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Dotson v. Turner

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

October 11, 2019

GABRIEL DOTSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIELLE TURNER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PAMELA L. REEVES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, an inmate proceeding pro se in a civil rights action for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that Defendant Danielle Turner denied him constitutionally adequate medical care [See Doc. 12 p. 5-8]. Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claim against her for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted [Doc. 16]. Plaintiff has submitted a response in opposition to the motion [Doc. 19], and Defendant has filed a reply thereto [Doc. 22]. Having fully considered the parties' arguments and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's motion should be granted.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S RELEVANT ALLEGATIONS

         On June 7, 2017, while housed at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, Plaintiff was injured while playing basketball [Doc. 12 p. 5]. He was examined by Defendant Danielle Turner, a nurse at the clinic, who noted the swelling to his injured foot and left the room to speak to the doctor. When she returned, she told Plaintiff that a doctor would x-ray his ankle the following day [Id.]. Defendant Turner did not provide Plaintiff with pain medication or crutches, but after Plaintiff advised her that he could not place weight on his ankle, she called an officer to return Plaintiff to his unit in a wheelchair [Id. at 5-6]. Plaintiff was returned to his unit but was denied food for the following two days, as he could not walk to the dining hall and lacked crutches or a wheelchair to assist him [Id. at 6, 13].

         Plaintiff limped to the clinic the following day and had his foot and ankle x-rayed [Id. at 6-7]. He was not provided any medication for pain [Id. at 7]. The swelling of his foot prevented him from wearing his boots [Id.]. On June 12, 2017, Plaintiff was told by an officer in the dining hall that he could not return until he had on boots [Id.]. The same day, Plaintiff returned to the clinic, where Defendant Turner advised Plaintiff that doctor had just read his x-ray, which showed that he had a hairline fracture [Id.]. Plaintiff was provided crutches and ibuprofen [Id.]. On June 14, 2017, Plaintiff finally saw a doctor and was informed that he had a broken ankle and would be placed in a special boot [Id.].

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Turner was responsible for ensuring that he was timely seen by medical professionals who would have diagnosed and treated his injury, and that he endured unnecessary pain and suffering due to her failure to make a prompt referral to the available, treating professionals [See Doc. 12; Doc. 19 p. 1-2].

         II. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim for relief is plausible on its face “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. A claim for relief is implausible on its face when “the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. When considering a plaintiff's claims, all factual allegations in the complaint must be taken as true. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). However, the Supreme Court has cautioned:

Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will. . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not “show[n]”-“that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (internal citations omitted).

         Additionally, while Plaintiffs claim survived a frivolity review upon initial screening under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the standard for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is a higher bar than the frivolity standard in 28 U.S.C. § 1915. See, e.g, Leach v. Corr. Corp. of Am., No. 3:16-CV-2876, 2017 WL 35861, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. Jan. 4, 2017) (stating the required screening of a plaintiffs complaint under the PLRA is “a lower burden for the plaintiff to overcome in order for his claims to proceed” than a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)). It is with these standards in mind that the Court considers the Defendant's motion.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiffs allegation that Defendant Turner denied him proper medical treatment implicates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, which proscribes acts or omissions that produce an “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991). An Eighth Amendment claim is composed of two parts: (1) an objective component, which requires a plaintiff to show a “sufficiently serious” deprivation; and (2) a subjective component, which requires a showing of a sufficiently capable state of mind - that of “deliberate indifference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 842 (1994).

         In order to meet the subjective requirement, an inmate must show more than negligence or medical malpractice in failing to render adequate medical care. See, e.g., Harrison v. Ash,539 F.3d 510, 518 (6th Cir. 2008). Rather, deliberate indifference is demonstrated only where “the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of the facts from which the inference could be drawn that a ...


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