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Trennon v. Rutherford County Sheriff Dep't

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

November 7, 2014

ROYCE TRENNON, No. 14533, Plaintiff,
v.
RUTHERFORD COUNTY SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants

Royce Trennon, Plaintiff, Pro se, Murfreesboro, TN.

MEMORANDUM

JOHN T. NIXON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Royce Trennon, an inmate incarcerated in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department and Rudd Medical Services. The Complaint (Doc. No. 1) 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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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 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." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

In reviewing the complaint to determine whether it states a plausible claim, " a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). 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, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (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."); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.App'x 608, at *5 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with " unique pleading requirements" and stating, " a court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading") (citation and internal quotation marks omitted; alteration in original).

II. Factual Allegations

Plaintiff submits pages of general objections to the operation of the jail in various respects, which he acknowledges do not pertain to his lawsuit. (Doc. No. 1 at 3.) According to th the Complaint, " this case is about 2 things, under the 8th Amendment": (1) Plaintiff was left in distress with an asthma attack for 2 hours; and (2) he is suffering from back and rib pain and difficulty breathing following a fall from the top bunk that he alleges was caused by some medication he was given. (Id. at 14.)

Plaintiff does not elaborate on the particular asthma attack about which he complains, or the jail staff's response to it. He alleges that after falling out of his bunk, he had 4 asthma attacks in 4 days ( id . at 20), and that after 40 days in the jail " they just are getting my breathing under control." (Id. at 15.)

Plaintiff alleges that in connection with his complaints of back and rib pain and breathing problems, he has been given two chest x-rays, both of which were negative, and continues to receive pain medication and multiple prednisone shots. (Id. at 18-20.) He also attaches an inmate grievance response from the jail's health services administrator stating that between September 10, 2014 and September 24, 2014, Plaintiff was seen and treated by medical staff 22 times, not including twice daily medication administration, and that he was being treated with prednisone, albuterol breathing treatments, an antibiotic and solumedrol injections. (Id. at 23.)

III. Discussion

Plaintiff brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to vindicate alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights. Section 1983 confers a private federal right of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, to state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that " the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law." Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiff fails to state a viable claim against the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department, which is not a " person" subject to suit under § 1983. Petty v. Cnty. of Franklin, Ohio, 478 F.3d 341, 347 (6th Cir. 2007) (a county sheriff's department is not a " person" subject to liability under § 1983).

Plaintiff also fails to state a claim for deprivation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs " constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" and violates the Eighth Amendment. Ruiz v. Martin, 72 F.App'x 271, 275 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976)). A " serious medical need" is " one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Villegas v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville, 709 F.3d 563, 570 (6th Cir. 2013). But mere claims of negligent treatment or medical malpractice do not amount to deliberate indifference. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. " Where a prisoner has received some medical attention and the dispute is over the adequacy of the treatment, federal courts are generally reluctant to second guess medical judgments and to constitutionalize claims which sound in state tort law." Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th Cir. 1976). To prevail under those circumstances, an inmate must establish that the treatment he received was " so woefully inadequate as to amount to no treatment at all." Ruiz, 72 F.App'x at 276 (quoting Westlake, 537 F.2d at 860 n.5).

Plaintiff's own complaint demonstrates that the jail has provided frequent medical care for his ailments, and that medical staff have made efforts to diagnose his condition and to alleviate his symptoms that cannot be characterized as " woefully inadequate." The simple fact that he continues to experience some pain is not sufficient to establish the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain required to offend the Constitution. The jail's medical staff may not have been completely effective in remedying Plaintiff's physical complaints, but they have clearly not been deliberately indifferent to them.

IV. CONCLUSION

For the reasons set forth herein, this action will be DISMISSED with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. An appropriate order is filed herewith.

It is so ORDERED.

ORDER

Plaintiff Royce Trennon, an inmate incarcerated in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department and Rudd Medical Services. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis . (Doc. No. 2.) In addition, his Complaint (Doc. No. 1) 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.

A. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), a prisoner bringing a civil action may be permitted to file suit without prepaying the filing fee of $350 required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Because it is apparent from Plaintiff's submission that he lacks the funds to pay the entire filing fee in advance, his application to proceed as a pauper (Doc. No. 2) is GRANTED.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(b) and 1914(a), Plaintiff is nonetheless assessed the $350.00 civil filing fee. The Warden of the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center, as custodian of Plaintiff's prison trust account, is DIRECTED to submit to the clerk of court, as an initial payment, the greater of: (a) 20% of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's credit at the jail; or (b) 20% of the average monthly balance to the plaintiff's credit for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (1). Thereafter, the custodian shall submit 20% of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to the plaintiff for the preceding month), but only when the plaintiff's monthly income exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (2). Payments shall continue until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full to the clerk of court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (3).

The clerk of court MUST send a copy of this order to the warden of the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center to ensure compliance with that portion of 28 U.S.C. § 1915 pertaining to the payment of the filing fee. If Plaintiff is transferred from his present place of confinement, the warden must ensure that a copy of this order follows Plaintiff to his new place of confinement, for continued compliance herewith. All payments made pursuant to this order must be submitted to the clerk of court for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, 801 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

B. Initial Review of the Complaint

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2), the Court is required to conduct an initial review of any complaint filed in forma pauperis, and to dismiss the complaint if it is facially frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. For the reasons set forth in the accompanying Memorandum, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for which relief can be granted, and this action is DISMISSED with prejudice. 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e) (2) (B) and 1915(e) (2) (A). Any appeal of this Order would not be in good faith as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) (3).

Entry of this Order constitutes the Judgment in this action.

It is so ORDERED.


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