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VanAken v. Obion County

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

February 13, 2018

OBION COUNTY, et al., Defendants.



         On January 19, 2016, Plaintiff Patrick Jon VanAken (“VanAken”), U.S. Bureau of Prisons register number 27301-076, who at the time of filing was incarcerated at the Obion County Jail (“Jail”), in Union City, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 accompanied by a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2). In an order issued January 21, 2016, 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. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Obion County[1] and Captain Wayne Davis.


         VanAken alleges that on December 10, 2015, he was assaulted by an unidentified guard in a cell in the holding area of the Jail; the assault allegedly was caught on camera. (Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1.) VanAken contends that he wanted to press charges but that “he”[2] failed to protect VanAken or file any charges against the guard. VanAken alleges that Defendant Davis did nothing to help him and instead told him that officers assaulting inmates is okay. (Id.) VanAken alleges he was assaulted by other inmates on two occasions prior to the assault by the guard and that Davis also did nothing to help after those incidents. (Id.) One of the inmates who assaulted VanAken was a state inmate, who should not have been placed with a federal inmate like himself. (Id.) Davis allegedly stated that he was far too busy to be concerned with VanAken's safety. (Id.)

         VanAken alleges there are no cameras or emergency reponse buttons in any of the cells, which resulted in VanAken having to wait over three hours for a guard after he had an accident. (Id. at 3.) VanAken allegedly has been forced to sleep on the floor, spent four days in a cell with no toilet paper and no shower, and was denied all outside recreation. (Id.) VanAken also alleges that ‘they” violated his rights to his spouse and his counsel, would not let him call his counsel after many requests, and refused him access to the law library. (Id.)

         VanAken contends that he only received two warm meals a day during his stay at the Jail, which were improperly handled, causing him to become ill. (Id.) VanAken allegedly was refused medical attention for that illness. (Id.)

         VanAken alleges numerous issues regarding his medical care. He alleges that medication is improperly dispensed by guards who are not qualified or certified to handle medication, causing him to receive the wrong medication. (Id.) Due to his medical history being taken by an unqualified guard at booking, mistakes have been made in diagnosing VanAken's medical problems. (Id.) They have refused to acquire his actual medical records, and VanAken was told by Barbara Crowell, who is not a party to this complaint, that she had shared his medical tests with people outside the facility without his consent. (Id.) On October 10, 2015, VanAken contends that he was wakened in his cell by guard Corey Pinion, who is not a party to this complaint, who had his hand over VanAken's mouth while simultaneously administering smelling salts, causing VanAken to have trouble breathing and become traumatized. (Id.) The guard told VanAken that Barbara Cromwell said this was the way to administer smelling salts, which VanAken contends is not safe and would not be recommended by a health professional. (Id.)

         VanAken alleges that the Jail has misplaced his personal property, including his wedding ring and wallet. (Id., )

         On January 13, 2016, VanAken alleges that inmate Michael Simpson was placed in his cell even though VanAken told them that Simpson was incompatible and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Id.) On January 14, 2016, inmate Simpson flushed milk cartons in the toilet causing it to overflow with human waste. (Id.) VanAken alleges that a guard threw VanAken's property into the waste and told him that he would have to sleep in the waste. (Id.) However, a couple of hours later, VanAken was forced by the Captain (presumably Defendant Davis) to clean up the mess. (Id.)

         VanAken claims that he has been refused access to religious services, that the Jail has been holding his non-legal incoming and outgoing, that he was being punished in solitary confinement even though he had not done anything wrong, and that he is experiencing prejudice because he is from another state. (Id. at 4.) These issues allegedly have caused VanAken to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and emotional distress. (Id.)

         VanAken further alleges that when he was assaulted in cell #15, he was punished by “medical” and forced to sleep naked for seven days because they said he wanted to kill himself; however, VanAken contends he would never try to kill himself. (Id.)

         VanAken seeks to drug test all Jail employees and to receive damages for pain and suffering. (Id. at 5.)

         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 ...

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