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Larson v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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

June 5, 2018

THOMAS LARSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, CORIZON CORPORATION, CHRIS WHITFORD, CONNIE J. IVES, K. HAMBLIN, RICHARD DASE, PETER M. WATSON, SOPHIA FORBES, and SABRINA AIKEN, Defendants.

         Honorable Denise Page Hood Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford

          OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING CORIZON CORPORATION AND THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS FROM THIS CASE AND DIRECTING SERVICE OF THE COMPLAINT ON THE MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

          Denise Page Hood Chief Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter has come before the Court on plaintiff Thomas Larson's civil rights complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1131 and 1343 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Title II of the ADA provides that, “[s]ubject to the provisions of this subchapter, no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132.

         Plaintiff is a state prisoner at the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Michigan. The defendants are the Michigan Department of Corrections, a private healthcare provider listed as Corizon Corporation (“Corizon”), and the following individuals employed at the Parnall Correctional Facility: Chris Whitford, the grievance coordinator; Connie J. Ives, the health care manager; K. Hamblin, R.N.; Richard Dase, R.N.; Peter M. Watson, N.P.; Sophia Forbes, R.N.; and Sabrina Aiken, a clinical administrative assistant.

         Plaintiff alleges that, among other things, he suffers from Chiari Malformation, which is a deformity that causes brain tissue to extend into the spinal canal, Myelopathy, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal, Syringomyelia, a disorder that causes a cyst to form on the spinal cord, and Dupatrons Contraction (curling) of the hands and feet. Plaintiff contends that the Michigan Department of Corrections has done nothing to treat his condition for the last two and a half years and that the defendants have discriminated against him by excluding him from the benefits, activities, and programs of the prison's general population on the basis of his condition. Plaintiff further alleges that the defendants have retaliated against him for filing grievances and for complaining about the lack of medical treatment. He seeks money damages and a declaratory judgment that the defendants have violated Title II of the ADA by refusing to make reasonable accommodations for his medical needs.

         II. LEGAL FRAMEWORK

         Due to indigence, the Court has permitted Plaintiff to proceed without prepayment of the fees and costs for this action. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, federal district courts must screen an indigent prisoner's civil complaint and dismiss the complaint or any portion of it that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1); Flanory v. Bonn, 604 F.3d 249, 252 (6th Cir. 2010). A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). “A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim if the allegations, taken as true, show the plaintiff is not entitled to relief.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007).

         While a complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citations omitted). In other words, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendants Chris Whitford, Connie Ives, K. Hamblin, and Sabrina Aiken

         Plaintiff alleges that grievance coordinator Chris Whitford receives his grievances, fails to adequately investigate his allegations, and then denies the grievances or forwards them to K. Hamblin for denial. (Compl., ¶¶ 8, 29.) Plaintiff alleges that Connie Ives, the health unit manager, co-signed most of his grievances against the medical department with total indifference to his medical needs. (Compl., ¶ 6.) Similarly, according to Plaintiff, K. Hamblin, R.N., and Sabrina Aiken, the administrative assistant, have denied all or most of his grievances with total indifference to his medical problems. (Compl., ¶¶ 7, 13, 30, regarding K. Hamblin, and ¶ 12, regarding Sabrina Aiken.)

         “The mere denial of a prisoner's grievance states no claim of constitutional dimension.” Alder v. Corr. Med. Servs., 73 Fed.Appx. 839, 841 (6th Cir. 2003); see also Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999) (concluding that the defendants did not violate the Constitution or a clearly established right to which the plaintiff was entitled when they merely denied administrative grievances and did not directly participate in, encourage, authorize, or acquiesce in the claimed retaliatory acts). Although Plaintiff also claims that K. Hamblin retaliated against him[1] for filing complaints, see Compl., p. 9, ¶ 3, he has not provided the Court with any direct evidence of retaliation. As a result, he

bears the initial burden to establish a prima facie case of retaliation, which requires a showing that (1) the plaintiff engaged in activity protected under the ADA; (2) the employer knew of that activity; (3) the employer took an adverse action against plaintiff; and (4) there was a causal ...

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