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Cook v. Southern Health Partners

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville

March 19, 2018

GEORGE M. COOK, Plaintiff,



         Before the Court is Plaintiff's pro se amended complaint for violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 5]. On November 15, 2017, the Court screened Plaintiff's original complaint and found that “the Court [was] unable to properly screen Plaintiff's complaint in compliance with the PLRA [Prison Litigation Reform Act], because the precise nature of his claims [were] unclear.” [Doc. 4 at 4]. The Court then granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint “specifying a full description of his claim, the personal involvement of each Defendant, and the grounds for relief” [Id.]. Plaintiff then filed an amended complaint on December 29, 2017 [Doc. 5].

         Plaintiff's amended complaint must also be screened to determine whether it states a claim entitling Plaintiff to relief, or is frivolous or malicious, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants Dexter Lunceford (“Lunceford”) and Eric Trivett (“Trivett”) will be DISMISSED. Accordingly, this action will proceed only as to Plaintiff's claims of medical deliberate indifference under the Eighth Amendment against Defendants Francheska Shown (“Shown”) and Southern Health Partners (“SHP”).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff brings suit against Defendants SHP, Shown, Lunceford, and Trivett [Doc. 5 at 1]. Plaintiff asserts that he is not being treated for his mental health issues, as medical staff at the Carter County Jail, including Defendant Shown, have stated that they cannot treat Plaintiff until they obtain copies of his medical records [Id. at 4]. However, Plaintiff claims that medical staff at the jail have stated that they are unable to obtain his medical records [Id.]. Plaintiff alleges that he has wrote to SHP complaining about his lack of medical treatment, and has filed several sick calls with the medical staff at the jail, including Defendant Shown [Id.]. Additionally, Plaintiff claims that he filed several grievances with Defendant Trivett, the Carter County Jail administrator, and appealed the denial of these grievances to Defendant Lunceford [Id.].

         Plaintiff also claims that Defendants Trivett and Lunceford violated his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by placing Plaintiff in lock down for thirty days, and taking his “sheet bleak-matt for 12 and a half hours a day” [Id. at 5]. Plaintiff requests damages for his pain and suffering, for the Court to issue an order requiring SHP and Defendant Shown to provide him with mental health medication, as well as for the Court to appoint him an attorney [Id.].

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Screening Standard

         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss those that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief or are against a defendant who is immune. See Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999) (“Congress directed the federal courts to review or ‘screen' certain complaints sua sponte and to dismiss those that failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted [or] . . . sought monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.”). 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 to 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). However, “a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett v. M&G Polymers, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).

         B. § 1983 Standard

         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 Hospital, 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) ("Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere."). In other words, a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show: (1) the deprivation of a right, privilege, or immunity secured to him by the United States Constitution or other federal law; and (2) that the individual responsible for such deprivation was acting under color of state law. Gregory v. Shelby Cty., 220 F.3d 433, 441 (6th Cir. 2000).

         C. Mental Health Treatment

         Plaintiff alleges that he was denied mental health treatment, in that Defendants Shown and SHP failed to provide him with his mental health medication [Doc. 5 at 4]. Failure to provide medical care, including care for mental health conditions, may give rise to a violation of a prisoner's rights under the Eighth Amendment. See Comstock v. McCrary, 273 F.3d 693, 703 (6th Cir. 2001). An Eighth Amendment claim is composed of two parts: an objective component, which requires a plaintiff to show a “sufficiently serious” deprivation, and a subjective component, which requires him to show a sufficiently culpable state of mind-one of “deliberate indifference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). However, a prisoner whose claims are based on a theory of medical negligence has not stated a claim under § 1983 because medical malpractice is not a constitutional violation. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-06 (1976). Additionally, no claim is stated where some medical treatment is provided, and the dispute is over the adequacy of such treatment. See Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 n.5 (6th Cir. 1976). For example, “[w]hen a prison doctor provides treatment, albeit carelessly or inefficaciously to a prisoner, he has not displayed a deliberate indifference to the prisoner's needs, but merely a degree of incompetence which does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.” Comstock, 273 F.3d at 703.

         An inmate “who suffers pain needlessly when relief is readily available has a cause of action against those whose deliberate indifference is the cause of his suffering.” Berryman v. Rieger, 150 F.3d 561, 566 (6th Cir. 1998) (citing Boretti v. Wiscomb, 930 F.2d 1150, 1154-55 (6th Cir. 1991)); see also Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103 (holding the “denial of medical care may result in pain and suffering which no one suggests would serve any penological purpose”). “When prison officials are aware of a prisoner's obvious and serious need for medical treatment and delay medical treatment of that condition ...

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