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Mendiola v. Shelby County Jail Medical Staff

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

December 26, 2019




         On December 3, 2019, Plaintiff Jose Carlos Mendiola a/k/a Jose Carlos Mendiola Mora, who is incarcerated at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center (Jail) in Memphis, 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.) After Mendiola submitted the necessary documents, the Court issued an order 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. 6.) Mendiola seeks to sue the Shelby County Jail Medical Staff.

         Mendiola alleges that, since February 2019, he has had “spots and blisters in [sic] my arms and body.” (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) Mendiola requested medical attention but allegedly did not receive any for seven or eight months, and even then he received only “shampoo, ” which did not help his condition. (Id.) He also filed a grievance but received no response. (Id.) Mendiola seeks unspecified compensatory 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))).

         Mendiola 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).

         Mendiola attempts to assert a claim under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). However, Mendiola does not say who is responsible for denying him proper medical care. He names only the Shelby County Jail Medical Staff. The Jail itself is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983. See Jones v. Union Cnty., Tennessee, 296 F.3d 417, 421 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994)). His claims could be construed as against Shelby County, which may be held liable only if his injuries were sustained pursuant to an unconstitutional custom or policy. See Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978). But because Mendiola does not allege that he was denied treatment pursuant to a Shelby County policy or custom, he does not state a claim against Shelby County. His collective allegations against the “Medical Staff” are insufficient to state a claim against any Defendant. See Gray v. Weber, 244 Fed.Appx. 753, 754 (8th Cir. 2007) (affirming dismissal of inmate's § 1983 complaint alleging denial of medical care against Defendants identified “only collectively as ‘medical staff'”).

         Even had Mendiola named a proper Defendant, his allegations do not amount to an Eighth Amendment violation. A claim for inadequate medical care under the Eighth Amendment requires that a prisoner have a serious medical need. Blackmore v. Kalamazoo Cnty., 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004); Brooks v. Celeste, 39 F.3d 125, 128 (6th Cir. 1994). “[A] medical need is objectively serious if it is ‘one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would readily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.'” Blackmore, 390 F.3d at 897; see also Johnson v. Karnes, 398 F.3d 868, 874 (6th Cir. 2005). Mendiola's allegation of “spots and blisters, ” without more, does not constitute a serious medical need.

         Nor does Mendiola state a claim with regard to the allegation that he did not receive a response to his grievances. “There is no inherent constitutional right to an effective prison grievance procedure.” See LaFlame v. Montgomery Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 3 Fed.Appx. 346, 348 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Antonelli v. Sheahan, 81 F.3d 1422, 1430 (7th Cir. 1996)). A ...

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