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Nelson Covington v. Laws

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 5, 2019




         This pro se prisoner's complaint for violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is before the Court for screening pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) [Doc. 2].


         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, sua sponte dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A; Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014, 1015-16 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the 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) (“Section 1983 . . . creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).


         A fire was started in the Hamblen County Jail on August 10, 2019, and Captain Teresa Laws left inmates in their cells inhaling smoke “for a long period of time” before transferring multiple inmates, including Plaintiff, to the Blount County Jail [Doc. 2 p. 3- 4]. Plaintiff requested medical treatment prior to the transfer but was denied care, and he was transferred without his property [Id. at 4]. At the Blount County Jail, Plaintiff was placed in punitive segregation and staff threatened to beat Plaintiff [Id.]. Plaintiff has not been provided medical care despite making numerous requests for treatment [Id.].


         A. Medical Care

         Plaintiff alleges a denial of medical treatment at both the Hamblen County Jail and the Blount County Jail for an unspecified medical need. He concedes, however, that he has “been placed on sick call” to receive medical care at the Blount County Jail [Doc. 2 p. 2].

         It is well settled that a prison authority's deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). But Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that would allow the Court to infer that he has or had a serious medical need that has been left untreated. That is, he has not identified a medical need “that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cty., 390 F.3d 890, 897 (6th Cir. 2004). Even if the Court were to presume that Plaintiff's alleged smoke inhalation on August 10, 2019, was the impetus for the request for medical treatment, Plaintiff fails to allege that he has suffered any adverse effects from that event that require treatment. The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff has neither identified a medical need indicating that he faces a substantial risk of harm in the absence of treatment, nor plausibly alleged that any named Defendant acted with the culpable mental state of deliberate indifference to such a medical need. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). Accordingly, this allegation fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         B. Segregation

         Plaintiff also complains that he was transferred to the Blount County Jail without his property and placed in punitive segregation without any form of hearing [Doc. 2 p. 4]. Plaintiff's transfer does not implicate Plaintiff's constitutional rights, as there is no liberty interest “in avoiding transfer to more adverse conditions of confinement.” Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221-22 (2005) (citing Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 225 (1976)).

         However, in certain circumstances, “a liberty interest in avoiding particular conditions of confinement may arise from state policies or regulations, ” id. at 222, where the confinement “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents ...

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