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Salse v. Phillips

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

October 18, 2019




         On April 3, 2019, Plaintiff Teddy King Salse, Jr., who is incarcerated at the Morgan County Correctional Facility 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 & 3.) The complaint addresses events that allegedly occurred while Salse was incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, Tennessee. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 3.) The Court issued an order on April 5, 2019, 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. 5.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as NWCX Warden Shawn Phillips; Mike Reeves, who is identified in the complaint as the “Active” Warden at NWCX; Unit Manager Ralph Decker; Counselors First Name Unknown (FNU) Woods and FNU Emery; NWCX Internal Affairs Lieutenant FNU Able and Internal Affairs Sergeant FNU Rogers; NWCX Warden of Treatment Steve Jones; Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Tony Parker; Correctional Administrator Debra Johnson; and NWCX Unit 3 Team Member Officer FNU Hendrix.

         On April 15, 2019, Salse moved to supplement his pleadings to add as a twelfth defendant H.C. Brown, a former NWCX inmate now incarcerated at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, Tennessee. (ECF No. 6.) Suit under § 1983 may be brought against only state actors and cannot be brought against private parties. Brotherton v. Cleveland, 173 F.3d 552, 567 (6th Cir. 1999). Thus, “[i]n order to be subject to suit under § 1983, [a] defendant's actions must be fairly attributable to the state.” Collyer v. Darling, 98 F.3d 211, 231-32 (6th Cir. 1997). Although Brown is an inmate in the custody of the State of Tennessee, he is not a state actor for purposes of suit under § 1983. Salse provides no justification for attributing Brown's actions to the state. Salse's motion to add Brown as a defendant in this matter is therefore DENIED.

         Salse alleges that he is transgender and was stalked by inmate Brown while at NWCX. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 6.) He alleges that on October 15, 2018, he and his cellmate Stevie Gibson informed Defendant Decker that Brown was “being obsessed and overly aggressive” towards Salse. (Id.) Decker assured Salse that he would talk to Brown and “take care of it.” (Id.) Salse suggested against confronting Brown, who lived in the same housing unit as Salse and who Salse feared. (Id.) Nonetheless, Decker spoke with Brown but did not remove him from the housing unit. (Id.) Salse alleges that immediately after Decker had spoken with Brown, Brown approached him “and became extremely physical pushing and shoving plaintiff” and told him, “Keep my name out of your mouth.” (Id.)

         Four days after that confrontation, Salse alleges that Brown “violently choked” him. (Id. at PageID 7.) Salse and Gibson told Decker that Brown had choked Salse, but Salse alleges Brown still was not removed from the unit or any other protective measures taken. (Id.) On October 22, 2018, three days later, Salse and Gibson spoke with Decker in his office and reiterated their concerns about Brown, but “once again no action was taking [sic] to protect plaintiff.” (Id.) Later that evening, Brown allegedly approached Salse in his cell and asked, “Are you really going to keep denying me[?]” (Id.) Salse attempted to leave, but Brown stopped him and told Salse he was “felling [sic] some type of way.” (Id. at PageID 7-8.) When Salse again tried to leave the cell, Brown allegedly stabbed Salse then picked him up off the floor by the throat, held him in midair, and stabbed him repeatedly. (Id. at PageID 8.) Salse escaped from Brown and ran out of the cell and down the stairs, yelling for help. (Id.) Officers Bell and Holenson (who are not Defendants) secured Salse in the officer's cage as Brown approached the cage, further threatened Salse, and admitted to stabbing him. (Id.)

         Salse was treated by medical personnel at NWCX before being taken for emergency medical treatment to Dyersburg Hospital and, eventually, Memphis Medical One Hospital. (Id.) Salse states he underwent exploratory surgery to determine the extent of his injuries. (Id.) He alleges that he suffered two “nicks” in his intestines and “actually died for approximately 45 seconds during surgery.” (Id.) He alleges that he was hospitalized for six days and now suffers panic attacks, nightmares, acute pain, and PTSD and has permanent scars. (Id. at PageID 8-9.)

         Salse sues the Defendants in their official and individual capacities. (Id. at PageID 20.) He seeks compensatory, punitive, and “special” damages. (Id.)

         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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