was allocated to the facility.
While plaintiff alleges the defendants “ordered” food to be rationed thereby causing spoiled
food and small portions of food to be served, plaintiff offers nothing to support these
conclusory allegations. Plaintiff offers no facts to connect the conditions at the facility with
his alleged illness/injuries. Plaintiff simply fails to allege anything more than negligence in
regard to the timeliness of repairs at the facility and/or the screening of inmates.
Following the filing of defendants’ motion to dismiss, plaintiff filed a motion to
supplement his original pleading (Docket No. 77). Nothing contained within that pleading
contains sufficient factual allegations to save plaintiff’s amended complaint from dismissal
for failure to state a claim. Rather, the motion indicates some of the policies which plaintiff
claims these defendants were responsible for instituting remained the policies long after the
defendants left the facility. Clearly, these defendants were not personally responsible for the
number of inmates which were sent by DOC officials to MACC. Nothing contained in
plaintiff’s amended complaint or his supplemental motion establish that Defendants Sharp
or Chrisman were aware of any connections between plaintiff’s alleged illnesses/injuries and
the conditions of the facility. After careful review, the court finds plaintiff has failed to state
a claim for relief, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), against either Defendant Sharp or
Chrisman in their individual capacities.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants Sharp and Chrisman’s motion to dismiss
(Docket No. 73) is GRANTED and plaintiff’s motion to supplement original pleading
(Docket No. 77) is DENIED.
IT IS SO ORDERED on this 7th day of August, 2017.
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