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Barrera v. Newsome

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

January 14, 2020

John Joseph Barrera, Plaintiff,
v.
Unknown Newsome et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          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.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF) in Coldwater, Branch County, Michigan. The events about which he complains occurred at the LCF. Plaintiff sues Food Service Supervisor Unknown Newsome, Sergeant Unknown Brand, and Physician Assistant M. Ouellette.

         Plaintiff alleges that he is an elderly prisoner who has medical issues and eats on the Chow Hall Diet Lines, which is separate from the general population food serving lines. Plaintiff states that on May 30, 2019, he entered the food service area for his diet line noon meal, which is commonly referred to as the Early Diet Line Chow. As Plaintiff entered the food line to receive his tray, a white inmate who was working on the line became hostile and argued loudly with Plaintiff. Plaintiff took his meal and sat at a table but was so nervous that he could not finish eating. Plaintiff turned in his tray and tried to leave the chow hall, but as he approached the exit, the inmate kitchen worker who had harassed Plaintiff ran over and hit Plaintiff in the back of the head. Plaintiff lost consciousness and fell to the floor. After approximately one minute, Plaintiff regained consciousness and left the chow hall area.

         As Plaintiff exited the chow hall, Defendant Brand and another officer had Plaintiff escorted to health care. Plaintiff was subsequently taken to the hospital where he was found to have a lump and swelling on the back of his head. Plaintiff claims that both Defendants Newsome and Brand heard Plaintiff's attacker yelling at Plaintiff, but failed to intervene in order to protect Plaintiff from being assaulted.

         On May 31, 2019, June 5, 2019, and June 11, 2019, Plaintiff requested medical attention for headaches related to his injury. Plaintiff's requests were denied by Defendant Ouellette, who stated that she was not going to waste taxpayer's money. On August 6, 2019, Plaintiff was finally sent to Henry Ford Hospital for a C.T. scan. On October 3, 2019, Plaintiff had an EKG and pain medication was ordered for him. Plaintiff complained that the medication was not working and Defendant Ouellette increased his medication dosage despite the fact that Plaintiff was sixty-seven years old and had a liver disorder. Defendant Ouellette told Plaintiff that she would not waste taxpayer's money by sending Plaintiff for an MRI. Plaintiff filed grievances regarding the failure to protect and the denial of medical treatment, but his grievances were rejected at each step.

         Plaintiff states that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as equitable relief.

         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. Eighth Amendment

         Plaintiff asserts Eighth Amendment claims against each of the named Defendants. The Eighth Amendment imposes a constitutional limitation on the power of the states to punish those convicted of crimes. Punishment may not be “barbarous” nor may it contravene society's “evolving standards of decency.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345-46 (1981). The Amendment, 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). The deprivation alleged must result in the denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; see also Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 600-01 (6th Cir. 1998). The Eighth Amendment is only concerned with “deprivations of essential food, medical care, or sanitation” or “other conditions intolerable for prison ...


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