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Gibson v. Holloway

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

February 7, 2018

JIMMY GIBSON, Plaintiff,
JAMES HOLLOWAY, et. al., Defendants.



         On August 11, 2016, Plaintiff Jimmy Gibson, who is currently incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex (“NECX”) in Mountain City, Tennessee, filed pro se a Complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court granted Gibson 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. 4.) Gibson's claims arise from events during his incarceration at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee. As such, venue is proper in this District. The Clerk is instructed to record the Defendants as Former WTSP Warden James Holloway, Former WTSP Warden Johnny Fitz, Lieutenant Thomas Shell, and Sergeant Brian Galloway. Gibson sues each Defendant in his official and individual capacities.


         Gibson alleges that on January 30, 2016, he witnessed another inmate, Wilson Nelly, stab a second inmate, Patrick Dunn, in the neck. (Compl. at 6, ECF No. 1.) Nelly also allegedly cut Gibson on the hand during the assault. (Id.) According to Gibson, the alleged assault occurred in unit 9-A-Pod, a housing pod for low security inmates. (Id.) Gibson claims that he was a minimum trustee inmate and should have been housed in the annex, and not with the inmates in 9-A-Pod. (Id.) Gibson alleges that unnamed WTSP staff acted negligently by assigning him to the pod where the assault took place. (Id.) Gibson further alleges that unnamed WTSP staff failed to keep the door to the pod locked and failed to notice that Nelly was out of place. (Id. at 7.) According to Gibson, the officer assigned to the pod, Officer Sondra Thorpe, who is not a party to this action, did not use chemical spray to subdue Nelly and failed to alert other staff to the fact that Nelly was not supposed to be in the pod at the time of the assault. (Id.) WTSP staff investigated the assault but failed to recognize that Nelly was in the wrong housing unit. (Id.) As a result of the investigation, Gibson claims that WTSP staff moved him to segregation. (Id.) Gibson claims that he attempted to raise his concerns about his safety with former WTSP Warden James Holloway (“Warden Holloway”), and Warden Holloway ignored Gibson. (Id.) Gibson now seeks $2 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages for negligence, emotional distress, and cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at 9.)


         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 the Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) pleading standards announced in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009) and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the Complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Ultimately, a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8(a)(2) nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “showing, rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Even so, pro se litigants and prisoners are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989). And district courts are not required “to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants.” Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 F. App'x 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011). In the final analysis, a court “cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading.” Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F. App'x 608, 612-13 (6th Cir. 2011).


         Gibson filed his pro se Complaint on the official form for actions under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities ...

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