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Worthley v. Lnu

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 29, 2015

BRIAN WORTHLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
LNU, CINDY, et al., Defendants.

RECOMMENDED DECISION

JOHN C. NIVISON, Magistrate Judge.

In this action, Plaintiff Brian Worthley alleges a violation of his constitutional rights based on the medical treatment that he received while an inmate at the Windham Correctional Center. Plaintiff filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF No. 2), which application the Court granted (ECF No. 3).

In accordance with the in forma pauperis statute, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Additionally, because Plaintiff is an inmate, Plaintiff's complaint is subject to screening "before docketing, if feasible or... as soon as practicable after docketing, " because he is "a prisoner seek[ing] redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity." 29 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

As explained below, following the preliminary review and screening, the recommendation is that the Court dismiss Plaintiff's complaint without service on Defendants.

Factual Background

In his complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following: Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. (Complaint ¶ 3.) Plaintiff has degenerative disk disease, which causes severe neck and back pain, and numbness and loss of sensation due to nerve impingement. ( Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff has received medical attention at the Correctional Center from Defendant George Stockwell, including on April 2, 2015. ( Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff has also received medical attention from Defendant Robert Clinton MD, who "seemed sincere about helping Plaintiff" on September 23, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 15.)

According to Plaintiff, "Defendant Robert Clinton's action(s) during plaintiff's chronic pain and hypertension treatment will show through discovery that defendant Robert Clinton violated [the Eighth] Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and/or constitutes a tort claim under color of state law." ( Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff makes the same assertion against Defendant Stockwell, Defendant Cindy McDonough, and Defendant Wendy Riebe. ( Id. ¶¶ 19-21.)

Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Nathan Thayer violated the Fourteenth Amendment based on "action(s) or inaction(s) after the plaintiff briefed him about the flagrant practices of D.O.C. staff and medical." ( Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff makes similar allegations against Defendants Scott Landry and Kim Robins. ( Id. ¶¶ 24, 25.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Denise Shipman violated his rights during the grievance process. ( Id. ¶ 23.) With respect to each Defendant, Plaintiff seeks to recover between $500 and $10, 000, plus an additional $20, 000 in punitive damages, due to the physical pain and mental suffering he has endured. ( Id. ¶¶ 27-41.)

Standard of Review

When a party is proceeding in forma pauperis, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines, " inter alia, that the action is "frivolous or malicious" or "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). "Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989); see also Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Ct. S.D. Iowa, 490 U.S. 296, 307-308 (1989) ("Section 1915(d), for example, authorizes courts to dismiss a frivolous or malicious' action, but there is little doubt they would have power to do so even in the absence of this statutory provision."). Similarly, a lawsuit by a prisoner against a governmental entity and its officers is subject to dismissal, sua sponte, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1).

When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "The relevant question... in assessing plausibility is not whether the complaint makes any particular factual allegations but, rather, whether the complaint warrant[s] dismissal because it failed in toto to render plaintiffs' entitlement to relief plausible.'" Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 569 n. 14 (2007)).

Discussion

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." U.S. Const. amend. VIII. "From this brief amendment, courts have derived the principles that govern the permissible conditions under which prisoners are held and that establish the medical treatment those prisoners must be afforded." Kosilek v. Spencer, 774 F.3d 63, 82 (1st Cir. 2014) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994)). "Undue suffering, unrelated to any legitimate penological purpose, is considered a form of punishment proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Id. (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)).[1]

To succeed on a claim of inadequate or delayed medical care, a plaintiff must satisfy both an objective and a subjective standard. Leavitt v. Corr. Med. Servs., 645 F.3d 484, 497 (1st Cir. 2011). The objective standard evaluates the seriousness of the risk of harm to health. There must be "a sufficiently substantial risk of serious damage to [the inmate's] future health.'" Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 843 (1994) (quoting Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993)). A medical need is "serious" if it has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment, or is so obvious that even a lay person would recognize a need for medical intervention. Leavitt, 645 F.3d at 497; Gaudreault v. Mun. of Salem, 923 F.2d 203, 208 (1st Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U.S. 956 (1991)). The subjective standard concerns the culpability of the defendant. A plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant possessed a culpable state of mind amounting to "deliberate indifference to an inmate's health or safety." Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (internal quotation marks omitted). Deliberate indifference is akin to criminal recklessness, "requiring actual knowledge of impending harm, easily ...


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