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Phillips v. Harris

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

August 13, 2019

PATRICK HARRIS, et al., Defendants.



         Pro se Plaintiff Prentiss Phillips[1] filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) Plaintiff's complaint concerns events that allegedly occurred at the correctional facility where he lived, West Tennessee State Penitentiary (“WTSP”) in Henning, Tennessee. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 3.) The Court granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessed the civil filing fee under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 4.) Phillips sues WTSP Corporal Patrick Harris, WTSP Nurse Elizabeth Watson, WTSP Captain Famous Hurdle, WTSP Assistant Warden Johnny Fitz, WTSP Lieutenant Jermaine Ousley, WTSP Corporal Ashley Doyle, WTSP Sergeant Kristi Parker, WTSP Health Administrator Natalie Voss, WTSP Correctional Officer Thaniqua McKinney, WTSP Correctional Officer C. Taylor, and WTSP Correctional Officer K. Smart.


         Plaintiff alleges that he had a verbal disagreement with Defendant Harris in October 2017 during an attorney visit with his counselor. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 7.) When Harris returned Plaintiff to his cell, he allegedly locked the feeding flap and told Plaintiff he would make sure he did not get fed while Harris worked in Plaintiff's unit. (Id.) Defendant Doyle, who supervises Harris, allegedly approached Plaintiff's cell and told him that she would not remove the lock or correct Harris's action. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Doyle said this in front of Defendants Taylor and McKinney, who also agreed not to feed Plaintiff. (Id.)

         After a shift change, a different officer (not a named Defendant here) told Plaintiff that Doyle had written “in giant red letters on the board in their office” not to remove the lock on Plaintiff's food flap for any reason per order of Defendant Ousley. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 7-8.) Plaintiff asked to speak with Ousley, who allegedly retorted, “fuck that bitch” and walked off. (Id. at PageID 8.) Plaintiff alleges that for four days, he did not receive food, his legal mail, or a chance to shower. (Id.)

         Plaintiff wrote to Defendant Assistant Warden Fitz, who later saw the lock on Plaintiff's food flap but did nothing. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Smart confronted Plaintiff, accusing him of telling others about Smart's relationship with Defendant Doyle and threatening to assault Plaintiff if he saw him outside his cell. (Id. at PageID 8-9.) Defendant Smart also refused to feed him. (Id.) Plaintiff filed a grievance through Defendant Parker, who refused to process it allegedly because she had once locked other inmates' food flaps after disagreements. (Id. at PageID 9.) Parker instead wrote a disciplinary report alleging Plaintiff had intimidated her. (Id.)

         Plaintiff then sought to file an emergency grievance. (ECF No. at PageID 9.) But his grievance was reportedly denied because Defendant Hurdle said that Defendants' not feeding Plaintiff for four days was not an emergency. (Id.) It apparently took calls from Plaintiff's family to get the lock removed from Plaintiff's food flap. (Id.)

         That said, Defendants Doyle and McKinney allegedly staged Plaintiff's feedings to the prison's cameras to make it appear as if he were refusing his food tray for another week. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 9.) Plaintiff alleges that a nurse asked Defendant Taylor if they had been feeding Plaintiff, and Taylor smirked and told the nurse to “ask Doyle” because she was just doing what she was told. (Id. at PageID 9-10.) According to Plaintiff, the nurse reported Taylor's actions to Defendant Voss, and Plaintiff separately wrote to Voss to “inform[] her of what was taking place” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges Voss did nothing, though his “rapid weight loss was clear.” (Id. at PageID 10.)

         In an act of desperation, Plaintiff “declared a hunger strike hoping to get checked by medical staff, ” but Defendants Doyle and McKinney began bringing empty food trays to his cell. (Id.) Defendant Watson ignored Plaintiff's sick-call requests, including one instance in which Plaintiff “accidently bust [his] head wide open.” (Id.) And Plaintiff was denied medication until he “quit pissing off the guards.” (Id.) After one officer logged Watson's refusal to treat Plaintiff, Watson allegedly forged Plaintiff's medical file to show she had treated him. (Id.)

         Plaintiff sues Defendants in their individual capacities. (Id. at PageID 11.) He seeks declaratory relief, an injunction against Defendant Voss to provide Plaintiff proper medical care, and compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at PageID 12-14.)


         I. Screening Requirements Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         The Court must screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion of it, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief ...

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