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Brensinger v. Hunnewell

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 9, 2014

JAMES E. BRENSINGER, Plaintiff
v.
GUY HUNNEWELL et al., Defendants

RECOMMENDED DECISION

JOHN C. NIVISON, Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff James Brensinger seeks to recover damages allegedly resulting from an assault committed by a fellow inmate at the Maine State Prison, Defendant Guy Hunnewell. Plaintiff also joined Chad Benner, a corrections officer, and the Maine State Prison as Defendants. The matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Benner and Maine State Prison (the State Defendants) (ECF No. 16). Additionally, on May 5, 2014, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause, by which Order Plaintiff was required to show cause, on or before May 19, as to why the matter against Defendant Hunnewell should not be dismissed for lack of prosecution (ECF No. 17). Plaintiff has not made any filing in response to the Order to Show Cause.

As explained below, it is recommended that the Court grant Defendants' Motion[1] and that the Court dismiss the action with respect to all Defendants.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed his complaint on January 10, 2014, and requested leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered service upon Defendant Hunnewell. The State Defendants accepted service on February 21, 2014.

On March 25, 2014, the State Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff failed to respond to the motion. Additionally, although return of service on Defendant Hunnewell was filed on February 19 (ECF No. 12), Defendant Hunnewell failed to answer the complaint. Plaintiff, however, failed to move for entry of default or default judgment. The Court, therefore, issued an Order to Show Cause why the matter against Hunnewell not be dismissed for failure to prosecute. Plaintiff failed to respond to the Order to Show Cause.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The facts set forth herein are derived from Plaintiff's complaint, which facts are deemed true when evaluating the Motion to Dismiss.[2] On January 28, 2013, Plaintiff and Defendant Hunnewell were performing floor maintenance at the Maine State Prison, where they were both incarcerated.[3] Defendant Benner, a corrections officer, supervised their work. At some point, Defendant Benner retrieved a shovel from a cleaning closet for the inmates to use. Sometime thereafter, Defendant Hunnewell struck Plaintiff on the head with the shovel. Plaintiff awoke in the medical unit, where he received stitches and staples to close a severe head wound. (ECF No. 1-1, at 2-4, ¶ II.2.) In this action, Plaintiff requests "money for pain and suffering [$]60, 000" as the result of the injuries. (ECF No. 1, at 3, ¶ V.)

DISCUSSION

A. State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

The State Defendants assert that the Maine State Prison cannot be sued in federal court because it is not a person within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and because the State of Maine is immune from suit. (Motion to Dismiss at 1-2.) They further assert that Plaintiff fails to state a claim against Defendant Benner because the complaint contains no facts or allegations to support a claim against Defendant Benner for the assault committed by Defendant Hunnewell. ( Id. at 2-3.)

1. The Maine State Prison as Defendant

Sovereign immunity precludes a remedy in money damages against the State. See Wisconsin Dept. of Corr. v. Schacht, 524 U.S. 381, 389 (1998) (describing the Eleventh Amendment as the source of the defense and noting it can be waived); Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989) (holding that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not override Eleventh Amendment immunity); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985) ("[A]bsent waiver by the State or valid congressional override, the Eleventh Amendment bars a damages action against a State in federal court.") As part of the ...


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