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Davis v. Hill

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

March 21, 2017

ROLAND DAVIS, No. 516656, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER SAMANTHA HILL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          ALETA A. TRAUGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On February 21, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) (Docket No. 64) as to the defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket No. 29), recommending that the motion be granted, all other pending motions be denied as moot, and this action be dismissed. Pending before the court are Objections to the R&R timely filed by the plaintiff. (Docket No. 66). The court finds that the plaintiff's Objections lack merit and will be overruled, as explained below.

         I. Background

         In this pro se, in forma pauperis prisoner civil rights case, the original complaint alleged violations of the plaintiff's First and Eighth Amendment rights arising out of an incident of inmate violence at the Hill Detention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. (Docket No. 1). After conducting the required screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint because the plaintiff had sued all defendants in their official capacities only. (Docket Nos. 3 and 4). Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration (Docket No. 7), which the court construed as a motion to amend the complaint. (Docket No. 9). The court then granted the motion to amend, permitting the plaintiff to include individual capacity claims against all named defendants and the action to proceed. (Id.) This case was referred to the Magistrate Judge to recommend ruling on any dispositive motion. (Docket No. 9).

         The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on April 11, 2016, contending that the complaint fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted as to all defendants and, in any event, that the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. (Docket No. 29). The plaintiff responded in opposition to the motion. (Docket No. 37). The plaintiff also filed a motion seeking camera footage of the inmate assault at issue. (Docket No. 43).

         II. Report and Recommendation

         On February 21, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R (Docket No. 64) as to the defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket No. 29), recommending that the motion be granted, that all other pending motions be denied as moot, and this action be dismissed.

         The Magistrate Judges noted that the plaintiff's primary claim is that Defendant Hill violated the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by her “failure to be at her assigned post at the time of the incident which prevented her from acting as quickly as possible to stop several known gang members from jumping” on the plaintiff and injuring him. (Docket No. 1 at p. 4). The Magistrate Judge further noted that the plaintiff claims his First Amendment right to access the courts was violated “by various administrative Hill Detention Center personnel” who acted in concert to deny the plaintiff access to a copy of the grievance by which he exhausted this claim “which hinder[ed] his filing this petition in federal court for lack of exhaustion of remedies.” (Id. at p. 10).

         As to the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against defendant Hill, the Magistrate Judge first assumed that, for purposes of the R&R, an attack by “known gang members” is sufficiently serious to meet the Eighth Amendment's objective requirement. (Docket No. 64 at p. 5). After considering the complaint's allegations and the video footage of the incident, the Magistrate Judge found that the plaintiff had not established that the defendant Hill acted with deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's health or safety. The Magistrate Judge pointed out that the complaint contained no allegations regarding Hill's state of mind or awareness of a risk of serious harm to the plaintiff. (Id.) The Magistrate Judge found that the plaintiff's perceived inconsistency between Hill's statement regarding the events and Defendant Denton's description of the altercation did not provide a basis from which to conclude that Hill knew of a threat to the plaintiff's safety and acted with deliberate indifference to it. (Id. at p. 6). The Magistrate Judge specifically noted that negligence is insufficient to establish a § 1983 claim. (Id.) Thus, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this claim be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Id. at p. 7).

         As to the plaintiff's First Amendment claim against “Various Administrative Hill Detention Center Personnel, ” the Magistrate Judge first pointed out that the plaintiff does not identify against which individuals he made this claim. (Id.) Even assuming that the plaintiff made this allegations against all remaining defendants, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the plaintiff's claim fails because he had not alleged any harm resulting from the defendants' actions; the plaintiff filed a timely lawsuit, to which no one had raised a failure to exhaust administrative remedies affirmative defense. (Id.) The Magistrate Judge found this conclusion to be true whether the plaintiff's claim was construed as one of retaliation for filing a grievance regarding his attack or as a denial of his the plaintiff's right to access the courts. (Id.) Consequently, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this claim be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Id. at p. 8).

         In a footnote, the Magistrate Judge noted that the plaintiff also had filed a document asserting that officers had taken his certified mail against his will and charged him with a false disciplinary action in retaliation for his naming Chief Brown and Lieutenant Denton as defendants to this action. (Id. at p. 8 n.3)(citing Docket No. 36). The Magistrate Judge determined, however, that because the alleged retaliator is “Officer Jeremy Goins” who is not a defendant to this action, and the plaintiff had not amended his complaint to include these allegations, there was no recourse sought by the plaintiff in this action as to this allegation. (Id.) In addition, the Magistrate Judge reasoned that, while the plaintiff attempted to implicate defendant Brown for his failure to take action against Officer Goins when Davis advised him of Goins's actions, the plaintiff had not alleged that Brown authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced in Goins's conduct so as to establish supervisory liability for the alleged retaliation. (Id.)

         III. Standard of Review

         The Magistrate Judge's R&R concerns a dispositive pretrial matter. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), the district court must review any portion of the R&R to which a specific objection is made under the de novo standard. Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); United States v. Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 603 (6th Cir. 2001).

         IV. Plaintiff's ...


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