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Williams v. U.S. Corrections, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

September 24, 2019

US CORRECTIONS, LLC, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Justin Williams, an inmate of the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, Tennessee, has filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff has also filed an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) (Doc. No. 2) and a Motion for PLRA Screening. (Doc. No. 6.)

         The case is before the Court for ruling on the IFP application and for initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.


         Under the PLRA, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), a prisoner bringing a civil action may apply for permission to file suit without prepaying the filing fee of $350.00 required by 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Because it is apparent from Plaintiffs UP application that he lacks the funds to pay the entire filing fee in advance, his application (Doc. No. 2) is GRANTED. However, the Court declines to assess the filing fee because the fee has already been assessed against Plaintiff in connection with his original attempt to file this lawsuit (Case No. 3:19-cv-00261), which was dismissed without prejudice.


         A. PLRA Screening Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss any IFP complaint that is facially frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Similarly, Section 1915A provides that the Court shall conduct an initial review of any prisoner complaint against a governmental entity, officer, or employee, and shall dismiss the complaint or any portion thereof if the defects listed in Section 1915(e)(2)(B) are identified. Under both statutes, this initial review of whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted asks whether it contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, " such that it would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Applying this standard, the Court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and, again, must take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Tackett v. M& G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). Furthermore, pro se pleadings must be liberally construed and "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, pro se litigants are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), nor can the Court "create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading." Brown v. Matauszak, 415 F.App'x 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)).

         B. Section 1983 Standard

          Plaintiff seeks to vindicate alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, to state a Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States, and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law. Carl v. Muskegon Cty., 763 F.3d 592, 595 (6th Cir. 2014).

         C. Allegations and Claims

          Plaintiff alleges that on February 3, 2019, at 3:00 a.m., he was picked up in a prisoner transport van driven by two unnamed Defendants, for transport from Gainesville, Florida to NWCX in Tennessee. (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) He alleges that the van was overcrowded, with seven prisoners on board, and that the drivers had contacted dispatch to see if a larger van were available but were denied. (Id.) Within ten minutes of beginning the 13½ -hour trip, "the air-conditioning and ventilation system completely stopped functioning." (Id. at 2-3.) After about fifteen minutes of banging on the side of the van, the prisoners succeeded in getting the drivers to stop the van. (Id. at 3.) After being informed that the ventilation was not working, the drivers "fiddled with several wires and switches for about 5 minutes" before determining that they could not fix the problem. (Id.) The drivers advised the prisoners that they had "contacted dispatch and [were] told to continue onward because no other vehicles were available, " and that "it was just a short ride to the holding facility at Waycross, GA." (Id.) They further stated that "it was Super Bowl night and they couldn't accept [any] delays because no matter what they had to be at home before the game." (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the van continued traveling north for approximately four hours before arriving at the next stop, an "unknown county jail" where the prisoners exited the van and "hydration" was made available. (Id. at 3, 4.) Plaintiff alleges that the group of prisoners "advised the drivers that they needed to call another vehicle or get the a/c fixed, " but the drivers advised that the destination was "like 30 minutes" away. (Id. at 3.) The prisoners got back ...

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