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Lawrence v. Correction Corporation of America

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

May 9, 2018

JOHN KEITH LAWRENCE, Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA, WARDEN GRADY PERRY, DONNELL PETERSON ASSISTANT WARDEN BYRON PONDS, HEALTH ADMINISTRATOR FNU BORDEN, DR. FNU DIETZ, and GRIEVANCE SGT. L. BROWN, Defendants.

          ORDER PARTIALLY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING THAT PROCESS BE ISSUED AND SERVED ON DEFENDANT DIETZ

          J. DANIEL BREEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

          On September 14, 2016, the pro se Plaintiff, John Keith Lawrence, who at the time of filing was incarcerated at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility (“HCCF”) in Whiteville, Tennessee, initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on behalf of himself and his fellow prisoners at HCCF against Defendants, Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA"), Warden Grady Perry, Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") Contract Manager Donnell Peterson, Assistant Warden for Operations Byron Ponds, Health Administrator Borden, Dr. Dietz, and Grievance Sergeant L. Brown.[1] (Docket Entry ("D.E.") 1). He also moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") (D.E. 2), for certification of a class (D.E. 3), and for appointment of counsel (D.E. 4). IFP status was granted in an order entered October 17, 2016. (D.E. 8.) On September 21, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiff's motions for class certification and appointment of counsel. (D.E. 10.) The complaint is now before the Court for screening.

         Prior to addressing the merits of Plaintiff's claims, however, the Court notes that CCA, according to its website, is now known as CoreCivic. See www.corecivic.com. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to update the docket to reflect the name change.

         FACTS ALLEGED

         Lawrence avers that, during a medical evaluation on October 26, 2015, at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville, Tennessee, the TDOC intake and classification center, he advised the physician that he suffered from chronic back problems dating back to at least 2011. The doctor prescribed medication for pain and inflammation and instructed Plaintiff to obtain further testing and treatment for the condition, which was degenerative, from medical staff at his destination facility. He specifically informed Lawrence that diagnostic imaging would be necessary for proper treatment.

         Shortly after his transfer to HCCF in April 2016, the inmate was examined by Dr. Dietz, who told him they did "not treat back pain here, " refused to conduct any diagnostic imaging testing, and authorized a one-time-only thirty-day refill of his pain and anti-inflammatory medication. After his prescription ran out, Lawrence began signing up for the prison's sick call. His sick call appointments were conducted by nurses who, on six occasions prior to mid-August 2016, referred him to the facility's physician. During this period, he was assigned to a top bunk, which necessitated that he climb up onto and jump down from the bunk, aggravating his back condition each time he did so. Assignment to a bottom bunk required physician approval.

         Lawrence alleges that the doctor refused to see him. On June 29, 2016, he filed a grievance concerning his inability to obtain medical care for his back and, on July 20, 2016, wrote to HCCF's grievance board requesting a status report on his complaint. Neither missive was met with a response. On July 24, 2016, he collapsed after leaping from the top bunk. Plaintiff maintains that he composed a letter on August 10, 2016, relative to his grievance, sending duplicates to, according to copies of United States Postal Service certified mail return receipts, Warden Perry; the director of operations of the Nashville, Tennessee, offices of CoreCivic; and the commissioner of TDOC.

         SCREENING STANDARD

         Courts are required to screen prisoner complaints and dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that “is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To assess whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court applies the pleadings standards under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) announced in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). "To survive scrutiny under [§§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b)], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Walton v. Gray, 695 Fed.Appx. 144, 145 (6th Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (quoting Hill, 630 F.3d at 471) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed." Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). That said, courts have not "been willing to abrogate basic pleading essentials in pro se suits." Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 Fed.Appx. 506, 510 (6th Cir. 2011) (“declin[ing] to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants”).

         PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS AND ANALYSIS

         Section 1983 Generally

         Section 1983 provides in pertinent part as follows:

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 secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the ...

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