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Wilson v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division

August 19, 2019



          Cheryl A. Eifert, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending is Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and Join Additional Parties. (ECF No. 68). The defendants have filed memoranda in opposition to the Motion. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion, in part, as it applies to some of the proposed defendants. The remaining defendants are addressed in the Proposed Findings & Recommendations filed contemporaneously with this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. Standard of Review for Motions for Leave to Amend

         Amendments to the complaint are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. Rule 15(a)(1) addresses amendments as a matter of course, allowing the plaintiff to amend the complaint within twenty-one days after serving it on the defendants, or within twenty-one days after a responsive pleading or motion to dismiss is filed under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier. F. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). In all other cases-such as the instant case- the plaintiff may only amend the complaint with the opposing party's written consent, or with leave of court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Here, the opposing parties do not consent; therefore, an amendment to the complaint requires leave of court. Rule 15(a)(2) provides guidance to the court when considering a motion for leave to amend the complaint. Rule 15(a)(2) directs that the court should “freely give leave” to file an amended complaint “when justice so requires.” See also Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006) (“This liberal rule gives effect to the federal policy in favor of resolving cases on their merits instead of disposing of them on technicalities.”).

         Generally, leave to amend should be denied “only when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would have been futile.” Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986). An amendment is futile “if the proposed amended complaint fails to satisfy the requirements of the federal rules.” U.S. ex rel. Wilson v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 525 F.3d 370, 376 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States ex rel. Fowler v. Caremark RX, LLC, 496 F.3d 730, 740 (7th Cir. 2007) overruled on other grounds by Glaser v. Wound Care Consultants, Inc., 570 F.3d 907 (7th Cir. 2009)). “In determining whether a proposed amendment is futile, a court may consider whether the proposed amendment could withstand a motion to dismiss.” Middlebrooks v. St. Coletta of Greater Wash., Inc., No. 1:10CV653, 2010 WL 3522084, at *2 (E.D. Va. Sept. 1, 2010) (citing Perkins v. United States, 55. F .3d 910, 917 (4th Cir. 1995)) (affirming denial of plaintiff's motion for leave to amend her complaint as futile because “the proposed amendments could not withstand a motion to dismiss.”); also Johnson, 785 F.2d at 510 (holding that a motion for leave to amend should be denied “when the proposed amendment is clearly insufficient or frivolous on its face.”) (citing Davis v. Piper Aircraft Corp., 615 F.2d 606, 613 (4th Cir. 1980); Jones v. N.Y. Div. of Military & Naval Affairs, 166 F.3d 45, 55 (2d Cir. 1999) (finding that amendments subject to “immediate dismissal” for failure to state a claim are “futile” and should not be allowed).

         II. Relevant Legal Principles

         The West Virginia Division of Corrections (“DCR”) and Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (“Wexford”) argue that the proposed amended complaint, which adds new defendants, but not new claims, should be rejected as futile. The defendants raise a number of legal arguments in opposition to Plaintiff's proposed amended complaint; accordingly, the relevant legal principles are discussed below.

         A. Pleading and Plausibility

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires a pleading to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This mandate “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations' but ‘it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, when a prisoner seeks to prosecute a complaint against a government entity or its officers or employees, the court must screen the pleading and dismiss it, or any part of it, if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant “who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. A “frivolous” case has been defined as one which is based upon an indisputably meritless legal theory, Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744 (1967), or lacks “an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). Likewise, a complaint fails to state a compensable claim, and therefore should be dismissed, when viewing the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         The Supreme Court of the United States (“Supreme Court”) further clarified the “plausibility” standard in Iqbal, stating that the court is required to accept as true the factual allegations asserted in a complaint, but is not required to accept the legitimacy of legal conclusions that are “couched as ... factual allegation[s].” Iqbal 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Plaintiff submits the proposed amended complaint pro se, and courts are required to liberally construe pro se complaints. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, even under this less stringent standard, the complaint still must contain sufficient factual allegations to support a valid legal cause of action. Bass v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003). 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), construct the plaintiff's legal arguments 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).

         B. Personal Capacity Versus Official Capacity Claims Under § 1983

         An individual acting under color of state law can be sued for violations of a prisoner's constitutional rights in either the individual's official or personal capacity. A prison official may be sued in her personal capacity for the official's own acts or omissions occurring under color of state law. When sued in her personal capacity, the prison official may be liable for money damages.

         In contrast, a prison official may not be sued in her official capacity for money damages, because the official is entitled to sovereign immunity. The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in relevant part, that “[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. art. XI. Although the Eleventh Amendment refers only to suits by citizens of other states, the Supreme Court has construed the Amendment to “establish that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal court by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another state.” Port. Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp. v. Feeney, 495 U.S. 299, 304 (2009) (quoting Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984)) (markings omitted). The immunity created by the Amendment protects both the State itself and its agencies, divisions, departments, officials, and other “arms of the State.” Taylor v. Ozmint, No. 0:10-50-HMH-PJG, 2011 WL 286133, at *2 (D.S.C. Jan. 7, 2011) (citing Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989)); see also Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1977) (“[I]t has long been settled that the reference [in the Eleventh Amendment] to actions ‘against one of the United States' encompasses not only actions in which a State is actually named as the defendant, but also certain actions against state agents and state instrumentalities.”). Thus, “neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983.” Will, 491 U.S. at 71. The Supreme Court explained in Will, “[o]bviously, state officials literally are persons. But a suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office. As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself.” Id.

         The Court later clarified its holding, making a distinction between officials acting in their official capacities and officials acting in their personal capacities under color of state law. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 22-23 (1991). The former are immune from prosecution for money damages under § 1983, while the latter are not. The Court explained that because the real party in interest in an “official-capacity” suit is the governmental entity, rather than the named official, the target of such a claim is the entity's “policy or custom.” Hafer, 502 U.S. at 25. “Personal-capacity suits, on the other hand, seek to impose individual liability upon a government officer for actions taken under color of state law.” Id. Therefore, to the extent Plaintiff asserts claims for money damages against the proposed defendants in their official capacities, the proposed defendants will enjoy the same immunity as the State of West Virginia. On the other hand, if the claims are “personal-capacity” claims, the proposed defendants will not be afforded the same protection, but “may assert personal immunity defenses such as objectively reasonable reliance on existing law.” Id.; see also Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (recognizing that “[p]ersonal-capacity suits seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law, ” while “[o]fficial-capacity suits, in contrast, ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'”) (quoting Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978)).

         C. Exception for Official Capacity Claims Seeking Prospective Relief

         As stated, official capacity claims for money damages are prohibited; however, “the Eleventh Amendment permits suits for prospective injunctive relief against state officials acting in violation of federal law”; this is known as the Ex parte Young exception.[1] Frew ex rel. Frew v. Hawkins, 540 U.S. 431, 437 (2004) (citing Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908)); see also Freeland v. Ballard, 6 F.Supp.3d 683, 694 (S.D. W.Va. 2014) (“Pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, a federal court may enjoin state officials to conform their future conduct to federal law, which is distinguishable from a retroactive monetary award paid from State funds.”). “The Ex Parte Young exception is directed at ‘officers of the state [who] are clothed with some duty in regard to the enforcement of the laws of the state, and who threaten and are about to commence proceedings'” to enforce an unconstitutional act against affected parties. McBurney v. Cuccinelli, II, 616 F.3d 393, 399 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. at 155-56). The state officer being sued must have “proximity to and responsibility for the challenged state action” before the exception can be invoked. Id. Moreover, the exception “applies only to prospective relief, does not permit judgments against state officers declaring that they violated federal law in the past, and has no application in suits against the States and their agencies, which are barred regardless of the relief sought.” P.R. Aqueduct & Sewer Auth. v. Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 506 U.S. 139, 146 (1993) (citations omitted). Consequently, to the extent Plaintiff seeks prospective relief from any of the proposed defendants having proximity to and responsibility for a challenged state action, the claims may go forward.

         D. Claims Based on Respondeat Superior Versus Supervisory Liability

         The law is well settled that “[t]here is no respondeat superior liability under § 1983.” Johnson v. Potomac Highlands Reg'l Jail, No. CIV.A. 5:06CV1, 2007 WL 1258879, at *2 (N.D. W.Va. Apr. 30, 2007) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 691). In other words, “§ 1983 does not permit a state official to be held liable solely because one of his or her employees committed a tort.” Oliver v. Powell, 250 F.Supp.2d 593, 598 (E.D. Va. 2002) (citing Monell, supra). Nevertheless, a supervisor may be held liable under § 1983 in certain circumstances.

         First, “liability will lie where it is affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights.” Johnson, 2007 WL 1258879, at *2 (citing Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1997)). Second, “when a supervisor is not personally involved in the alleged wrongdoing, he may be liable under § 1983 if a subordinate acts pursuant to an official policy or custom for which he is responsible.” Id. (citing Fisher v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 690 F.2d 1113 (4th Cir. 1982)). Third, “a supervisor may be liable under § 1983 if the following elements are established: (1) the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed a ‘pervasive and unreasonable risk' of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) the supervisor's response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show ‘deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices,' and (3) there was an ‘affirmative causal link' between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff.” Id. (citing Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir.1994)). A plaintiff “cannot satisfy this burden of proof by pointing to a single incident or isolated incidents ....” Oliver, 250 F.Supp.2d at 599. Rather, “supervisory liability may only be imposed where ‘there is a history of widespread abuse.'” Id. (quoting Wellington V. Daniels, 717 F.2d 932, 936 (4th Cir. 1980)). Therefore, while Plaintiff cannot attempt to hold a supervisor liable solely due to his managerial role, she may prosecute a supervisory liability claim if the factual basis for such a claim is contained in the complaint.

         E. Eighth Amendment Claims Based on the Conditions of Confinement

         In order to pursue a § 1983 claim based on the conditions of confinement, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each proposed defendant's alleged misconduct rises to the level of a constitutional violation. The 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) (citing Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). However, “[p]rison conditions may be ‘restrictive and even harsh.'” Id. 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). As such, not every uncomfortable condition of confinement is actionable. Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347. Ultimately, “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).

         In order for Plaintiff to state a prima facie case that her conditions of confinement violated the Eighth Amendment, she 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 official 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 (citing Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298-300).

         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, 1379-80 (4th Cir. 1993)). “The showing necessary to demonstrate that the deprivation of which a prisoner complains is serious enough to constitute cruel and unusual punishment ‘varies according to the nature of the alleged constitutional violation.'” Id. (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992)).

         To fulfill the subjective component, Plaintiff must demonstrate a “deliberate indifference” to her health or safety by the defendants. 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) (citing Williams, 77 F.3d at 761). Put simply, the proposed defendants had a sufficiently culpable state of mind if they were aware of an excessive risk of harm to Plaintiff's health or safety, but were deliberately indifferent to it. See Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303. “In other words, the 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.” 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)). 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.” Rogers v. Evans, 792 F.2d 1052, 1058 (11th Cir. 1986).

         If the requisite subjective knowledge is established, an official may still avoid liability “if [he] responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm was not ultimately averted.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 844. An inmate is not entitled to unqualified access to health care, and treatment may be limited to what is medically necessary and not “that which may be considered merely desirable” to the inmate. Bowring v. Godwin, 551 F.2d 44, 47-48 (4th Cir. 1977). A mere difference of opinion about whether medical care is needed is usually insufficient to maintain a valid cause of action. Id. at 48 (citing Russell v. Sheffer, 528 F.2d 318, 319 (4th Cir. 1975)).

         Of relevance to this case, “[t]aunting comments and slurs by [prison officials] are unprofessional and reprehensible, but do not in and of themselves support a claim of constitutional violation.” Johnson v. Robinette, No. CV GJH-17-3401, 2019 WL 1331310, at *4 (D. Md. Mar. 22, 2019); McBride v. Deer, 240 F.3d 1287, 1291 (10th Cir. 2001) (“However, acts or omissions resulting in an inmate being subjected to nothing more than threats and verbal taunts do not violate the Eighth Amendment.”) (citing Collins v. Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 827 (10th Cir. 1979)). According to established law, the verbal abuse of inmates by correctional facility staff, without more, is not actionable under § 1983. See Tokley v. Ratliff, No. CIV A 707CV00109, 2007 WL 1046955, at *1 (W.D. Va. Apr. 3, 2007) (citing Morrison v. Martin, 755 F.Supp. 683, 687 (E.D. N.C. 1990)); also Rahn v. Barksdale, No. 7:11-cv-00563, 2011 WL 6131076, at *2 (W.D. Va. Dec. 8, 2011) (holding that “[v]erbal harassment or idle threats to an inmate, even to an extent that it causes an inmate fear or emotional anxiety” do not amount to constitutional violations.); Owens v. Vanmeter, No. CIV.A. RWT-09-1780, 2010 WL 817315, at *3, n. 5 (D. Md. Mar. 4, 2010) (“The use of racist epithets, while offensive, is not actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”) (collecting cases); Keyes v. City of Albany, 594 F.Supp. 1147, 1155 (N.D.N.Y. 1984) (“[T]he use of vile and abusive language, no matter how abhorrent or reprehensible, cannot form the basis for a § 1983 claim.”); Burdos v. Canino, 641 F.Supp.2d 443, 455 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (“[T]hreats and offensive language do not constitute an actionable adverse action under § 1983.”); Calhoun v. Hargrove, 312 F.3d 730, 734 (5th Cir. 2002) (holding that verbal taunts and abuse do not give rise to liability under § 1983); and Haywood v. Gifford, No. 1:17-CV-398, 2017 WL 5633316, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 4, 2017), report and recommendation adopted, No. 1:17-CV-398, 2017 WL 5598167, at *4 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 21, 2017) (“[I]t is well-settled that ‘[v]erbal harassment or idle threats by a state actor do not create a constitutional violation and are insufficient to support a section 1983 claim for relief.'”) (citing Wingo v. Tennessee Dep't of Corp., 499 Fed.Appx. 453, 455 (6th Cir. 2012)).

         F. The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”)

         In addition to the legal principles set forth above, Plaintiff's claims for money damages are governed by the 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.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). 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 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); See also Hammond v. S.C. Dep't of Corr., No. C.A. 4:06-3357, 2007 WL 2822394, at *4 (D.S.C. Sept. 25, 2007) (the plaintiff's complaints of eye, skin, and throat irritation after being sprayed with mace did not provide a serious or significant physical injury as the plaintiff never sought medical treatment); Webb v. McKnight, No. CIV.A. 7:06CV00734, 2006 WL 3761382, at *2 (W.D. Va. Dec. 20, 2006), aff'd, 225 Fed.Appx. 117 (4th Cir. 2007) (“[T]he injuries of which [the plaintiff] complains-indigestion, constipation, headaches, occasional vomiting, and emotional distress-are not sufficiently serious to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation.”); Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 871 (4th Cir. 1988) (“The sliver of glass in [the plaintiff's] palm was no doubt uncomfortable, but it was not a serious injury.”); Alexander v. Tippah Cty., Miss., 351 F.3d 626, 631 (5th Cir. 2003) (dismissal of claims where inmates were held in small cell with clogged toilet drain and exposed to sewage for 24 hours as only physical injuries, nausea and vomiting, were not “severe enough to warrant medical attention” and were not “a symptom of some more serious malady, or had any lasting effects”); Laughlin v. Mayor of Duffield, VA, No. 7:07CV00491, 2007 WL 3339504, at *1 (W.D. Va. Nov. 7, 2007) (collecting cases).

         “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)). This Court, as well as other courts in the Fourth Circuit, have found that “generalized claims of adverse mental health” are not sufficient to establish a significant mental injury without some further specification. See Germain v. Bishop, No. CV TDC-15-1421, 2018 WL 1453336, at *13 (D. Md. Mar. 23, 2018); see also Powell v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, No. 1:08-CV-00199, 2009 WL 3160124, at *4 (S.D. W.Va. Sept. 25, 2009) (“Plaintiff merely alleges that she has suffered ‘mental anguish' as a result of the above conditions of confinement, ” which is not sufficient to state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim); In re Long Term Admin. Segregation of Inmates Designated as Five Percenters, 174 F.3d 464, 472 (4th Cir. 1999) (inmates failed to sufficiently specify a mental injury where they said only that “the overall conditions of their confinement [placed] them under ‘great stress' and caused them ‘great emotional and physical suffering.'”); Gannon v. Cent. Virginia Reg'l Jail, No. CIV.A. 7:08CV00394, 2008 WL 2853629, at *1 (W.D. Va. July 22, 2008) (dismissing the plaintiff's claim where “the injuries are entirely speculative and thus are not sufficiently serious to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation.”).

         G. Denial of ...

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