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Spicer v. Riffle

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

January 22, 2019

LIEUTENANT RIFFLE, Special Housing Unit Lieutenant; OFFICER M. BLEDSOE, Special Housing Unit Officer; M. LISTEN, Special Housing Unit Officer; OFFICER K. PEARCE, Special Housing Unit Officer; D. HARVISCHAK, Special Housing Unit Officer; and C. MEYER, Nurse/P.A., Defendants.



         I. Procedural History

         On September 25, 2017, the Plaintiff initiated this civil rights complaint against the above-named defendants regarding events that occurred at FCC Hazelton. In addition, the Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis, together with a Prisoner Trust Account Report and Consent to Collection. On September 26, 2017, the Plaintiff was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and on October 10, 2017, he paid the required initial partial filing fee. On October 13, 2017, former United States Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert conducted an initial screening and found that summary dismissal was not appropriate at that time. Therefore, the Clerk was directed to issue a sixty (60) day summons for each defendant.

         On April 9, 2018, the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 58. On April 10, 2018, a Roseboro Notice was issued. ECF No. 63. On July 25, 2018, the Plaintiff filed a response. Accordingly, this matter is now before the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation.

         II. Issues Presented

         A. The Complaint

         Although the Plaintiff provides no definitive date, his first allegation is that in late 2015 or early 2016, he was put in full body restraints and beaten and tortured by Defendant Riffle for complaining about staff misconduct. The Plaintiff further alleges that to “[his] knowledge his rib cage was fractured. ECF No. 1 at p. 9. As a corollary, the Plaintiff alleges that he was denied medical attention by Defendant Meyer following the beating. In addition, the Plaintiff alleges that on June 24, 2016, he and his cell mate were taken out of their cell in the Special Housing Unit ostensibly so that the Plaintiff could speak to the Special Investigative Agent (“SIA”) about staff misconduct. The Plaintiff contends that Defendants Bledsoe, Harvischak, Liston and Pearce then entered his cell and “flushed all records” that he was using as evidence of staff misconduct. Finally, the Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Bledsoe put a razor in his cell in order to have his cell mate, “JR” kill him for going to SIA. The Plaintiff maintains that “JR” told him that Defendant Bledsoe put it in the cell so that he could cut the Plaintiff's throat probably while he was sleeping. Instead, “J.R.” swallowed pills and used the razor to cut his own wrists. In addition, although not included in his complaint, the grievances which are attached allege that Defendant Bledsoe called him a rat and a snitch.[1] Finally, in addition to asserting that he denied him medical attention following the alleged beating at the end of 2015, early 2016, the Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Meyer refused to provide him his “mental Medication.” For relief, the Plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

         B. The Defendant's Answer

         For their answer, the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, on the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. In support of their motion, the Defendants allege that:

1. The Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative grievances related to his claim of excessive force against Defendant Riffle or his deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Meyer;
2. Defendant Meyer is a Public Health Service employee and is entitled to absolute immunity;
3. The Plaintiff's Eight Amendment claim against Defendant Riffle should be dismissed because his claim is wholly unsupported.
4. The Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Bledsoe regarding the razor and verbal statements should be dismissed.
5. The Plaintiff cannot establish a constitutional violation with respect to the alleged destruction of his legal materials.

         C. The Plaintiff's Response

         In response to the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, for Summary Judgment, the Plaintiff maintains that there is a clear dispute as to each of his allegations, and accordingly, summary judgment is not warranted.

         III. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         “A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir.1992) (citing 5A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir.1993); see also Martin, 980 F.2d at 952.

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “require only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Courts long have cited the “rule that a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [a] claim which would entitle him to relief.” Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46. In Twombly, the United States Supreme Court noted that a complaint need not assert “detailed factual allegations, ” but must contain more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Conley, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). Thus, the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” (Id.). (citations omitted), to one that is “plausible on its face, ” (Id.). at 570, rather than merely “conceivable.” (Id.). Therefore, in order for a complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must “allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim.” Bass v. E.I.DuPont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir.2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir.2002); Iodice v. United States, 289 F.3d 279, 281 (4th Cir.2002)). In so doing, the complaint must meet a “plausibility” standard, instituted by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, where it held that a “claim ...

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