Moore #960770 v. Schroeder et al, No. 2:2020cv00179 - Document 3 (W.D. Mich. 2020)

Court Description: OPINION; signed by District Judge Paul L. Maloney (Judge Paul L. Maloney, cmc)
Download PDF
Moore #960770 v. Schroeder et al Doc. 3 Case 2:20-cv-00179-PLM-MV ECF No. 3 filed 10/13/20 PageID.15 Page 1 of 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN NORTHERN DIVISION ______ BRENITAZE MOORE, Plaintiff, v. Case No. 2:20-cv-179 Honorable Paul L. Maloney SARAH SCHROEDER et al., Defendants. ____________________________/ OPINION 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. § 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 against Defendant Schroeder. Discussion I. Factual Allegations Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Alger Correctional Facility (LMF) in Munising, Alger County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues the following LMF Case 2:20-cv-00179-PLM-MV ECF No. 3 filed 10/13/20 PageID.16 Page 2 of 6 employees: A/Warden Sarah Schroeder; Corrections Officers Unknown McGuire, Unknown Hannah, and Unknown Trombley; and Registered Nurse Amy Westcomb. Plaintiff alleges that LMF staff exposed him to tear gas when they deployed it into a cell near Plaintiff’s and ignored Plaintiff’s requests to clean himself and his cell and for medical attention. On July 12, 2020 Plaintiff was housed in a cell in administrative segregation. That evening, LMF staff deployed tear gas into neighboring prisoner’s cell. Plaintiff alleges that tear gas entered his cell via the ventilation system, and he began choking, vomiting, coughing, and crying as a result. He states that he further suffered from chest pains, a sore throat, and headaches thereafter. Plaintiff alleges that he notified Defendants McGuire, Hannah, and Trombley when they rounded the unit. Plaintiff alleges that all three refused to provide any help. Tear gas and residue remained in Plaintiff’s cell that night, and he allegedly lost consciousness several times as a result. Plaintiff asserts that 18 hours passed before he was given small towels to clean his cell, and another 24 hours passed before he was permitted to shower. Plaintiff states that he also submitted a request for medical assistance to Defendant Westcomb to address the chest pains, sore throat, headaches, and fainting. Plaintiff alleges that he did not receive a response and that Westcomb disposed of the request without processing it. Plaintiff alleges claims arising under the Eighth Amendment. For relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. II. 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 2 Case 2:20-cv-00179-PLM-MV ECF No. 3 filed 10/13/20 PageID.17 Page 3 of 6 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. 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 (1994). III. Respondeat Superior Plaintiff fails to make specific factual allegations against Defendant Schroeder, other than his claim that LMF staff used tear gas under her authority. According to the attached 3 Case 2:20-cv-00179-PLM-MV ECF No. 3 filed 10/13/20 PageID.18 Page 4 of 6 grievance response, Defendant Schroeder also denied Plaintiff’s Step-II grievance on the issue. (Attach. to Compl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.11.) Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691(1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 495 (6th Cir. 2009). A claimed constitutional violation must be based upon active unconstitutional behavior. Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 575-76 (6th Cir. 2008); Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 899 (6th Cir. 2002). The acts of one’s subordinates are not enough, nor can supervisory liability be based upon the mere failure to act. Grinter, 532 F.3d at 576; Greene, 310 F.3d at 899; Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 888 (6th Cir. 2004). Moreover, § 1983 liability may not be imposed simply because a supervisor denied an administrative grievance or failed to act based upon information contained in a grievance. See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official’s own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Plaintiff has failed to allege that Defendant Schroeder engaged in any active unconstitutional behavior. Accordingly, he fails to state a claim against her. IV. Eighth Amendment Plaintiff’s alleges that Defendants McGuire, Hannah, Trombley, and Westcomb were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they refused to help him or provide medical attention after his exposure to tear gas. 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. 4 Case 2:20-cv-00179-PLM-MV ECF No. 3 filed 10/13/20 PageID.19 Page 5 of 6 102, 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.” Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 899 (6th Cir. 2004). 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. 5 Case 2:20-cv-00179-PLM-MV ECF No. 3 filed 10/13/20 PageID.20 Page 6 of 6 Upon initial review, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants McGuire, Hannah, Trombley, and Westcomb. Conclusion Having conducted the review required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the Court determines that Defendant Schroeder will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants McGuire, Hannah, Trombley, and Westcomb remain in the case. An order consistent with this opinion will be entered. Dated: October 13, 2020 /s/ Paul L. Maloney Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge 6