United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
KELLY J. SNYDER, Plaintiff,
WESTERN REGIONAL JAIL AUTHORITY; CAPTAIN ALDRAGE; CAPTAIN SAVILLA; and ANY C.O. THAT HAS WORKED IN A5 SECTION, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Eifert, United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. (ECF
No. 15). Defendants argue that the Complaint should be
dismissed against them, in part, because Plaintiff has failed
to include any factual statements in the Complaint specifying
how each named individual (i.e. Defendants Savilla, Aldridge,
and the correctional officers) violated Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights. 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 plaintiff’s 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).
case, Plaintiff alleges unsanitary and unsafe conditions in
pod A5 at the Western Regional Jail and Correctional
Facility. Title 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 plaintiff’s 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. 1971)).
alleges that the defendant captains and unnamed correctional
officers subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in
violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States
Constitution by denying him safe and sanitary living
conditions. The Eighth Amendment “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 (citing 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 prosecute a case against the named
defendants, 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)). 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)).
fulfill the subjective component, Plaintiff must demonstrate
that each individual named in the complaint acted with
“deliberate indifference” to Plaintiff’s
health or safety. 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 individuals
named in the complaint would have a sufficiently culpable
state of mind if they were each aware of an excessive risk of
harm to Plaintiff’s 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.”)
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).
“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).
in light of the governing standards and principles, Plaintiff
must amend his complaint to specifically name each
individual that he believes violated his rights and
must state how each individual violated Plaintiff’s
constitutional rights, how those violations caused injury to
Plaintiff, and the nature of the injuries. Therefore,
Plaintiff is ORDERED to amend his complaint
within twenty-one (21) days and cure the
following deficiencies in pleading as indicated below:
1. Plaintiff must set forth a specific factual basis upon
which the Court can conclude that Captain Savilla and Captain
Alridge acted with deliberate indifference to
Plaintiff’s health and safety. As for the correctional
officers, Plaintiff must identify specific officers he holds
at fault and then state factually how each such officer
violated Plaintiff’s rights.
2. Plaintiff must identify the nature of the injury he claims
to have suffered as a result of the defendants’ alleged
3. To the extent Plaintiff wishes to pursue prospective,
non-monetary relief, he must describe the policies or
procedures that he deems unconstitutional and name as a
defendant the official who is responsible for enforcement of
the policy or procedure.
is hereby given notice that a failure to amend the
complaint as ordered shall result in a recommendation that
the complaint be dismissed against the individual defendants
for failure to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. If
Plaintiff no longer wishes to pursue this civil action, he
may file a motion with the Clerk of Court, asking that the
lawsuit be voluntarily dismissed. Plaintiff is ...