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Smith v. Hurdle

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

August 1, 2019

ASHLEY HURDLE, ET AL., Defendants.



         On January 12, 2017, Plaintiff Michael Deshawn Smith, who is incarcerated at the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The complaint concerns events that allegedly occurred while Smith was incarcerated at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary (WTSP) in Henning, Tennessee. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) After Smith submitted the required financial documents, the Court issued an order granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 6.) Smith also twice moved to serve summons and his complaint on the Defendants. (ECF Nos. 8 & 9.) The Court denied those motions. (ECF No. 11.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Nurse Ashley Hurdle, Sergeant Nathan Coleman, and Mental Health Administrator Nicova Tyus.

         Smith alleges that on February 9, 2016, he was taken for a medical examination and first seen by Nurse Hurdle. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 3.) Smith asked Hurdle if he could speak with someone from the mental health unit because he sought medication for suicidal thoughts he had been having. (Id.) Hurdle told Smith she would have him moved to seclusion, but Smith “told her that I was OK, I'll just wait to see Mental Health when I get shipped.” (Id.)[1] As Smith was leaving after seeing the doctor, he was called back to speak with a mental health nurse, who asked Smith if he was feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts at that moment. (Id.) Smith replied that he was not, nor was he having any thoughts of harming himself. (Id. at PageID 3-4.) Smith explained the conversation he had with Hurdle and her comment that he should be sent to seclusion. (Id. at PageID 3.) The mental health nurse concluded that seclusion was not warranted and gave Smith a pass to speak with the mental health unit again the next morning. (Id. at PageID 4.)

         As Smith left the medical unit, Nurse Hurdle allegedly commented to him, “You would not need any medication if all ya'll half breeds were not fucked up in the head.” (Id.) Smith alleges Hurdle further told him that he “‘should have been placed in seclusion and that she was going to call Mrs. Tyus,' who is the Mental Health Administrator.” (Id.) Smith alleges that two hours later, two corrections officers came to his cell and told him to pack his property because he was “going to Medical for a few days.” (Id.) When Smith asked whose decision it was to place him in seclusion he was told that “Nashille [sic] had me placed in there.” (Id. at PageID 5.) Smith was placed in seclusion and told to remove his clothing. (Id. at PageID 4.) When he refused, seven to eight corrections officers allegedly stripped Smith of his clothes, which he alleges made him feel like he “was being sexually assaulted and was a traumatic experience.” (Id. at PageID 4-5.)

         Smith alleges that Nurse Hurdle is not a mental health nurse and that her actions in sending him to seclusion were meant to discriminate against and harass him. (Id. at PageID 5.) He alleges that Hurdle “planned and carried out” her “act of harassment, motivated by her racial bias.” (Id.)

         Smith was released from seclusion on February 11, 2016, after speaking with a nurse practitioner, who allegedly told Smith he “would of never had [Smith] placed in there.” (Id. at PageID 6.) Smith went to retrieve his property but was told he had none to retrieve. (Id.) Among his property were legal documents that Smith alleges were “essential to a pending appeal.” (Id. at PageID 7.) Smith alleges that Defendant Coleman destroyed his property in retaliation after he bit Coleman while the corrections officers were removing his clothes before he was put in seclusion. (Id. at PageID 6-7.) Smith filed a claim for his property with the Tennessee Division of Claims but has not received a response. (Id. at PageID 7.) He alleges he has received disciplinary charges for assault and defiance based on his actions while being sent to seclusion. (Id.) He also alleges his security classification increased because of his time in segregation. (Id.)

         Smith seeks compensatory and punitive damages against each Defendant. (Id. at PageID 10.)

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Rule 8 nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ...

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