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Burdine v. Pilliers

April 23, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Ronnie Greer United States District Judge


This is a pro se civil rights action for injunctive relief and damages filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff is Christopher L. Burdine, who was a prisoner in the Washington County Detention Center (WCDC) in Jonesborough, Tennessee at the time of filing.*fn1 Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, which reflects that he lacks sufficient financial wherewithal to pay the filing fee (Doc. 1), is GRANTED.

I. Screening the Complaint

In his standardized complaint form and handwritten attachment, plaintiff alleges multiple claims. The Court must now review the complaint to determine whether it states a claim entitling plaintiff to relief or is frivolous or malicious or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A; McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607 (6th Cir. 1997). If so, this suit must be dismissed.

II. Plaintiff's Allegations

The claims contained in the complaint have been divided into categories to facilitate the screening process.

A. Claims for Injunctive Relief

At the outset, there are problems with plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief. This is so because a prisoner's request for injunctive or declaratory relief against jail officials cannot be granted once he is transferred from the correctional institution of which he complains to a different facility. Kensu v. Haigh, 87 F.3d 172, 175 (6th Cir. 1996). Plaintiff has been discharged from his imprisonment; his release from the WCDC has rendered these particular claims moot.

B. Claims against Defendant Glean Pilliers

In this category, plaintiff makes the allegations which follow. Several times, plaintiff asked WCDC nurse Glean Pilliers if he (plaintiff) could speak with his doctor, but defendant nurse just gave him some medication that made him feel sick. Plaintiff, who is HIV-positive, also informed this defendant that he needed to make an outside appointment to see his doctor, but he (plaintiff) never got a chance to do that. Further, when plaintiff approached defendant Pilliers's desk to have his blood pressure checked, defendant embarrassed plaintiff by raising his voice at him as though he were a nobody.

Prison authorities who are deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of prisoners violate the Eighth Amendment rights of those prisoners. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). An Eighth Amendment claim is composed of two parts: an objective component, which requires plaintiff to show a "sufficiently serious" deprivation, and a subjective component, which requires a showing of a sufficiently culpable state of mind -one of deliberate indifference. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 and 842 (1994).

Deliberate indifference is illustrated by a prison official who acts or fails to act despite knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate under his care. Id. However, where a prisoner receives some medical care and the dispute is over its adequacy, no claim has been stated. Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th Cir. 1976). By the same token, no viable Eighth Amendment claim is stated by allegations that a medical condition has been negligently diagnosed or treated, and the mere fact that the victim happens to be a prisoner does not convert it into a constitutional violation. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106.

The Court simply does not see a constitutional violation here because there is no evidence of deliberate indifference. Defendant nurse did not disregard plaintiff's need for medical care: he gave him medications. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835-36 (concluding that, by taking reasonable measures to abate the harm, a defendant avoids liability, even if the harm is not averted). The fact that plaintiff reports that it made him sick is not a constitutional matter but is, if anything, medical negligence.

Insofar as plaintiff's unfulfilled request to see a doctor is concerned, he has not described any problems he was having at that time with his HIV-positive condition that necessitated a visit with his doctor. The Eighth Amendment does not require that every request for medical care made by a prisoner be honored. Fitzke v. Shappelle, 468 F.2d 1072, 1076 (6th Cir. 1972). Moreover, plaintiff has presented no allegations of fact from which to infer that defendant Pilliers possessed the requisite state of mind of deliberate indifference. Absent contentions to show that this defendant knew that plaintiff was experiencing adverse symptoms as a consequence of being HIV-positive or that the undescribed symptoms exposed plaintiff to an excessive risk of harm, there is no viable claim of deliberate indifference. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837 ...

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