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Batts v. Pierce

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

November 7, 2019

C. PIERCE, Defendant.


          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         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.


         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff presently is incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Chippewa Correctional Facility (URF) in Kincheloe, Chippewa County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at that facility. Plaintiff sues URF Optometrist C. Pierce.

         According to the complaint, Defendant Pierce examined Plaintiff's vision on July 5, 2018. Defendant Pierce concluded that Plaintiff had a mild distance vision impairment, as well as a need for a reading prescription. Because Plaintiff did not have a severe enough distance impairment to qualify for bifocals, Defendant Pierce issued two prescriptions. The first, for reading glasses, supposedly was ordered. Plaintiff also was given a prescription for distance, and he was advised that he could order a pair of distance glasses using his own funds, if he wished to do so.

         On October 10, 2018, Plaintiff sent a kite to health services, complaining that he needed bifocals or a pair of reading glasses and a pair of distance glasses. Health care responded that a pair of reading glasses had been ordered on July 5, 2018, and that Plaintiff could order from MSI (Michigan State Industries) a pair of mild corrective glasses for distance use.

         More than five months later, on March 31, 2019, Plaintiff wrote a second kite to health services, complaining that eight months had elapsed since his visit with Defendant Pierce, but Plaintiff had not yet received any glasses. Plaintiff complained that he could not read, see objects, or see where he was going. Nurse Smith responded to the kite on April 1, 2019, saying that, upon investigation, the prescription had been issued, but the glasses had not been ordered as they should have been. The response also indicated that the glasses would be ordered and that Plaintiff could expect them in 8 to 10 weeks. (Apr. 1, 2019, Kite Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.13.) Plaintiff ultimately received his reading glasses.

         Shortly after receiving the April 1, 2019, response from health care, Plaintiff filed a Step-I grievance. The grievance was denied at Step-I on April 12, 2019, with the explanation that, on October 8, 2018, Plaintiff had refused bifocals and therefore had been issued a pair of reading glasses together with a prescription for mild distance glasses at his own expense. (Step-I Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.17.) Plaintiff filed a Step-II grievance, which was denied on May 20, 2019. The Step-II grievance responder indicated that Plaintiff's vision did not qualify for issuance of bifocals, as his need for distance correction was mild. Because policy does not authorize more than one pair of glasses per exam, Plaintiff was issued one pair of reading glasses, though he was informed that he could purchase a pair of distance glasses at his own expense. (Step-II Grievance Response, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.18.)

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Dr. Pierce, by not ordering bifocals or two pairs of glasses and by not ensuring that the reading glasses were actually ordered, was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive 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).

         III. ...

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