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Miles v. Conrad

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 19, 2018

MAURICE L. MILES, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY CONRAD, in his official capacity with Reno County Sheriff's Department; DEPUTY SWONGER, in his official capacity with Reno County Sheriff's Department; DEPUTY MONDRAGON, in his official capacity with Reno County Sheriff's Department; and DEPUTY CARDER, in his official capacity with Reno County Sheriff's Department, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ERIC F. MELGREN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case arises out of an assault that allegedly took place in the Reno County Jail. Plaintiff Maurice Miles, Jr., alleges that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment by failing to provide him protection from another inmate. This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and Incorporated Memorandum in Support (Doc. 62). For the reasons explained below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

          This case arose after another inmate at the Reno County Jail assaulted Plaintiff. On July 13, 2016, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed the current lawsuit against several individuals employed with the Reno County Sheriff's Department. The Court issued a notice of deficiency to Plaintiff and Plaintiff submitted a new Complaint on July 29, 2016, which he supplemented on August 11, 2016. The case was dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, but reversed on appeal and subsequently reassigned to this Judge. After reassignment, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 36), as well as a supplement to his Amended Complaint (Doc. 60). The matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The facts recited in this section come from Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and supplement thereto, [1] and are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff alleges that officers of the Reno County Jail refused to protect him from a fight that occurred in 2016. Another inmate, Robert Salabedra, allegedly slammed Plaintiff's back, neck, and head against the floor several times, resulting in Plaintiff losing consciousness at least three times and the inside of Plaintiff's mouth splitting open. After the fight, Plaintiff was placed in segregation and was refused any medical assistance even though he told “them” many times about his medical issues. Plaintiff continues to suffer from neck and head pain, as well as experience dizzy spells, “blacking out, ” and short-term memory loss.

         Plaintiff alleges that “each and every Defendant . . . had been forewarned numerous times that [Plaintiff] needed help and that [Plaintiff] was in danger of being fisacly [sic] harmed, ” and each Defendant refused to help Plaintiff. Plaintiff does not identify the content of his warnings/requests to the individual Defendants, but states that his requests for help are recorded on the Turnkey reports and grievances. Plaintiff's supplement to his Amended Complaint identifies the following facts as showing how he was in risk of harm:

a) Salabedra was disrespectful toward Plaintiff, called him out by name, and treated him like a child.
b) Salabedra was constantly stealing from Plaintiff and other inmates, and if inmates spoke out about the stealing, Salabedra would threaten to fight them or tell them “to check out of the pod if they didn't like it.”
c) Salabedra told Plaintiff that if he got up to use the bathroom during the night and woke up Salabedra, that Salabedra would “put his hands on [Plaintiff].” This caused Plaintiff to hold his bathroom breaks all through the night to avoid waking Salabedra.
d) On the night before the alleged assault, all of the inmates in the pod drafted and signed a petition to have Salabedra moved out of the pod and gave the petition to Deputy Conrad.[2] The petition included all of the details involving Plaintiff and clearly stated that if Salabedra was not moved out of the pod that a fight of some sort would surely take place the next day. At 5:00 a.m. the following morning, Plaintiff noticed that Salabedra was still in the pod and made another request that he be moved in the turnkey system. Within an hour of this additional request, Plaintiff was assaulted by Salabedra. After the assault, everyone was “put into the hole.”
e) After the alleged assault, Salabedra was placed back into a pod with Plaintiff twice. Plaintiff threatened Captain Shawn McClay with another lawsuit if they did not separate the two and told “them” that Plaintiff was miserable with Salabedra in the pod with him and that Plaintiff constantly stayed in his cell in fear of retaliation. On August 8, 2016, Officer Wonkie answered Plaintiff's grievance regarding Salabedra being placed back in the pod with Plaintiff, and asked “when and where? I need individual [sic] dates.”

         Plaintiff always received the same response to his complaints, “get along” and if “you don't like it don't come to jail.” When Plaintiff complained after the assault and asked why he had not been moved, Defendant Carder stated, “we don't move people upon request.”

         Plaintiff alleges: “They knew that [I] was suffering mental[l]y they knew that the whole pod was suffering. They knew that a fight/as[sa]ult would take place soon if somet[h]ing didn[']t happen. They also knew that (only they) could prevent it from happe[n]ing. We did every thing that is required for us as inmates to do to ask for help. I feel that and claim that they personal[l]y left the situation as it was just to watch me get hurt.”

         II. Legal Standard

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a party may move for dismissal of “a claim for relief in any pleading” that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Upon such motion, the Court must decide “whether the complaint contains ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ”[3] “[T]he mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient;” rather, the pleading “must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.”[4] The Court does not “weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, ” but assesses whether the complaint “alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.”[5] In determining whether a claim is facially plausible, the Court must draw on its judicial experience and common sense.[6] All well-pleaded facts are assumed to be true and are construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.[7] “Although plaintiff need not allege every element of [its] action in specific detail, [it] cannot rely on conclusory allegations.”[8]

         A pro se litigant's pleadings are to be construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.”[9] Thus, while 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, ” it will, if it can, “reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim” even in the absence of citation to proper legal authority, confusion as to various legal theories, poor syntax or sentence construction, or unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.[10]

         III. Analysis

         Defendants argue (1) the doctrine of qualified immunity bars Plaintiff's claims against Defendants, and thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and (2) Plaintiff's claim for prospective injunctive relief should be dismissed given his transfer out of the Reno County Jail.

         A. Qualified immunity

         The Court employs a two-part test in analyzing claims of qualified immunity. To defeat a claim of qualified immunity, the plaintiff must show that (1) “the defendant violated a constitutional or statutory right, ” and (2) “the violated right was ‘clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful activity.' ”[11] Here, Defendants concede that the right allegedly violated was clearly established, [12] and instead argue that Plaintiff's allegations “are insufficient to establish a plausible claim as to any of the individual Defendants.” Thus, the Court limits its analysis to whether Plaintiff has adequately pleaded facts sufficient to find that any of the Defendants violated his constitutional rights.

         Plaintiff purports to bring two types of deliberate indifference claims-failure to protect Plaintiff from assault by another inmate and failure to provide medical assistance after the assault.[13] Because Plaintiff has wholly failed to state a claim as to a failure to provide medical assistance, [14] the Court focuses its analysis on Plaintiff's failure to protect claim.

         “The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment imposes a duty on prison officials to provide humane conditions of confinement, including ‘reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.' ”[15] It has been long-recognized that “prison officials have a duty to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.”[16] It does not follow, however, that every injury suffered at the hands of another inmate results in constitutional liability for prison officials.[17] Rather, to hold a prison official liable for failing to prevent such harm, Plaintiff must show (1) that he was “incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, ” and (2) Defendants acted with a “sufficiently culpable state of mind.”[18] “The prison official's state of mind is measured by a subjective, rather than an objective, standard. . . . In other words, 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.' ”[19] “An official's failure to alleviate a significant risk of which he was unaware, no matter how obvious the risk or how gross his negligence in failing to perceive it, is not an infliction of punishment and therefore not a constitutional violation.”[20]

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to allege that “Defendants were informed of or were otherwise aware that the Plaintiff was at substantial risk of serious harm, ” but instead has only alleged that he “filed requests to be moved because he perceived he was in danger.” Defendant notes that Plaintiff has not alleged the existence of prior altercations involving him and his assailant, and that the prior occurrences described by Plaintiff are relatively minor. Defendants also critique Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for not alleging that Defendants failed to inquire or otherwise ...


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