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Washington v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

October 8, 2014



TODD J. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Angelos Washington, a prisoner or pretrial detainee in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, brings this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that the medical providers at the Davidson County Sheriff's Office have been deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff's serious medical needs. The plaintiff's complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

I. Standard of Review

Under the PLRA, the Court must conduct an initial review of any civil complaint filed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), or brought by a prisoner-plaintiff against government entities or officials, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or challenging the conditions of confinement, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Upon conducting this review, the Court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), "governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)." Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive scrutiny on initial review, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Pro se status, however, does not exempt a plaintiff from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law. See Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989) ("Neither [the Supreme] Court nor other courts... have been willing to abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits.").

II. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff Angelos Washington sues "The State of Tennessee Metropolitan Gov." which the Court construes to mean both the State of Tennessee and the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County ("Metro Nashville"). He also names as defendants Correct Care Solutions ("CCS"), the entity in contract with Metro Nashville to provide medical services to inmates of the Davidson County Sheriff's Department Criminal Justice Center ("CJC"), and "Dr. Burns" and "Nurse Cindy, " who are employed at the CJC.

The plaintiff alleges that he is a paraplegic as a result of a gunshot wound in 2001. He uses an "in and out self cath. to empty his bladder." (Complaint, ECF No. 1, at 5.) According to the plaintiff, the catheters he uses to empty his bladder are disposable and intended to be used only one time in order to avoid the high risk of kidney infections. The plaintiff states that he has only one functioning kidney. Consequently, a kidney infection in his case could be life-threatening, and his medical providers strictly instructed him to use the catheters once only.

The plaintiff was taken into custody on July 3, 2014. On July 5, 2014, he put in a sick-call because he noticed symptoms of a bladder infection. He was not actually seen by Dr. Burns until July 10, five days later. Dr. Burns put the plaintiff on antibiotics but denied his request to be provided more than one catheter per day, and also denied the plaintiff's request for gloves and disinfectant wipes to help him avoid infection, on the basis of cost.

In August, the plaintiff was in pain and either still suffering from the same bladder infection or had incurred a new infection. He spoke to Nurse Cindy, explaining that the problem was not being able to change catheters frequently enough. Nurse Cindy, like Dr. Burns, denied the plaintiff's request for additional one-use catheters and instead told the plaintiff to wash out the catheter. Nurse Cindy also told him his request was denied because of the cost.

The plaintiff insists that Dr. Burns' and Nurse Cindy's refusal of his requests for additional catheters, in light of his recurring bladder infections and clear risk of kidney infections, amounts to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Based on the reference to cost, the Court also construes the complaint as asserting that the denial of the plaintiff's request for additional medical supplies based on cost resulted from a policy of either CCS or of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office and Metro Nashville.

III. Discussion

"To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must set forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under the color of state law." Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)).

The plaintiff's claims of constitutional violations are based on the alleged failure by jail medical personnel to provide adequate medical care. The Eighth Amendment, by its terms, prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment against those convicted of crimes. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The plaintiff here appears to be a pretrial detainee rather than a convicted prisoner. A pretrial detainee's rights are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth, but the standard is basically the same. See Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 812 (6th Cir. 2005) ("Although the Eighth Amendment's protections apply ...

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