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Salmons v. Western Regional Jail Authority

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

October 30, 2019




         Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 17. While still proceeding pro se, Plaintiff Rodney Salmons filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' motion. Resp. in Opp'n, ECF No. 23. Defendants subsequently filed a Reply Memorandum of Law. Reply, ECF. No. 24. After Plaintiff retained counsel in this matter, the Court entered an order permitting Plaintiff to file a supplemental response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss by October 11, 2019. Order, ECF No. 31. No. supplemental response having been filed, the issues here are nonetheless fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 3, 2018, Rodney Salmons and eighteen other prisoners at the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville, West Virginia jointly filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging various violations of the Eighth Amendment and raising claims for injunctive relief and monetary damages. See Compl., ECF No. 2, at 1-9. The Complaint specifically named the Western Regional Jail Authority, [1] Captain Carl Aldridge, [2] and Captain Samuel Savilla as Defendants, along with “any C.O. that has worked in A-5 section.” Id. at 1. After reviewing the Complaint, the Magistrate Judge issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order directing the Clerk to open separate civil actions for each of the listed Plaintiffs.[3] See Mem. Op. & Order, ECF No. 1, at 3. No. allegation in the Complaint specifically concerns Plaintiff; indeed, aside from being listed as a party to this action, his name does not appear anywhere on its face. The Court assumes, however, that Plaintiff's participation in this case is based on at least some of the generalized grievances laid out in the Complaint.

         Broadly speaking, Plaintiff alleges inhumane living conditions in Pod Section A-5 of the Western Regional Jail.[4] Compl., at 5-12. Pod Section A-5 is the jail's “segregation unit, designed and operated to house dangerous and troubled prisoners.” Mem. in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 18, at 11. While it is never explicitly stated, Plaintiff's involvement in this suit would seem to indicate that he was housed in Pod Section A-5 at some point in 2018. While incarcerated in Pod Section A-5, Plaintiff alleges he was “constantley [sic] [e]xposed to human wast[e], urin[e], [and] fecal matter, ” and that “the living conditions in the section [were] worse than one would find in a dog pound.” Id. at 5. Beyond these general claims of unsanitary living conditions, Plaintiff alleges that he and other inmates in Pod Section A-5 “have had to go without s[oap], [toilet] paper, clean clothing as well as Items to clean our cell and day room.” Id. at 7. He notes that inmates in Pod Section A-5 “might get Ra[z]ors Every 2 weeks if lucky, ” and that individual cells were moldy and smelled “of urin[e] and fecal matter.” Id. Plaintiff also references his limited opportunities for out-of-cell recreation, claiming that he and the other inmates “are den[i]ed any outside recreation and barely get out o[f] our [c]ells each day.” Id. at 9. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that the correctional officers in Pod Section A-5 often refuse to offer medical help. Id. At some point after this allegedly inhumane treatment occurred, it appears Plaintiff was transferred to Pod Section A-8 for an unknown period of time. Resp. in Opp'n, at 1. In any event, Plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail and is instead housed at the Parkersburg Correctional Center in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Id. at 3.

         On March 1, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Mot. to Dismiss, at 1. On March 5, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued an order directing Plaintiff to file a Response by April 1, 2019. Briefing Order, ECF No. 20, at 1. While there is some confusion surrounding the exact timing of Plaintiff's filing, his Response was docketed on April 3, 2019.[5] The Response makes no mention whatsoever of Plaintiff's time in Pod Section A-5, and instead exclusively relates to events that occurred while Plaintiff was housed in an entirely different part of the Western Regional Jail.[6]

         On September 20, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued an order directing that a status conference be held on October 2, 2019. Scheduling Order, ECF No. 28. The day before that conference was set to take place, Michael E. Froble entered a Notice of Appearance as Plaintiff's counsel. Notice of Appearance, ECF No. 29. As a result, this action was transferred from the Magistrate Judge to this Court. On October 2, 2019, the Court issued an order directing Plaintiff to file any supplemental response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss by October 11, 2019. Order on Supplemental Resp., ECF No. 31. Plaintiff's counsel filed no such response. Guided by the principle that “federal courts must take cognizance of the valid constitutional claims of prison inmates, ” Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84 (1987), the Court considers Defendants' Motion to Dismiss below.


         The Court will liberally construe the Complaint, as it was filed while Plaintiff was still proceeding pro se.[7] See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, the Court is mindful that it “may not construct the plaintiff's legal arguments for him.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Indeed, “[t]he special judicial solicitude with which a district court should view . . . pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate.” Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a court to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” As such, Rule 12(b)(6) motions will generally serve to test the sufficiency of a complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 233 (4th Cir. 1999). While 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), its “factual allegations must produce an inference of liability strong enough to nudge the plaintiff's claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v., Inc., 592 F.3d 250, 256 (4th Cir. 2009). In reviewing a motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(6), the Court will accept “all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true” and draw “all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor.” Edwards, 178 F.3d at 244. Indeed, “[t]he issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims” he makes. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).


         As noted earlier, Plaintiff names four parties as Defendants in this action: the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, [8] Captain Carl Aldridge, Captain Stephen Savilla, and “any C.O. that has worked in A-5 section.” Compl., at 1. He seeks both injunctive relief and compensatory damages. Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for either category of relief against any single defendant.[9] The Court considers this argument below.

         A. Claims for Injunctive Relief

         The gravamen of Plaintiff's prayer for relief lies in a set of injunctive remedies intended to correct the allegedly unconstitutional conditions in Pod Section A-5. Compl., at 5. While he makes several particularized requests, at core Plaintiff asks “the Court to put a stop to this behavior of the staff and bring to light what has been going on at the Western Regional Jail with the inmates in this section.” Id. Setting aside the merits of Plaintiff's case, Defendants argue that “Plaintiff's ...

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