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Snider v. Unknown Schmidt

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

September 23, 2019

UNKNOWN SCHMIDT 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 for failure to state a claim against Defendant Corizon Medical Corporation.


         I. Factual Allegations

         Plaintiff Joshua Snider, a transgender prisoner, was incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Marquette Branch Prison (MBP) in Marquette, Michigan, when she filed her complaint. The events about which Plaintiff complains occurred while she was incarcerated at MBP and at the Carson City Correctional Facility (DRF), the Oaks Correctional Facility (ECF), the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility (IBC), and the Michigan Reformatory (RMI).

         Plaintiff sues Corizon Medical Corporation (Corizon) and Corizon employees Dr. Unknown Schmidt and Nurse Unknown Faulk. She also sues Health Services Unit Manager (HUM) C. Scott, who works for the MDOC at RMI, and Brenda James, who works for the MDOC at MBP. In addition, Plaintiff sues five unnamed individuals identified as “Jane Doe #1, ” “Jane Doe #2, ” “Dr. John Doe #1, ” “Dr. John Doe #2, and “John Doe #3, ” who work for either Corizon or the MDOC.

         Plaintiff alleges that she has been diagnosed with “GID” (i.e., gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria) and has been living as a transgendered woman since the age of 16. She became a prisoner with the MDOC in March 2016. For at least a year before her incarceration with the MDOC, she took female hormones. When she arrived at the MDOC, she was labeled “Transgendered, ” but she did not receive hormone therapy at that time. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.6.)

         Plaintiff met with each of the individual defendants at various times from 2017 to 2019 and discussed her condition or need for hormone treatment, but she did not receive that treatment until February 2019. For a brief period in September 2017, Plaintiff received hormone treatment while detained at the Wayne County Jail under a writ for pending criminal charges against her. In contrast, it took several years for her to receive hormone treatment while under Defendants’ care. Plaintiff also requested female undergarments at some point in time, but in January 2019, Dr. Schmidt told her that those garments were not approved.

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, because they failed to provide hormone treatment for almost two years, and have not provided female undergarments. As relief, Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment against Defendants Corizon, Schmidt, Faulk, Scott, James, John Doe #1, John Doe #2, John Doe #3, Jane Doe #1, and Jane Doe #2. She also seeks damages and an injunction requiring the MDOC or its agents to provide her with undergarments appropriate for her gender.

         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).

         A. Corizon

         A private entity like Corizon, which contracts with the State of Michigan to perform the traditional state function of providing healthcare to inmates, can “be sued under § 1983 as one acting ‘under color of state law.’” See Hicks v. Frey,992 F.2d 1450, 1458 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 54 (1988)). For Corizon to be liable, however, the execution of its policy or custom must be the source of the alleged injury. Perry v. Corizon Health, Inc., No. 17-2489, 2018 WL 3006334, at *1 (6th Cir. June 8, 2018). In other words, Corizon is subject to the same standard for liability as a municipal defendant. Id. (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)). “[M]unicipal defendants may only be sued under § 1983 for their own ...

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