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Scarbrough v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 22, 2016

JOHNATHAN E. SCARBROUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE, BREANNE SPILLMAN, MASON BYRD, JOHN DAVIS, INMATE BROOKS, CHRIS HARVILL, and RN-ALEX, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THOMAS A. VARLAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on a pro se prisoner's complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1] and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3]. It appears from the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis that Plaintiff lacks sufficient financial resources to pay the $350.00 filing fee. Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. 3] will be GRANTED. For the reasons set forth below, however, no process shall issue and this action will be DISMISSED for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983.

         I. Screening Standard

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, sua sponte dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915(A); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007) “governs dismissals for failure state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] 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 an initial review under the PLRA, 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). Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         II. Allegations of the Complaint

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that (1) Defendant Spillman failed to treat a medical issue resulted in permanent scarring in Plaintiff's genital area; (2) filthy jail conditions led to Plaintiff being infected with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”); (3) Grainger County has a “major history” of incompetency and lack of compliance due to staff leaving and the jail is in the “the turmoil of neglect and poor systematic procedure;” and (4) these conditions have resulted in possible permanent damage to Plaintiff's genital area [Doc. 1 p. 4].

         In support of these allegations, Plaintiff states that on Wednesday, July 6, 2016, he noticed a pimple on the left side of his penis and that he “mashed it and washed the area real good. Not thinking about the showers being nasty and not cleaned properly. The drain clog[]s up causing about [three] inches of water in [the] shower . . . . Not getting our towels washed daily, all the [dirtiness] from all the other inmates is now on your towel” [Doc. 1-1 p. 2]. Plaintiff then asserts that at lunchtime on July 8, 2016, [1] he told Defendant Sgt. Byrd he needed to see the nurse and that at four p.m., he told Defendant Sgt. Byrd the specifics of “his emergencies” [Doc. 1 p. 5; Doc. 1-1 p. 2]. Plaintiff states that at six or six-thirty p.m., Defendant Sgt. Byrd advised him that Defendant Nurse Spillman had stated she could not see males with private area medical issues and had therefore put him on the doctor list to be seen Monday [Doc. 1 p. 5; Doc. 1-1 p. 3].

         Plaintiff states that he then asked Defendant Sgt. Byrd where the male nurse was, but Defendant Sgt. Byrd did not know [Doc. 1 p. 5; Doc. 1-1 p. 3]. After shift change occurred at seven p.m., Plaintiff states that he requested a visit with Defendant Sgt. John Davis and that, after he showed Defendant Sgt. Davis his problem, Defendant Sgt. John Davis contacted the jail administrator, who advised Defendant Sgt. John Davis to call Defendant Nurse Alex [Doc. 1 pp. 5-6; Doc. 1-1 pp. 3-4]. Plaintiff states that Defendant Nurse Alex came to the jail from the hospital where his dad was staying due to a heart attack and gave Plaintiff two shots in the hips and started him on antibiotics [Doc. 1 p. 6; Doc. 1-1 p. 4]. Also, on Monday, the jail doctor prescribed Plaintiff ten days of antibiotics and pulled out some of the infection [Doc. 1 p. 6; Doc. 1-1 p. 4].

         Plaintiff then states that the jail “is so nasty from not using the proper cleaner[]s that the shower[]s got mold in them and the drains backed up after the third week since the [Sheriff] took all our things and only gave us [one] pair of uniforms and no undergarments the infection started to spread. I told Nurse Alex and he put me back on some strong antibiotics and it healed. Now I have a nasty scar” [Doc. 1 p. 6]. In support of these assertions, Plaintiff states that he did not receive treatment that complied with the jail's inmate handbook policy regarding MRSA, which required medical segregation, antibiotics, daily showering, changing of clothes, and keeping the infected site covered with a bandage [Doc. 1-1 p. 4]. Plaintiff also asserts that a jail shakedown occurred in which the Sheriff took away inmates' personal property, including items purchased from commissary, and all inmate clothing except one set of “strips” [Id. at 4-5]. Plaintiff states that he and two other inmates were left in a two-man cell for four to five hours at night with individual blankets until their clothes “came back” [Id. at 4-5, 7]. Plaintiff further states that “because of not hav[ing] proper treatment [he] started getting real sore around [his groin] area [and] the doctor pulled some of the infection out” and that he felt better for about five days, but then noticed he was getting another bump [Id. at 5]. Plaintiff states that he told Defendant Alex about this bump, that Defendant Alex put him on strong antibiotics, and that that he now has a scar and a knot on his penis, but it has almost healed [Id.].

         Plaintiff also sets forth allegations about showers not being cleaned properly, black mold in his cell, a shakedown due to drugs resulting in an inmate being tazed for looking out a door window, a conflict between inmate Eric Dalton and pod worker David Overholt during which inmate Dalton was tazed several times, and a denial of personal items due to a shakedown that lasted approximately a day as of the day the logbook was written [Id. at 5-7].

         III. Analysis

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Black v. Barberton Citizens Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir. 1998); O'Brien v. City of Grand Rapids, 23 F.3d 990, 995 (6th Cir. 1994); Russo v. City of Cincinnati, 953 F.2d 1036, 1042 (6th Cir. 1992); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “[s]ection 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”). Plaintiff's § 1983 claims appear to center on his medical needs, the conditions of his confinement, a deprivation of property, and actions on other prisoners. The Court will address each of these issues in turn.

         A. Medical Needs

         A prison authority's deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). Prison medical personnel or officials may be deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs “in their response to a prisoner's needs” or by “interfer[ing] with treatment once prescribed.” Id. at 104- 05. Establishing a violation of the Eighth Amendment in the medical context requires evidence that that acts or omissions of an individual ...


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