United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
JOSHUA B. TURNER, # 551-643 Plaintiff,
WILLIAM E. SMITH # 651-930 Plaintiff,
PRISONER TRANSPORT SERVICE OF AM., et al., Defendants.
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
B. Turner, an inmate of the North East Arkansas Community
Correction in Lake City, Arkansas, and William E. Smith, an
inmate of the Chillicothe Correctional Institution in
Chillicothe, Ohio, bring this pro se, in forma
pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
“Prisoner Transport Service of Am.” (PTS),
“U.S. Correction Prisoner Trans. Srv., ” drivers
N. Carlson and f/n/u Vaughn, and four as-yet identified John
and Jane Doe drivers, alleging that these Defendants violated
the Plaintiffs' civil rights while transporting them from
North Carolina to several other states. (Doc. No. 1).
Plaintiffs' claims are before the Court at this time for
an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform
Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)
PLRA Screening Standard
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court must dismiss any
portion of a civil complaint filed in forma pauperis
that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief. Section 1915A similarly requires
initial review of any “complaint in a civil action in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity, ”
id. § 1915A(a), and summary dismissal of the
complaint on the same grounds as those articulated in §
1915(e)(2)(B). Id. § 1915A(b).
Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard
articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), “governs
dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes
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 scrutiny on
initial review, “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). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[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, USA, LLC, 561F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009)
(citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th
Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).
pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v.
Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), the courts'
“duty to be ‘less stringent' with pro
se complaints does not require us to conjure up
[unpleaded] allegations.” McDonald v. Hall,
610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted).
Section 1983 Standard
Plaintiffs bring their claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action
against any person who, acting under color of state law,
abridges “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by
the Constitution and laws . . . .” To state a claim
under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege and show two
elements: (1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the
deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of
state law. Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590
(6th Cir. 2003); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
complaint alleges that, in May of 2017, the Plaintiffs were
extradited from North Carolina to Ohio and Arkansas. They
were transported in a conversion van operated by U.S.
Correction acting as an affiliate agent of PTS. According to
the complaint, the Plaintiffs were subjected to
unconstitutional conditions of confinement during the ten-day
journey. For example, the complaint alleges that the van did
not have seat belts, interior lights, an emergency exit, or a
fire extinguisher; the drivers consistently drove recklessly
including smoking and texting while driving at high rates of
speed in excess of posted speed limits; the van drivers would
not stop even when the Plaintiffs and other inmate passengers
vomited and needed to clean up; the van drivers gave Gatorade
jugs and trash bags to the Plaintiffs to use as urinals in
the van instead of providing adequate restroom breaks; and
the passenger inmates had to ride for days surrounded by
vomit and urine.
complaint further alleges that the van was involved in a near
accident in or near Atlanta, Georgia, when Defendant Carlson
was texting and speeding while driving through a construction
zone and suddenly braked to avoid hitting another vehicle.
The sudden braking caused the Plaintiffs to slam against one
another and into a metal wall located at the rear compartment
of the van, injuring Turner's foot and Smith's neck
and left shoulder.
Plaintiffs sought medical attention for their injuries, and
Carlson “did not respond to [their] pleas for help, and
when [the plaintiffs] got up from the floor, she accelerated
and threw us all back towards the rear cage doors and [the
plaintiffs] all got tangled up again . . . .” (Doc. No.
1 at 10). The Plaintiffs' requests for medical attention
were otherwise ignored. Vaughn had to assist Turner on and
off the van due to his injured foot. The Plaintiffs asked for
grievance forms regarding the incident and their untreated
injuries, but the drivers told the Plaintiffs: “we
don't have those.” (Id. at 11). On May 7,
2017, the drivers left the Plaintiffs at the Nelson County
Jail for three and half hours. The Plaintiffs requested
medical attention, but the jail's nurse already had left
for the day, so the Plaintiffs were held in the jail's
library until the van returned at 9:30 p.m.
the drivers headed to a Kentucky prison where the Plaintiffs
“were told not to ask for medical care there[;] you
won't get any.” (Id. at 13). The
Plaintiffs next arrived at “the Hub, ” a county
jail with holding pods for PTS prisoners. Upon arrival, the
intake officer gave the Plaintiffs forms for requesting
medical attention and grievance forms. Two days later, on May
9, 2017, a female doctor “made a visional minimum
inspection” of the Plaintiffs' injuries and said
she would order x-rays “if P.T.S. would pay for