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Johnson v. O'Connor

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

July 17, 2019

SHAUN JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN O'CONNOR et al., Defendants.

          H. BRUCE GUYTON MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          TRAVIS R. MCDONOUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a pro se prisoner's complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for screening pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) (Doc. 2). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff shall have thirty days from the date of entry of this order to file an amended complaint.

         I. SCREENING STANDARD

         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, dismiss sua sponte any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1016 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), “governs dismissals for failure 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). Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must plausibly allege that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 . . . creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).

         II. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff's claims arise from injuries he sustained while on suicide watch at Morgan County Correctional Complex (“MCCX”). (Doc. 1, at 2-4.) Defendants are eight medical and mental health professionals who worked at MCCX. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Susan O'Connor, Sherlean Lightbolt, Eda Kicki-Brock, Emily Olroyd, Carla Tipton, Jennifer Conner, and Lynndy Houston-Fagan “knowingly . . . allowed correctional officers” to supervise Plaintiff and other inmates on suicide watch. (Id. at 3-4.) Plaintiff alleges that he “told medical and mental health that the officers working in the infirmary [were] allowing [Plaintiff] and other inmates on suicide watch” to harm and even kill themselves, while “saying nothing [could] be done” to remedy the situation. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff indicates that inmates on suicide watch are “suppose[d] to be” monitored by medical and mental health professionals. (Id.) In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff refers to correctional officers' supervision of inmates on suicide watch as a violation of “Code of Conduct, Procedure, Policy Regulations & guidelines of Medical & Mental Health[.]” (Id. at 5.)

         Plaintiff's statement of his claim does not mention Defendant Karen Lambeth, nor refer to her title of Therapist. (Id. at 3.)

         Plaintiff asks the Court to enjoin Defendants from violating his constitutional rights and institutional policies by allowing correctional officers, rather than mental-health professionals, to supervise inmates on suicide watch. (Id. at 4.)

         III. ANALYSIS

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must plausibly allege: (1) that he was deprived of a federal right, (2) by a person acting under color of state law. Braley, 906 F.2d at 223. Actions brought by convicted prisoners under § 1983 may allege deprivations of rights protected by the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment guarantees to convicted prisoners “a right to medical care for serious medical needs, including psychological needs.” Cooper v. Cty. of Washtenaw, 222 Fed.Appx. 459, 464 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Perez v. Oakland Cty., 466 F.3d 416, 423 (6th Cir. 2006)). Prison officials violate that right when they are deliberately indifferent to the medical needs of those with known suicidal tendencies. See Id. at 465. A plaintiff “must show that [each] defendant personally participated in, or otherwise authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced in, the allegedly unconstitutional conduct.” Williams v. Hodge, No. 3:08-0387, 2009 WL 47141, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. Jan. 7, 2009) (citing Greene v. Barber, 310 F.3d 889, 889 (6th Cir. 2002)).

         As for Defendant Lambeth, Plaintiff's allegations neither mention her, nor her title of Therapist. (Doc. 1, at 3.) Plaintiff does not set forth sufficient information for the Court to infer that Lambeth was personally involved in the alleged violation of his rights. (Id.) Therefore, Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983 as to Lambeth.

         The Court now turns to Plaintiff's allegations concerning the other seven defendants. Considering the first element and construing the complaint liberally, although Plaintiff does not mention the Eighth Amendment explicitly in his complaint, he essentially alleges that Defendants O'Connor, Lightbolt, Kicki-Brock, Olroyd, Tipton, Conner, and Houston-Fagan violated his Eighth Amendment rights by acting with deliberate indifference to his known risk of ...


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