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Allen v. Alexsander

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

July 11, 2017

JAMES ALEXSANDER, et al., Defendants.


          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge

         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 complaint for failure to state a claim against Defendants Alexsander, Govern, Horton, Huss, Laiten, Neimisto, Tasson, Paville, and Woods. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendant Napel.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Damon Sean Allen, a state prisoner currently confined to the Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Deputy Warden James Alexsander, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Unknown Govern, Deputy Warden Connie Horton, Deputy Warden Erica Huss, Assistant Resident Unit Supervisor Mike Laiten, Warden Robert Napel, Inspector Ken Neimisto, Inspector Doug Tasson, Recreation Director Joel Paville, and Warden Jeffrey Woods.

         In Plaintiff's complaint, he alleges that on January 25, 2016, he fell approximately 15 to 20 feet from a peg climbing wall inside the gym during a work out class. Plaintiff required surgery at War Memorial Hospital to repair his left leg. On January 30, 2016, Plaintiff was taken to the infirmary at the Marquette Branch Prison (MBP). Plaintiff sent a letter to MDOC Director Heidi Washington complaining about the conditions that led to his accident.

         On February 3, 2016, Plaintiff was informed that he was being placed on a 90 day phone restriction. Plaintiff requested a formal hearing and refused to sign a waiver. After 14 business days, Plaintiff sent a kite to all the Defendants involved with the illegal phone restriction, requesting that his phone be reactivated because the time for holding a hearing had passed. Plaintiff's request was ignored. Plaintiff sent a second kite to all Defendants, asserting that his rights were being violated. Nurse Brenda James told Plaintiff that Defendant Napel was angry because staff had overheard Plaintiff and his mother talking about filing a lawsuit and had instituted the phone restriction in retaliation. During the phone restriction, Plaintiff's mother sent him a letter informing him that his nephew had died. Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the phone restriction, asserting that he suffered emotional distress because he was unable to communicate with his family around the time of his nephew's death. Plaintiff's phone was not reactivated until the 90 day period expired.

         On June 21, 2016, Plaintiff had the “fixator” surgically removed and the surgeon told Plaintiff that he would have to deal with arthritis in that area for the rest of his life. On August 24, 2016, Plaintiff sent a request for a declaratory ruling to the MDOC Director's Office regarding the lack of safety equipment in place when Plaintiff fell from the peg climbing wall. On September 6, 2016, Plaintiff was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder by Dr. Debra A. Leblanc, LMSW.

         Plaintiff states that Defendants violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks 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 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).

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide the proper safety equipment for the peg climbing wall. The Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of the Eighth Amendment embodies a constitutional limitation on the power of the states to punish those convicted of crime. Punishment may not be “barbarous, ” nor may it contravene society's “evolving standards of decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981); Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958). The clause therefore prohibits conduct by prison officials that involves the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (quoting Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 346.

         An Eighth Amendment claim comprises objective and subjective components: (1) a sufficiently grave deprivation and (2) a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 8341977 (1994); Woods v. LeCureux, 110 F.3d 1215, 1222 (6th Cir. 1997). A prison official cannot be found liable unless the official has acted with deliberate indifference; that is, the official must know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; see also Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 302-03 (1991) (deliberate indifference standard applies to all claims challenging conditions of confinement to determine whether defendants acted wantonly). The 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. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Thus, the mental state required ...

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