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Cox v. Watson

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

July 29, 2019

RAYMOND COX, Plaintiff,



         This pro se prisoner's complaint for violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) is before the Court for screening pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act [Doc. 2].[1]


         Under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, sua sponte dismiss 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 1915A; Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). 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. 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 establish 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”). Similarly, to state a Bivens claim, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a constitutionally protected right by a federal officer acting under the color of law. See, generally, Bivens, 403 U.S. 388.


         Prior to his present incarceration, Plaintiff suffered numerous serious injuries in a car wreck and subsequent reinjuries to his shoulder that required surgery, but he was unable to have the surgery performed due to his lack of insurance or financial resources to pay for the treatment [Doc. 2 at 7-8]. Sometime later, Plaintiff was declared temporarily disabled and provided insurance through TennCare, but he was unable to successfully schedule surgery due to an unpaid bill from a previous surgery [Id. at 8].

         After suffering severe chest and throat pains on November 2, 2017, Plaintiff was taken to the emergency room at Tennova Harton Hospital in Tullahoma, Tennessee, where a CT scan revealed that he had a punctured and partially collapsed lung [Id. at 8-9]. Plaintiff was transported to the Erlanger Trauma Unit in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where medical professionals determined, due to the age of Plaintiff's injuries, the less-invasive treatment of pain management should be tried before surgery was attempted [Id. at 9]. Plaintiff claims he was advised to follow-up with his primary care physician in seven days and was released with narcotic pain medication [Id.]. Plaintiff maintains that he was unable to receive timely follow-up care, however, due to his physician's case load [Id.].

         Plaintiff asserts that he was finally scheduled to go to a pain clinic on November 13, 2017, “to acquire pain medication and a referral. . . for MRI's of his neck, upper back, and right shoulder in order to facilitate surgery” but was arrested that morning upon a federal warrant for a supervised-release violation [Id. at 10]. Upon being taken into federal custody, Plaintiff advised a Deputy Marshal of all his injuries, which were noted in Plaintiff's file and recounted to the United States Magistrate Judge during arraignment [Id.]. Plaintiff maintains that the Deputy United States Marshal attending the arraignment advised the court that Plaintiff would be housed at the Bradley County Detention Facility (“BCDF”) and would there receive proper care [Id.]. During transport to BCDF, a Deputy Marshal called ahead and advised the facility of Plaintiff's injuries [Id. at 11].

         Plaintiff claims that upon arrival at BCDF on November 14, 2017, medical staff member Jane Doe 1, performed an intake examination that resulted in Plaintiff being assigned to a top bunk in general population despite her knowledge of his injuries [Id. at 6, 11-12]. The following day, Jane Doe 2, another medical staff member at BCDF, examined Plaintiff for injuries and determined that he had no lung injury and required no treatment beyond over-the-counter medications, which she prescribed [Id. at 6, 12]. On November 16, 2017, medical staff member Jane Doe 3 examined Plaintiff and documented his medical history [Id. at 7, 12]. Plaintiff claims that Jane Doe 3 failed to acknowledge Plaintiff's injuries, claiming that she had reviewed his medical records and did not find any indication that he had suffered a collapsed or punctured lung [Id.].

         Plaintiff contends that he submitted kiosk unanswered requests for legal services and medical care on several occasions while housed at BCDF, and that since Bradley County Sheriff Erick Watson maintains control of BCDF, he had a duty to see that Plaintiff received medical treatment and had proper access to the courts [Id. at 13-16]. Similarly, Plaintiff claims that United States Deputy Marshal John Beavers had a knowledge of Plaintiff's injuries and a corresponding duty to ensure that he was housed at a facility where he could receive proper care [Id. at 16-18].


         A. Bivens' claim

         The sole basis for Plaintiff's Bivens' claim is that Deputy Marshal John Beavers detained Plaintiff in BCDF. However, Plaintiff's complaint makes it clear that the Deputy Marshals recorded Plaintiff's alleged injuries, conveyed them to the Court, and conveyed the injuries to BCDF. Deputy Beavers, a non-medical professional, was not involved in any medical decision that allegedly deprived Plaintiff of a protected right, and therefore, he has failed to state a claim against Deputy Beavers, the sole federal actor in this cause. See, e.g., Frazier v. Michigan, 41 Fed.Appx. 762, 764 (6th Cir. 2002) (providing that “a complaint must allege that the defendants were personally involved in ...

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