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Lane v. Page

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

October 18, 2019

CHRISTOPHER ALAN LEE LANE, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHEN PAGE, Defendant.

          ORDER DIRECTING THAT PROCESS BE ISSUED AND SERVED ON DEFENDANT PAGE

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On April 10, 2019, Plaintiff Christopher Alan Lee Lane, who is presently incarcerated at the Morgan County Correctional Complex 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 & 2.) He sues Lieutenant Stephen Page concerning an event that occurred during Lane's previous confinement at the Henry County Jail in Paris, Tennessee. The Court issued an order on April 16, 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. 4.)

         Lane alleges that on March 28, 2019, Defendant Page used a taser on Lane for no reason while Lane was asleep. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) Lane alleges that, after being awoken by the taser, he was forced to sit in a “restraint chair” for three hours. (Id.) He asserts that he was at no point combative, aggressive, or a threat to himself or anyone else. (Id.) Lane further alleges that Page's incident report did not support the use of excessive force. (Id.) Lane allegedly has suffered insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression since the incident. (Id. at PageID 3.) He seeks monetary damages. (Id. at PageID 4.)

         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 ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'” (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))).

         Lane filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the “Constitution and laws” of the United States (2) committed by a defendant acting under color of state law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970).

         Lane's claim against Page arises under the Eighth Amendment, which protects a convicted inmate from cruel and unusual punishments. See generally Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991). “[T]he unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain . . . constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.” Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)). An Eighth Amendment claim consists of both objective and subjective components. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Establishing an Eighth Amendment claim of excessive force requires a showing that (1) “the alleged wrongdoing was objectively ‘harmful enough' to establish a constitutional violation, ” and (2) “‘the officials act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.'” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298, 303). The “core judicial inquiry” is “whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.” Id. at 6 (citing Whitley, 475 U.S. at 320-21).

         Lane's claim against Page sufficiently pleads a violation of the Eighth Amendment. He alleges that Page used a taser on him without provocation while Lane was asleep. If Lane was asleep, there was no need to use an incapacitating force such as a taser to restore order or maintain discipline. Page's use of the taser, therefore, could have been done only to cause harm. Cf. Roberson v. Torres, 770 F.3d 398, 406 (6th Cir. 2014) (holding that sergeant's use of a chemical agent on sleeping prisoner was excessive because ...


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