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Tappan v. Haslam

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

January 5, 2018

ALTON L. TAPPAN, Plaintiff,
BILL HASLAM, ET AL., Defendants.



         On February 3, 2016, Plaintiff Alton L. Tappan (Tappan), who was, at the time, an inmate at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility (HCCF) in Whiteville, Tennessee, [1] filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, accompanied by a motion proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The complaint concerns Tappan's previous confinement at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, Tennessee. After Tappan submitted the required documentation, the Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 6.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam; former Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Derrick Schofield; NWCX Warden Michael Parris; Officer T. Smith; Officer First Name Unknown (FNU) Gooch; Officer FNU Bell; Officer FNU Tolly; Officer FNU Seward; Officer FNU Ross; Officer FNU Holder; and Counselor FNU Stray.

         I. The Complaint

         Tappan alleges that on November 20, 2015, he was awakened by Defendant Smith to “receive commissary.” (ECF No. 1 at 2.) Tappan refused the order and was told by Defendant Seward to step back into the cell and to close the door behind him. (Id.) Tappan did not follow Defendant Seward's directions. (Id.) Defendants Bell and Holder entered the cell, and Defendant Holder instructed Tappan to put his hands behind his back and proceeded to cuff him. (Id.) Defendant Gooch then allegedly removed him from the cell “roughly” and Tappan slipped and fell on a wet floor. (Id.) Tappan states that he was given medical treatment by the pod nurse. (Id.) He asserts the fall was captured on camera and was witnessed by Defendants Smith, Gooch, Bell, Tolly, Seward, Holder and Stray. (Id.) Tappan seeks compensation for the resulting injury to his back, neck, and shoulder. (Id. at 3.)

         II. Analysis

         A. Screening and Standard

         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 court applies standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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). 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) (alteration in original). “[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. Any complaint that is legally frivolous would ipso facto fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Hill, 630 F.3d at 470 (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 328-29 (1989)).

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.” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827 (interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1915). Unlike a dismissal for failure to state a claim, where a judge must accept all factual allegations as true, Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50, a judge does not ...

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