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Dixon v. Groeger

United States District Court, D. Maine

August 29, 2016



          JOHN C. NIVISON U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         In this action, Plaintiff Richard Allen Dixon, Jr., alleges that Defendant Dalton Groeger[1]violated his constitutional rights while Plaintiff was detained in protective custody at the York County Jail. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 4.) The matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 8) and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend his complaint. (ECF No. 15.)

         Following a review of the pleadings, and after consideration of the parties' submissions, I grant Plaintiff's Motion to Amend, and I recommend the Court deny Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         Background Facts

         In his first amended complaint, [2] Plaintiff alleges that on August 30, 2015, Defendant unlocked Plaintiff's cell door to admit another prisoner, and then watched as the prisoner struck Plaintiff to awaken him, held a sharpened pencil to Plaintiff's throat, and threatened Plaintiff that he must be silent or he would be hurt. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6 - 12.)

         Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant on September 1, 2015. (Id. ¶ 14.) According to Plaintiff, on September 8, 2015, Defendant entered Plaintiff's cell and confronted Plaintiff about the grievance. (Id. ¶ 15.) On September 11, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant regarding the September 8 confrontation. (Id. ¶ 18.)


         A. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend

         When a party seeks to amend a complaint more than 21 days after the filing of a responsive pleading, the other party's consent or leave of court is required in order to amend the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In such a case, the court is to grant leave to amend “freely” when “justice so requires.” Id.; see also Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (“In the absence of any apparent or declared reason-such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.-the leave sought should, as the rules require, be ‘freely given.'”). Here, Plaintiff filed his motion soon after the filing of and in response to the motion to dismiss. Given that Plaintiff filed the motion before the Court issued a scheduling order, Plaintiff was not dilatory in filing the motion, and the record lacks any evidence of undue prejudice to Defendant. Plaintiff's motion, therefore, is granted.

         B. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant contends Plaintiff has not asserted an actionable claim. When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, a court 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). Although a pro se plaintiff's complaint is subject to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), the complaint may not consist entirely of “conclusory allegations that merely parrot the relevant legal standard, ” Young v. Wells Fargo, N.A., 717 F.3d 224, 231 (1st Cir. 2013).

         Defendant's motion to dismiss is evaluated in the context of the facts Plaintiff alleged in support of his motion to amend his complaint. (ECF No. 15.) Defendant first argues that the facts alleged regarding the incident with another prisoner do not describe conduct by the prisoner that is sufficiently serious to support a constitutional claim and that, regardless of the seriousness of the prisoner's conduct, the alleged facts do not suggest that Defendant knew the prisoner would threaten harm to Plaintiff. (Mot. to Dismiss at 5 - 6.) Defendant contends that Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim fails because, as a matter of law, the alleged confrontation with Defendant following the filing of Plaintiff's grievance was not materially adverse to Plaintiff. (Id. at 7.)

         In his supplemental pleading, Plaintiff asserts that on August 30, 2015, Plaintiff was in a room with Defendant and “several young inmates.” Plaintiff describes Defendant as “goofing around” with the other inmates. When he observed Defendant's behavior, Plaintiff suggested to Defendant that he should stop acting like the inmates because he was in charge. Defendant was offended and exchanged words with Plaintiff. That night, after lockdown, Defendant brought a prisoner to Plaintiff's cell. Defendant then “stood there, doing nothing while he watched [the prisoner harm or threaten Plaintiff].” (ECF No. 15 at 1 - 2, ¶¶ 4 - 6.)

         Plaintiff also alleges that after he filed a grievance based on Defendant's conduct, Defendant not only appeared in Plaintiff's cell to confront him, but also escorted Plaintiff whenever he went anywhere, including on his daily trips to medical. Plaintiff maintains that when ...

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