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Bartram v. Western Regional Jail Authority

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

November 1, 2019



          Cheryl A. Eifert, United States Magistrate Judge

         In November 2018, Plaintiff, Jeremy D. Bartram ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se and incarcerated in the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville, West Virginia, filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 2). Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint. (ECF No. 13). This matter is assigned to the Honorable Robert C. Chambers, United States District Judge, and by standing order is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for the submission of proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         For the reasons that follow, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 13), be GRANTED; that the Complaint, (ECF No. 2), be DISMISSED, with prejudice; and that this action be removed from the docket of the Court.

         I. Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         On November 3, 2018, 19 prisoners incarcerated in the A-5 segregation unit in the Western Regional Jail filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the following:

1. Exposure to Human Waste
“As inmates in A5, we are constantly exposed to human wast[e], urin[e], fecal matter and the living conditions in the section are worse than one would find in a dog pound.” (ECF No. 2 at 5). The “pod smells of urin[e] and fecal matter, ” and “[w]e constantly have urin[e] and fecal matter in our section.” (Id. at 7). “At the beginning of October” an inmate was allowed to clean his cell and “over 10 pounds of trash and human waste from his cell […] was tossed into our day room where our food [was] brought in.” (Id.).
2. Exposure to Mold
“Our cells have mold in them.” (Id. at 7).
3. Limited Hygiene Products
“In our section, we might get razors every 2 weeks if lucky” and “[w]e have had to go without [soap, toilet paper, ] clean clothing as well as items to clean our cell[s] and day room.” (Id. at 7).
4. Limited Recreation Opportunities
“We are denied any outside recreation and barely get out [of] our cells each day.” (Id. at 8).
5. Limited Food and Medical Treatment
“We see neglect from simple things like [people's] food being eaten by [correctional officers] to refusing them medical help on a daily basis.” (Id.).
6. Claims Regarding Specific Inmates
“2 inmates in the section (Kenny Hall, Kevin Esque) [were] required to live in their own filth because they are mentally ill and don't know how to take care of themselves.” (Id. at 5-6). In addition, “[b]oth Kenith Hall and Kevin Esque [were] without clothing for over 2 weeks, ” and “Kevin Esque [was] also fed through a bean [hole] covered in fecal matter and urin[e].” 7, 8). Further, “a[n] inmate by the name of Jeffrie Turlie … [repeatedly tried] to cause harm to [himself] 2 or 3 times a week.” (Id.).

(ECF No. 2). The Complaint named as defendants the “Western Regional Jail Authority, ” Captain Aldridge, Captain Savilla, and “Any C.O. that has worked in A5 section, ” and the plaintiffs sought prospective injunctive relief and monetary damages. (ECF No. 2 at 1, 6, 9). Upon receiving the Complaint, the Court opened an individual civil action for each plaintiff and docketed the Complaint in each case. (ECF Nos. 1, 2). The undersigned granted Plaintiff's application to proceed without prepayment of fees and costs and ordered service of the Complaint and summonses on the defendants. (ECF No. 7).

         After being served with the Complaint, Defendants, the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“DCR”), [1] Captain Carl Aldridge, and Captain Samuel Savilla, filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 13). Defendants contend that any claims against DCR and the individual defendants in their official capacities should be dismissed because agencies of the state and agency officials acting in their official capacities are not “persons” amenable to suit under § 1983. (ECF No. 14 at 5). Furthermore, Defendants argue that any claims against them in their personal capacities should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted because Plaintiff does not allege a person that caused the conditions, a time period or duration of the conditions, any physical injury from the conditions, or any facts demonstrating an extreme deprivation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights. (Id. at 8-13). Captains Aldridge and Savilla further contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity because Plaintiff does not allege any facts or conduct by them that violated any clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. (Id. at 13-15).

         The undersigned entered an order notifying Plaintiff of the pending Motion to Dismiss and alerting him that he had the opportunity to file a response to the motion. (ECF No. 16). Plaintiff did not file a response. Thereafter, on September 18, 2019, the undersigned entered another order, specifically identifying the deficiencies in Plaintiff's Complaint that were raised in the Motion to Dismiss and allowing Plaintiff the opportunity to amend the Complaint to correct such deficiencies within 21 days. (ECF No. 25). Plaintiff was ordered to amend the Complaint as follows:

1. Set forth a specific factual basis upon which the Court can conclude that Captain Savilla and Captain Aldridge 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 wrongdoing.
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.

(Id. at 5-6). The Court explicitly advised Plaintiff that his failure to amend the Complaint as ordered would result in a recommendation that the case be dismissed for failure to state a claim under § 1983. (Id. at 6). Plaintiff did not amend the Complaint, request an extension to amend the Complaint, or contact the Court in any manner regarding this action. The deadline for Plaintiff to amend his Complaint expired without any response from Plaintiff. Therefore, the Motion to Dismiss is ripe for resolution.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants in this action seek dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF Nos. 13, 14). A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the Complaint. Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (stating to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, a Complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face”). Accordingly, the Court will assume that the facts alleged in the Complaint are true and will draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiff's favor as the nonmoving party. Burbach Broad. Co. of Delaware v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-06 (4th Cir. 2002). The purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) “is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). “Furthermore, when as here, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is testing the sufficiency of a civil rights complaint, ‘we must be especially solicitous of the wrongs alleged' and ‘must not dismiss the complaint unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any legal theory which might plausibly be suggested by the facts alleged.'” Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999) (quoting Harrison v. United States Postal Serv., 840 F.2d 1149, 1152 (4th Cir. 1988)).

         While the Court “take[s] the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, ... [the Court] need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts, ” and “need not accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions or arguments.” Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000)). A Complaint fails to state a claim when, accepting the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences, the Complaint lacks “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A pleading that “offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do” and a Complaint will not “suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Court are required to liberally construe pro se complaints, such as the Complaint filed herein. 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).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a remedy to parties who are deprived of federally protected civil and constitutional rights by persons acting under color of any state “law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Congress enacted § 1983 “to enforce provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment against those who carry a badge of authority of a state and represent it in some capacity, whether they act in ...

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