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Chapman v. Reno County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 31, 2018

DAVID B. CHAPMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
RENO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          SAM A. CROW, U.S. SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff David B. Chapman, an inmate at the Winfield Correctional Facility in Winfield, Kansas, brings this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff is ordered to show cause why his complaint should not be dismissed.

         I. Nature of the Matter before the Court

         Plaintiff's complaint (ECF No. 1) alleges he received constitutionally inadequate medical care while being held at the Reno County Correctional Facility (RCCF). Mr. Chapman states he had an altercation with jail staff when he was booked into RCCF on March 23, 2018. In the course of the altercation, the fifth finger on his right hand was injured. He reported the injury to jail staff, and they sent a nurse to examine him. She said nothing was wrong with it and “did nothing.” ECF No. 1 at 2. Plaintiff asserts the finger was broken and that he repeatedly requested further examination or treatment, and his requests were denied. He names one defendant, the Reno County Sheriff's Department, Jail Division, and claims violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff seeks damages of $150, 000.

         II. Statutory Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of such entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Additionally, with any litigant, such as Plaintiff, who is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court has a duty to screen the complaint to determine its sufficiency. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Upon completion of this screening, the Court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary damages from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b), 1915(e)(2)(B).

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). A court liberally construes a pro se complaint and applies “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In addition, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true. Anderson v. Blake, 469 F.3d 910, 913 (10th Cir. 2006). On the other hand, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, ” dismissal is appropriate. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         A pro se litigant's “conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 555, 570.

         The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained “that, to state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to [the pro se plaintiff]; when the defendant did it; how the defendant's action harmed [the plaintiff]; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007). The court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         The Tenth Circuit has pointed out that the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Erickson gave rise to a new standard of review for § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) dismissals. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). As a result, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief.” Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (citation omitted). Under this new standard, “a plaintiff must ‘nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Smith, 561 F.3d at 1098 (citation omitted). “Plausible” in this context does not mean “likely to be true, ” but rather refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, ” then the plaintiff has not “nudged [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1974).

         III. Discussion

         The Eighth Amendment guarantees a prisoner the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishments. The United States Supreme Court has held that an inmate advancing a claim of cruel and unusual punishment based on inadequate provision of medical care must establish “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Boyett v. County of Washington, 282 Fed.Appx. 667, 672 (10th Cir. 2008) (citing Mata v. Saiz, 427 F.3d 745, 751 (10th Cir. 2005)). The “deliberate indifference” standard has two components: “an objective component requiring that the pain or deprivation be sufficiently serious; and a subjective component requiring that [prison] officials act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Miller v. Glanz, 948 F.2d 1562, 1569 (10th Cir. 1991); Martinez v. Garden, 430 F.3d 1302, 1304 (10th Cir. 2005). In the objective analysis, the inmate must show the presence of a “serious medical need, ” that is “a serious illness or injury.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104, 105; Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A serious medical need includes “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Ramos v. Lamm, 639 F.2d 559, 575 (10th Cir. 1980); Hunt v. Uphoff, 199 F.3d 1220, 1224 (10th Cir. 1999); Martinez, 430 F.3d at 1304 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quotation omitted)).

         “The subjective component is met if a prison official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Martinez, 430 F.3d at 1304 (citing Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d 1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000)(quotation omitted)). In measuring a prison official's state of mind, “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.” Id. at 1305 (citing Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 1204 (10th Cir. 1996) (quotation omitted)).

         An inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care or a negligent diagnosis “fail[s] to establish the requisite culpable state of mind.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106 (“[A] complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment.”); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 297 (1991). Likewise, a mere difference of opinion between the inmate and prison medical personnel regarding diagnosis or reasonable treatment does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106-07; Handy v. Price, 996 F.2d 1064, 1067 (10th Cir. 1993)(affirming that a quarrel between a prison inmate and the doctor as to the appropriate treatment for hepatitis did not successfully raise an Eighth Amendment claim); Ledoux v. Davies, 961 F.2d 1536 (10th Cir. 1992)(Plaintiff's contention that he was denied treatment by a specialist is insufficient to establish a ...


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