United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
J. Jonker Chief United States District Judge
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. §§ 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 against Defendants Willie O. Smith,
John Christiansen, and Jeffrey Luther for failure to state a
is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of
Corrections (MDOC) at the Ionia Correctional Facility (ICF)
in Ionia, Michigan. The events about which he complains
occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues Warden Willie O.
Smith, Deputy Warden John Christiansen, and Prison Counselor
alleges that on October 10, 2017, Defendants Smith and
Christiansen authorized the use of chemical agents. It does
not appear that Defendants Smith and Christiansen actually
authorized the use of chemical agents on Plaintiff; however,
Plaintiff does not identify the prisoner whose actions
resulted in the authorization. “Unknown officers”
used excessive force when they sprayed the chemical agents.
Plaintiff claims that because of poor ventilation in his
unit, he was forced to sit in his cell barely able to breath
because of the residual chemical spray. Plaintiff notes that
his particular susceptibility to breathing difficulties are
documented in his medical file. Finally, Plaintiff contends
that Prison Counselor Luther failed to have his staff turn
off the ventilation system prior to deployment of the
contends he has suffered cruel and unusual punishment because
of the chemical spray incident. Plaintiff seeks damages in
the amount of $80, 000 to $60, 000, 000.00.
Failure to state a claim
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)).
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).
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 for an Eighth Amendment claim is not actual
intent, but something close to common-law recklessness.
Hubbert v. Brown, Nos. 95-1983, 95-1988, 96-1078,
1997 WL 242084, at *5 (6th Cir. May 18, 1997) (relying on
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836 n.4).
reason for focusing on a defendant's mental attitude is
to isolate those defendants who inflict punishment.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 839. The deliberate indifference
standard “describes a state of mind more blameworthy
than negligence.” Id. at 835; see also
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)
(“conduct that does not purport to be punishment at all
must involve more than the ordinary lack of due care for the
prisoner's interests or safety”). As the Supreme
The Eighth Amendment does not outlaw cruel and unusual
“conditions”; it outlaws cruel and unusual
“punishments.” An act or omission unaccompanied
by knowledge of a significant risk of harm might well be
something society wishes to discourage, and if harm does
result society might well wish to assure compensation. The
common law reflects such concerns when it imposes tort
liability on a purely objective basis. But an official's
failure to alleviate a significant risk that he should have
perceived but did not, while no cause for commendation,
cannot under our cases be condemned as the infliction of
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38 (citations omitted).
Thus, accidents, mistakes, and other types of negligence are
not constitutional violations merely because the victim is a
prisoner. Acord v. Brown, No. 93-2083, 1994 WL
679365, at *2 (6th Cir. Dec. 5, 1994) (citing Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Rather, what is
required is a ...