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Brown v. Smith

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 31, 2016

DAVID BROWN, Plaintiff,
WILLIE SMITH et al., Defendants.



         This is a civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), 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. §§ 1915(e)(2), 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 amended complaint (ECF No. 8) for failure to state a claim against Defendants Peterson and Paletta.[1] The Court will serve the complaint against Defendants W. Smith, E. Smith, J. Gardner, R. Gorman, P. Jensen, M. Turner, J. LeBarre, R. Gerlach, J. Novak, E. Huss, S. Campbell, T. Doyle, T. Lambert, K. Stevens, A. Platte, J. Fidler, (unknown) Erickson, G. Collins, (unknown) McQueary, J. Paski, D. Gonzales, (unknown) Anderson, (unknown) Beecher, (unknown) Lindsey, and (unknown) Shroad.[2]


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). Plaintiff is presently housed at the Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF) in Carson City, Michigan. Some of the events that form the basis for his complaint transpired during his tenure at DRF. Others occurred while Plaintiff was housed at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF) in Ionia, Michigan.

         In his complaint, Plaintiff sues several MDOC employees at ICF: Warden Willie Smith; Deputy Warden Erica Huss; Residential Unit Manager Eric Smith; Corrections Officers J. Gardner, R. Gorman, and P. Jensen; Prison Counselor Marcus Turner; Nurse Jody LaBarre; Dr. Roger Gerlach; and Librarian Joseph Novak. Plaintiff also sues several MDOC employees at DRF: Warden Sherman Campbell; Litigation Coordinator Daniel Gonzales; Residential Unit Manager (unknown) Anderson; Assistant Residential Unit Supervisors (unknown) Beecher and (unknown) McQueary; Doctor (unknown) Doyle; Health Unit Manager T. Lambert; Nurse K. Stevens; Library Technician A. Platte; Sergeants (unknown) Fidler, (unknown) Collins, and (unknown) Erickson; and Corrections Officer J. Paski. Plaintiff sues Doctor Lindsey from the Duane L. Waters Hospital in Jackson, Michigan. Plaintiff also sues two unknown parties: Unknown Party 1, described as the onsite optometrist at ICF; and Unknown Party 2, described as the Chief Medical Officer for Corizon Healthcare. Finally, Plaintiff sues Attorneys Kevin Peterson and Teresa Palettea from the Legal Writer Program.

         Plaintiff's complaint fails to comply with the mandate of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 in that it is not a “short and plain statement of the claim . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In a rambling discourse spanning more than five years and twenty-eight pages Plaintiff abandons the convention of normal chronology, indiscriminately jumping from one claim to another. Despite these pleading deficiencies, Plaintiff's complaint succeeds in communicating the core of his claims: that the Defendants have violated federal law or Plaintiff's constitutional rights by failing to treat or accommodate several serious eye conditions that plague him: keratoconus, cataracts, photophobia, and glaucoma.[3]

         Plaintiff does not allege that he was denied treatment for his eye conditions; instead, read liberally, his complaint alleges that the treatment was so inadequate that it might as well have been no treatment. According to Plaintiff, the health-care-provider Defendants simply would not follow the recommendations by outside specialists with regard to a particular type of contact lens or corrective surgery. Ultimately, the treatments employed, principally lenses that plaintiff contends were inappropriate, permitted and perhaps caused additional eye problems. Similarly, but perhaps of lesser significance, Plaintiff indicates the solar shields offered by Defendants to ameliorate the effects of his photophobia were not always available and were significantly inferior to sunglasses Plaintiff obtained on his own.

         Plaintiff also alleges shortcomings in the Defendants' accommodations of his disability. In some respects Plaintiff contends they did not accommodate him at all. Plaintiff notes that the shower was a particular hazard for him. Despite his legal blindness, Plaintiff was compelled to shower with groups of other prisoners. There were no ramps, no safety rails, no handicap chairs, and no floor mats. Plaintiff complains that Defendants at both ICF and DRF denied him the use of a cane, requiring him instead to use other prisoners as guides. Plaintiff states the other prisoners were not always known to him and presented risks to his health and safety. Plaintiff also complains that Defendants purposely and knowingly housed him with other inmates that posed a substantial risk of injury to Plaintiff. Plaintiff further claims he was injured as a result.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his First Amendment right of access to the courts, first at ICF and then at DRF, when they refused to permit him to use the legal writer program, a program available to him because of his blindness. Plaintiff alleges the Defendants' refusals as well as other harms occasioned by Defendants were retaliatory for his filing of Brown v. Prelesnik, No. 1:12-cv-873. Additionally, at DRF, Plaintiff claims that Defendants would not let him wear sunglasses in the law library to protect himself from the headaches caused by his photophobia. Plaintiff alleges that refusing him sunglasses in the law library effectively denied him access to the courts.

         Plaintiff also raises claims unrelated to his eye conditions. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Shroad, Gorman, and Gardner were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical need arising from not eating for an extended period of time; that Defendants Huss, and Jensen deprived Plaintiff of showers and yard and beat him or directed that others beat him with no justification.

         Plaintiff contends that the actions (or inaction) of the Defendants violated his rights under the First, Eighth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments as well as his rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

         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 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 - ...

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