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Matthews v. Tennessee Department of Correction

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

November 15, 2019




         On August 8, 2019, Plaintiff Frederick Lamont Matthews a/k/a Frederick Mattews, [1] who at the time of filing was incarcerated at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX) in Tiptonville, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis.[2] (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court issued an order the same day, 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.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), TDOC Commissioner of Prisons Lee Daniels, [3] NWCX Warden Shawn Phillips, NWCX Associate Warden James Cooper, NWCX Chief of Security Justin Lanom, Captain Benn Triplet, Officer Michael Cain, West Regional Director of Wardens Debra Johnson, and Internal Affairs Coordinator Jason Rogers.

         Matthews alleges that on March 24, 2019, he was inside his housing unit waiting to be called to dinner. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 3.) Officer Cain was assigned to Matthews's housing unit at the time, and Captain Triplet was the shift commander. (Id.) As Matthews was waiting, Cain allegedly left his post and did not secure the pod door, which allowed other prisoners to come and go without supervision. (Id. at PageID 3-4.)

         A group of prisoners approached Matthews and demanded he give them his property. (Id. at PageID 4.) Matthews refused and stood in the entryway of his cell to block the group's entry. (Id.) The prisoners “overpowered” him and assaulted him in the common area outside his cell. (Id.) Matthews yelled for Cain to help, but Cain allegedly “sat down inside the security cage and witnessed the prisoners force [Matthews] into [his] cell and was aware that [he] was being assaulted and beaten.” (Id.) Matthews asserts that Cain “did not call a code” or try to protect him. (Id.) As he lost consciousness, Matthews allegedly heard the group yell for Cain to reopen the cell door because they had locked themselves inside during the attack. (Id. at PageID 4-5.)

         After the attack, Matthews's cellmate helped him up and told him “about how Michael Cain was aware of the incident and how it's a culture at this institution to not do anything.” (Id. at PageID 5.) Matthews called his family and told them about the attack, and his family called the NWCX to complain. (Id.) In response, the NWCX sent “Strike Force One” office Eason, who is not a Defendant, to escort Matthews for medical treatment. (Id. at PageID 5-6.) Triplet took Matthews's statement about the incident and allegedly told him that, because the NWCX is understaffed, inmates often move unattended throughout different housing assignments. (Id. at PageID 6.) Matthews received medical care and was taken to a protected-custody unit. (Id.)

         Matthews alleges that Rogers “failed to investigate and catch the group of prisoners” who had assaulted him and “had a careless attitude.” (Id.) Matthews further alleges that he developed mistrust of prison authorities after the attack and began suffering from mental disorders, including paranoia of future attacks and depression. (Id. at PageID 6-7.)

         Matthews seeks transfer to another facility and compensatory damages. (Id. at PageID 8.) 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))).

         Matthews 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 ...

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