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Hunt v. Braden

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Western Division

January 6, 2015

SHAWN BRADEN, ET AL., Defendants.


JAMES D. TODD, District Judge.

On June 20, 2014, Plaintiff Courtney Hunt, Tennessee Department of Correction prisoner number 516198, an inmate at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary ("WTSP") in Henning, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, accompanied by a copy of his trust account statement. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Plaintiff filed an in forma pauperis motion on July 1, 2014. (ECF No. 5.) In an order issued on July 2, 2014, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 6.) The Court issued an order on November 6, 2014, directing Plaintiff to sign his complaint. (ECF No. 7.) Plaintiff complied with that order on December 1, 2014. (ECF No. 8.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Shawn Braden and Willie Maharry, both of whom are correctional officers at the WTSP. ( See ECF No. 1 at PageID 3.) Defendants are sued in their individual capacities. ( Id. at PageID 4, ¶ 2.)

The complaint alleges that, on June 27, 2013, Plaintiff was working at the lawn mower shop when he got into a fight with another inmate. ( Id. ¶ 4.) After the fight, Defendant Braden allegedly began punching and hitting Plaintiff for no reason at all. ( Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant Maharry allegedly stood by and observed the assault. ( Id. at PageID 5, ¶ 12.) After the assault, Braden allegedly sent Plaintiff out to work in the hot sun. ( Id. at PageID 4-5, ¶ 5.) Braden sent the other inmate to the infirmary and "said that a tree fell on him." ( Id. at PageID 5, ¶ 5.)

The next day, June 28, 2013, Plaintiff told Sergeant Andreay Smith, who is not a party to this action, that he needed to see a doctor because he was bleeding inside his ear. In response to Smith's questions, Plaintiff told her what had happened and made a written statement. ( Id. ¶ 6.) At the clinic, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a swollen temple and a "busted eardrum." ( Id. ¶ 9.) The nurse gave Plaintiff an antibiotic shot. ( Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff was subsequently sent to the Lois N. DeBerry Special Needs Facility in Nashville, Tennessee. He continues to receive treatment on his eardrum. ( Id. ¶ 11.)

After receiving treatment on June 28, 2013, Plaintiff was placed in the "hole." ( Id. at PageID 6, ¶ 14.) On July 3, 2013, Plaintiff was served with a disciplinary charge for fighting with another inmate. ( Id. ¶ 15.) He asked the hearing officer to call Michael Upshaw as a witness. ( Id. ¶ 16.) The complaint does not state the outcome of the disciplinary hearing or any punishment that was imposed.

Plaintiff complains the other inmate received medical care immediately after the fight but he did not. ( Id. ¶ 17.) He seeks declaratory relief and compensatory and punitive damages. ( Id. at PageID 7-8.)

The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). "Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'" Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). "[P]leadings that... are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 ("Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also grounds' on which the claim rests.").

"A complaint can be frivolous either factually or legally." Hill, 630 F.3d at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989)). "Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Id. (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328-29).

Whether a complaint is factually frivolous under §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) is a separate issue from whether it fails to state a claim for relief. Statutes allowing a complaint to be dismissed as frivolous give judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as ...

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