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Stipes v. Cassidy

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

September 5, 2019

JEFF CASSIDY, Sullivan County Sheriff, et al., Defendants.

          Christopher H. Steger Magistrate Judge



         Before the Court is a pro se prisoner's amended complaint filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 2), ready for screening pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). Plaintiff filed his original complaint on February 22, 2019, and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 2, 4.) In his original complaint, Plaintiff, an inmate at Sullivan County Jail, alleged that he has “Stage IV (T1 and N2) squamous cell carcinoma” and that “medical refuses any treatment whatsoever[.]” (Doc. 2, at 2-3.) He also alleged that he has filed several inmate grievances that resulted in “nothing” except he “did get jumped and sent to the hole[.]” (Id. at 2.) In his original complaint, he sought medical treatment while incarcerated and compensation for pain and suffering. (Id. at 4.)

         However, Plaintiffs' allegations were too limited for the Court to infer Defendants' personal involvement. (Doc. 7, at 2-3.) The Court understood these allegations to possibly support, upon further elaboration, claims for denial of access to medical treatment and retaliation against Plaintiff for requesting medical treatment. Accordingly, the Court granted Plaintiff thirty days to file an amended complaint “with a short and plain statement of facts setting forth exactly how his constitutional rights were violated and the specific individual(s) who violated his constitutional rights.” (Id. at 3.) The Court also notified Plaintiff that any amended complaint would completely replace his original complaint and that he should not attempt to set forth any new claims in his amended complaint that did not relate back to his original complaint under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1] (Id.)


         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, 1015-16 (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 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”).


         Plaintiff filed his amended complaint on July 1, 2019, asserting § 1983 claims against the following defendants: Jeff Cassidy, Sullivan County Sheriff; Kristi Frazior, Medical Head Nurse at Sullivan County Jail (the “Jail”); and all staff correctional officers (“COs”) and nurses that work in “this part of” the Jail. (Doc. 8, at 1.) At another place in the amended complaint, Plaintiff lists, as “[a]dditional defendants”: “COs Lawson and Sawyer and Jones[, ] Nurse Cindy[, ] Nurse Matt[, ] Nurse Sherrell[, ] and most of staff.” (Id. at 2.)

         Plaintiff alleges that he has Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma, that there is no cure, and that he previously had radiation and chemotherapy at Holston Valley Hospital. (Id. at 5.) He alleges that he was brought to the Jail on June 18, 2018, and left in a cell “all night.” (Id. at 2-3.) The next morning he was moved to Cell 6 for classification. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff states he “had told all the officers [he] had cancer and needed [his] medication, ” but “[e]veryone” he asked for help “told [him] to shut up and lay down.” (Id. at 3-4.) According to Plaintiff, he “was told several times” that he would not receive any “help.” (Id.) Then, three guards came into his cell and “bent [him] back over a steel table and [were] going to spray [him] with pepper spray and [Plaintiff] told them it was enough.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the guards then left because there were “several witness[es].” (Id.)

         When Officers Sawyer and Jones came back, Plaintiff asked them for help again, but they “told [him] to shut up.” (Id.) Plaintiff-then “in a lot of [throat] pain” from yelling throughout the night for medication-picked up a milk crate and again asked Officer Sawyer for help. (Id.) When he was again denied help, he “swung the crate at Officer Sawyer.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that Officers Jones, Sawyer, Lawson, and several other officers then “jumped on” him, “beat[ing] [him] pretty bad” and leaving him with “cuts all over [him].” (Id.) He was taken back to booking, where he told Sergeant Strayhorn what had happened. (Id. at 3-4.) Strayhorn advised Plaintiff that he would be punished for assaulting the correctional officers, and Plaintiff responded that they had “assaulted [him] first” and that he had asked all of them for help. (Id. at 4.)

         Plaintiff then saw “the nurses[, ]” but “they wouldn't help [him]” either. (Id.) The next day, Plaintiff was placed in the “[suicide] cell” and stripped naked with no blanket, mat, toilet paper, or shower for four days. (Id.) Plaintiff states he was also diabetic at the time and “was passing out from it and they didn't care.” (Id.) He alleges that, after seven days, he went before the Disciplinary Board, where “the officers told [him] they [were] wrong and shook [his] hand and apologized.” (Id.) Nonetheless, he was given sixty days in segregation for the assault on the officers. (Id.) While in segregation, he filed “several” medical grievances but “was told” he did not have cancer and did not need medication. (Id.) Officer Wade then allegedly put Plaintiff in an “open” cell and told the other men in the cell “to beat [him] up.” (Id.) Plaintiff then “got in a fight [and] got one eye swelled shut and beat up.” (Id.) He was taken out of that cell and put in a two-man cell until he had healed. When he was moved to a new cell, he was “beat up again.” (Id.) Next, Plaintiff was moved to a “medical cell which was the hole more [or] less.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff continued to file medical grievances but “they” told him there was nothing they could do. (Id. at 5.) Since then, he has had medical treatment, including having a piece of metal removed that was lodged in his eye from when he was “kicked in the face.” (Id.) He was also taken off his diabetes medication and told he did not need it after fifteen years of taking it. (Id.) He had two tumors cut out of his back. (Id.) One was as big as a baseball and the other was a black spot in the middle of his back. (Id.) Plaintiff received forty stitches but no pain medication after surgery. (Id.) He was told the tumors were not cancerous. (Id.) Plaintiff complains that the tumor that was removed from the middle of his back still gives him “trouble” and other symptoms include swelling in his throat and two knots under his arm. (Id.)

         Lastly, Plaintiff complains that “they have raised the prices of ‘sick'” and he and other inmates cannot “afford to go.” (Id.) Plaintiff seeks “some kind of parole or probation where [he] can get help for the cancer” and compensatory damages for pain and suffering. (Id. at 6.)[2]

         III. ...

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