United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia
JEFFERSON O. SMITH, Plaintiff,
WESTERN REGIONAL JAIL, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Eifert United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff's Complaint filed pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (ECF No. 1). The undersigned notes
that Plaintiff has failed to pay a filing fee or submit an
Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs.
Before the Complaint can be accepted for prosecution, either
the filing fee must be paid, or an application to proceed
in forma pauperis must be approved by the Court.
Therefore, Plaintiff is hereby ORDERED to
pay the filing fee of $400, or in the alternative, submit to
the Court a completed and signed Application to Proceed
Without Prepayment of Fees and Costs, which includes the
institutional certification and an inmate account transaction
record. Plaintiff is notified that failure
to pay the fee or submit a completed application within
thirty (30) days of the date of this Order
shall result in a recommendation that the Complaint be
keeping with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the undersigned has
conducted a preliminary review of Plaintiffs complaint to
determine if the action is frivolous, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Although
pro se complaints, such as the one filed in this
case, must be liberally construed to allow the development of
potentially meritorious claims, the court may not rewrite the
pleading to include claims that were never presented,
Parker v. Champion, 148 F.3d 1219, 1222 (10th Cir.
1998), develop the plaintiffs legal theories for him,
Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir.
1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely
presented" to the court. Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). At the
same time, to achieve justice, the court may allow a pro
se plaintiff the opportunity to amend his complaint in
order to correct deficiencies in the pleading. Gordon v.
Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978).
alleges that since being booked into the Western Regional
Jail in Barboursville, West Virginia, he has been denied
clean clothing and sheets for his mat. (ECF No. 1). In
addition, Plaintiff states that he has been exposed to filthy
conditions that resulted in him developing a bacterial
infection in his eye. Finally, Plaintiff complains that he
has kidney stones that have been left untreated.
(Id.). As currently written, Plaintiffs complaint
fails to state a claim sufficient to withstand dismissal on
initial screening, as explained below.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides a remedy to parties who are
deprived of federally protected civil rights by persons
acting under color of any state "law, statute,
ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage." To state a
cause of action under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
facts showing that: (1) an official deprived the plaintiff of
a federally protected civil right, privilege or immunity and
(2) that the official did so under color of State law. 42
U.S.C. § 1983; see also Perrin v. Nicholson,
C/A No. 9:10-1111-HFF-BM, 2010 WL 3893792 (D.S.C. Sept. 8,
2010). If either of these elements is missing, the complaint
fails to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Moreover, for an official to be liable under §
1983, it must be "affirmatively shown that the official
charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiffs
rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior has no
application under this section." Vinnedge v.
Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (quoting
Bennett v. Gravelle, 323 F.Supp. 203, 214 (D. Md.
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
"imposes duties on [prison] officials who must provide
humane conditions of confinement; prison officials must
ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter,
and medical care, and must 'take reasonable measures to
guarantee the safety of the inmates.'" Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Hudson v.
Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). However,
"[p]rison conditions may be 'restrictive and even
harsh.'" Farmer, 511 U.S at 833
(quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)
("To the extent that [prison] conditions are restrictive
or even harsh, they are part of the penalty that criminal
offenders pay for their offenses against society.").
"The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit cruel and
unusual prison conditions; it prohibits cruel and unusual
punishments." Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d
1375, 1381 (4th Cir. 1993). Thus, not every uncomfortable
condition of confinement is actionable. Rhodes, 452
U.S. at 347. Ultimately, this prohibition "does not
mandate comfortable prisons, and only those deprivations
denying the 'minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities' are sufficiently grave to form the basis of
an Eighth Amendment violation." Wilson v.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991) (quoting
Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347).
order for Plaintiff to maintain a prima facie case
that his conditions of confinement violated the Eighth
Amendment, he must show both (1) the deprivation of a basic
human need that was "sufficiently serious," when
measured by an objective standard, and (2) that the
responsible prison officials had a "sufficiently
culpable state of mind." Iko v. Shreve, 535
F.3d 225, 238 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Williams v.
Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996)). "These
requirements spring from the text of the amendment itself;
absent intentionality, a condition imposed upon an inmate
cannot properly be called 'punishment,' and absent
severity, a punishment cannot be called 'cruel and
unusual.'" Iko, 535 F.3d at 238. To satisfy
the objective component, Plaintiff must show that the
challenged condition caused or constituted an extreme
deprivation. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630,
634 (4th Cir. 2003). "[T]o demonstrate such an extreme
deprivation, [Plaintiff] must allege a serious or significant
physical or emotional injury resulting from the challenged
conditions or demonstrate a substantial risk of such serious
harm resulting from [his] exposure to the challenged
conditions." Odom v. South Carolina Dept. of
Corrections, 349 F.3d 765, 770 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting
De'Lonta, 330 F.3d at 634). "Compelling a
showing of significant physical or emotional harm, or a grave
risk of such harm, infuses an element of objectivity into the
analysis, lest resolution of the seriousness of the
deprivation devolve into an application of the subjective
views of the judges deciding the question." Shakka
v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995) (citing
Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1370-80 (4th
Cir. 1993)). To state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim
based on the failure to provide medical care, Plaintiff must
demonstrate the existence of a medical condition or need that
is objectively serious. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 104 (1976). A medical condition is serious under the
Eighth Amendment when it has been diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment, or is so obvious that even a lay person
would understand that medical attention is necessary.
Gaudreault v. Municipality of Salem, Mass., 923 F.2d
203, 208 (1st Cir. 1990). A serious medical need may also be
shown by the presence of a medical condition that
significantly affects the prisoner's daily activities or
causes chronic and substantial pain. McGuckin v.
Smith, 974 F.2d 1050, 1059-60 (9th Cir. 1992); see
also Adams v. Southwest Virginia Regional Jail
Authority, 524 Fed.Appx. 899, 900-01 (4th Cir. 2013).
fulfill the subjective component, Plaintiff must demonstrate
a "deliberate indifference" to his health or safety
by the defendant. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. The
Supreme Court explained:
[A] prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth
Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of
confinement unless the official knows of and disregards an
excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must
both be aware of facts from which the inference could be
drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he
must also draw the inference.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Deliberate indifference is
more than mere negligence but less than malice. Flores v.
Stevenson, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-01278-TMC-BHH, 2012
WL 2803721 (D.S.C. May 11, 2012). Put simply, the staff at
the Western Regional Jail had a sufficiently culpable state
of mind if they were aware of an excessive risk of harm to
Plaintiffs health or safety, but disregarded it. See
Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298; Brown v. North Carolina
Dept. of Corrections, 612 F.3d 720, 723 (4th Cir. 2010)
(quoting Case v. Ahitow, 301 F.3d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2002)) ("[T]he test is whether the guards know
the plaintiff inmate faces a serious danger to his safety and
they could avert the danger easily yet they fail to do
so.")- A prison official is not liable under the Eighth
Amendment if a reasonable response was made, "even if
the harm ultimately [was] not averted." Odom v.
South Carolina DOC, 349 F.3d 765, 770 (4th Cir. 2003)
(citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844). To
establish that a prison official's actions constitute
deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, "the
treatment must be so grossly incompetent, inadequate or
excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to
fundamental fairness." Milder v. Beorn, 896
F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990).
addition to the legal principles set forth above,
Plaintiff's claims are governed by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). The PLRA
expressly prohibits the filing of civil actions by prisoners
"confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional
facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in
custody without a prior showing of physical injury."
Although the PLRA does not define "physical injury"
and the Fourth Circuit has not provided a definition, other
courts have held that the "physical injury"
referenced by the Act need not be significant, but it must be
more than de minimis. See, e.g., Flanory v. Bonn,
604 F.3d 249, 254 (6th Cir. 2010); Mitchell v. Brown
& Williamson Tobacco Corp., 294 F.3d 1309, 1312-13
(11th Cir. 2002); Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191
(5th Cir. 1997); Zehner v. Trigg, 952 F.Supp. 1318
(S.D. Ind. 1997). In addition, "[a] plaintiff seeking
compensatory damages for emotional distress cannot rely on
conclusory statements that the plaintiff suffered emotional
distress [or] the mere fact that a constitutional violation
occurred, but, rather, the testimony must establish that the
plaintiff suffered demonstrable emotional distress, which
must be sufficiently articulated." Knussman v.
Maryland, 272 F.3d 625, 640 (4th Cir. 2001), quoting
Price v. City of Charlotte, 93 F.3d 1241, 1254 (4th Cir.
1996) (internal quotation marks omitted).
light of these governing principles, Plaintiff must amend his
complaint to cure the following deficiencies:
1. The Western Regional Jail is not a "person"
subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Therefore,
if Plaintiff claims that a prison official or other person
acting under color of State law violated his federal civil or
constitutional rights, he must name the individual
or individuals as defendant(s). If Plaintiff does not know
the name of a relevant person, Plaintiff shall list that
person as a John Doe or Jane Doe (e.g. Correctional Officer
John Doe, Nurse Jane Doe) and shall further identify the
person in the body of the complaint by description, date/time
of contact, alleged act, or in some other manner that assists
the Court in determining the identity and number of
individual defendants in the action, as well as the specific
reason that each person is included in the Complaint. To the
extent Plaintiff knows partial names, he shall include those
parts (e.g. Correctional Officer Ronald LKU ('last name
2. Plaintiff must set forth a factual basis upon which the
Court can conclude that the defendants acted with deliberate
indifference to Plaintiffs health and safety. In other words,
Plaintiff must include details about when the alleged events
occurred, who was involved in the alleged events, what was
said and done by each participant, and what ...