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Campbell v. Tennessee Department of Corrections

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

June 12, 2015

APRIL CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TODD CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff April Campbell, a prisoner in custody at the Mark Luttrell Correctional Center in Memphis, Tennessee brings this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that staff and medical providers at the Carter County Detention Center in Elizabethton, Tennessee and at the Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville were deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs, resulting in the death of her fetus. She also asserts state-law negligence claims.

The plaintiff originally filed this action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. That court granted the plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis but transferred the action to this Court as the more appropriate venue. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1). 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

The plaintiff names the following as defendants in this action: (1) the Tennessee Department of Corrections ("TDOC"); (2) Tennessee Prison for Women ("TPW"); (3) TDOC Commissioner, Derrick Schofield; (4) Carter County Detention Center ("CCDC"); (5) Carter County Sheriff, Tom Smith; (6) Unknown Carter County Deputy; (7) Unknown Nurses, Carter County Detention Center; and (8) Unknown Nurses, TPW.[1]

The plaintiff was housed at CCDC at some point prior to June 27, 2014. The plaintiff asserts that Carter County Sheriff Tom Smith was negligent in removing from her cell items provided by the medical department, including an extra sleeping mat. He also left the plaintiff overnight in the "drunk tank" because he "heard" she was going to sue over the lack of care received at CCDC. (ECF No. 1, at 5-6.) The plaintiff alleges very generally that she was pregnant, that healthcare providers and staff at CCDC knew she was pregnant, and that they failed to provide adequate treatment, resulting ultimately in the loss of her unborn child. ( See ECF No. 1, at 6 ("Carter County Detention Center... was aware of my pregnancy.... The treatment I received fell beyond the statutorily required level of adequate care. My complaints were ignored and left untreated which resulted in the loss of my child.... Carter County officials... willfully ignored my situation causing me physical and emotional injury.")

The plaintiff was transported from CCDC to TPW on June 27, 2014, "in large part" because she was pregnant (she does not state to what stage her pregnancy had progressed) and needed better healthcare than could be provided at CCDC. Upon her arrival at TPW, a Carter County Deputy Sheriff, name unknown, accidentally fired a shotgun into the trunk of the vehicle in which the plaintiff remained handcuffed and sitting in the backseat. The bullets did not penetrate into the passenger area of the vehicle, and the plaintiff was not physically injured, but she could "feel the buckshot on [her] back." (ECF No. 1, at 5.) The plaintiff was thereafter left unattended in the vehicle for 10 to 15 minutes while panic and chaos ensued around her. She states that, prior to this time, she had not been feeling well and had been spotting a little bit of blood; she claims this incident exacerbated whatever problems she was having.

The plaintiff relayed this information to the medical department at TPW upon her intake but was simply told she would "probably" see the obstetrician-gynecologist the next day. The next day she again reported to the security staff and the nurses who brought medication that she was spotting and needed to see the doctor. She was again told she would see the doctor the next day. This went on for a full week during which the plaintiff tried unsuccessfully to obtain treatment. After a week, the plaintiff began bleeding in earnest, rather than simply spotting. At this point she was finally taken to see the OB/GYN. The doctor was unable to detect a heartbeat in the fetus. He arranged for an ultrasound later the same day and confirmed that the fetus had died in utero . The plaintiff was taken to the hospital the next day to have labor induced and to deliver the deceased fetus.

The plaintiff asserts that officials at both facilities were deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs, in violation of her constitutional rights, and that they were negligent in their care for her. She seeks compensatory damages, unspecified equitable relief "to ensure this does not happen to another inmate, " attorney fees, costs, and punitive damages.

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 ...


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