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Peglow v. Alfrey

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

June 14, 2018

JOAN ALFREY et al., Defendants.



         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. §§ 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 all Defendants for failure to state a claim.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Central Michigan Correctional Facility (STF) in St. Louis, Gratiot County, Michigan. The events about which he complains, however, occurred at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC) in Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. Plaintiff sues IBC Nurses Joan Alfrey, Meridith J. Hammond, Kevin D. Corning, Lindsey K. Taylor, Mitchell S. Williams, Jerry C. Ritz, Karen Rosa, Sherri Gregurek, [1] S. Buskirk, and A. Kamp, as well as one or more IBC Unknown Medical Providers (Doctors). He also sues Nurse and Clinical Adminstrative Assistant, Jackson Health Care Office Administration, Sabrina Aiken; Nurse R. Harbaugh from the MDOC's Bureau of Health Care Services; MDOC Manager of the Grievance Section, Office of Legal Affairs, Richard D. Russell, and the Michigan Department of Correcitons.

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from back pain. Plaintiff's complaint tracks his attempts to get medical care to relieve his back pain beginning in January of 2015 and continuing through November of 2016. Plaintiff's brief allegations are augmented by documents he attaches to his complaint including Health Care Requests, Grievances, and Responses. Plaintiff contends that each of the Defendants played some role in denying him treatment for his back pain. He claims that each Defendant was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff seeks $100, 000.00 in damages from each Defendant.

         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 alleges that Defendants have violated the Eighth Amendment.

         III. Deliberate Indifference

         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. 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 v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 898 (6th Cir. 2004), 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) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). Deliberate indifference “entails something more than mere negligence, ” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835, 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.” Id. Under Farmer, “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.” Id. at 837.

         Plaintiff's complaint allegations as to the conduct of each Defendant are conclusory and general. He attributes the denial of medical treatment to “all Defendants.” He states that “all Defendants” have acted with deliberate indifference. In the body of his complaint, he does not even mention the conduct of a specific Defendant until he describes the actions of Defendants Buskirk, Aikin, Harbaugh, and Russell during August, September and November of 2016 when they denied Plaintiff's grievances.

         Only the documents attached to Plaintiff's complaint give some clue as to the role each Defendant played in the alleged denial of medical care.

         A. Nurse Joan Alfrey.

         On August 21, 2015, Plaintiff sent a Health Care Request asking to see the doctor about back pain. (8/21/2015 Health Care Request, ECF No. 1, PageID.9.) He reported that the pain was “really bad” and causing discomfort and a lack of sleep. (Id.) Nurse Joan Alfrey responded on August 24, 2015. (8/24/2015 Kite Response, ECF No. 1, PageID.10.) She commented that in addition to acetaminophen, Plaintiff should continue to take ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory. (Id.) In addition, she recommended that Plaintiff stay active by walking. (Id.) Finally, Nurse Alfrey told Plaintiff to rekite if needed. (Id.)

         There is no other mention of Defendant Alfrey in the complaint. Plaintiff's allegations indicate that he knew that the nurse Defendants did not have the authority to provide the relief he was seeking. He admits that the nurses could not prescribe the medications or order the MRI he wanted. Thus, one cannot infer deliberate indifference from the nurses' failure to prescribe medications or order an MRI.

         Moreover, there is nothing in the complaint to suggest the nurses ignored Plaintiff's requests for help. Whenever one of the Defendant nurses intervened, he or she would implement the prescribed course of treatment or schedule an appointment as requested. Therefore, Plaintiff's allegations regarding Defendant Alfrey, and all the other nurses, falls well short of identifying the requisite indifferent state of mind. Based on the limited information Plaintiff has provided, he has failed to state a deliberate indifference claim against Nurse Alfrey.

         B. Nurse Meredith Hammond

         On August 26, 2015, Plaintiff sent a Health Care Request asking to see a doctor because his back pain was bad and over-the-counter medications were not working. (8/26/2015 Health Care Request, ECF No. 1, PageID.11.) On August 28, 2015, Nurse Hammond responded by ...

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