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Coyle v. Laurance

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 15, 2014

WILLIAM A. COYLE, Plaintiff,
v.
THEODORE LAURANCE, and NURSE MECHELLE, Defendants.

RECOMMENDATION REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER

CRAIG B. SHAFFER, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the court on Defendant Laurance's Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. #21), filed on January 6, 2014; and Defendant Gonzales's Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. #28), filed on January 17, 2014.[1] Also before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (doc #32), filed on February 3, 2014. These motions were referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to the Order of Reference dated November 7, 2013 (doc. #10). This court has carefully considered the motions and related briefing, the entire case file, the comments offered by the parties during the January 15, 2014 Preliminary Scheduling Conference, and applicable case law. For the following reasons, I recommend that Defendants Laurance and Gonzales's Motions to Dismiss be granted, and Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order be denied.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Coyle, a pro se prisoner incarcerated at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility ("AVCF") of the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC), filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment by negligently administering medical treatment. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief in the amount of his court filing fees and various forms of equitable relief.[2]

Plaintiff has a recognized mobility disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), and suffers from acute back pain and numbness in his extremities to the point that his day-to-day activities are compromised. Plaintiff experiences frequent falls and requires the use of a cane. On June 20, 2013, after one of these falls, Plaintiff visited Defendant Laurance, a CDOC physician's assistant, seeking relief for increased back pain. Plaintiff alleges that during the examination, Defendant Laurance "pick[ed] up [Plaintiff's] hipps [sic] [and] slam[med] them repeatily [sic] into the bed, " stating, "I needed to straighten you out." (Doc. #1). Defendant Laurance allegedly denied Plaintiff the use of a wheelchair, declined to administer x-rays, and required Plaintiff to wait half an hour before attending to him. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Laurance has also denied him access to a specialist and provided no remedy for Plaintiff's pain other than "medications that don't work." Id.

Plaintiff suffered another fall on June 23, 2013, and was transmitted to a local hospital, where Defendant Gonzales, a CDOC nurse, allegedly "slamed [sic] [him] around on [a] crash cart, and droped [sic] [Plaintiff] due to stated frustration." Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was again required to wait thirty minutes for medical attention, and that Defendant Gonzales ultimately "pushed off her responsibilities" to other care givers. Id.

Plaintiff further claims that unnamed CDOC officials violated his Eighth Amendment rights in denying him follow-up treatment ordered by the hospital doctors and by failing to approve his request for a typewriter; and that unnamed CDOC officials violated his ADA rights by delaying the approval of a shower chair. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that unnamed CDOC officials have retaliated against him with physical and verbal assaults; and threats to transfer him to another facility, deny him access to the law library, and deny him treatment, among other abuse.

Along with the Complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (doc. #3) and a motion asking the court to appoint counsel to represent him (doc. #4). On October 23, 2013, the court granted Plaintiff's § 1915 motion but denied Plaintiff's request for appointment of counsel as premature (doc. #5). Plaintiff next filed two motions for an extension of time to serve Defendants (doc. #6 and #7); the court denied one (doc. #6) as moot, and the other (doc. #7) as unintelligible. (Doc. #8). Defendants waived service on November 7, 2013. Later in November, Plaintiff filed a second motion requesting appointment of counsel (doc. #14), a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (doc. #16), and a notice to the court of a "possible parallel claim." (Doc. #17). On January 6, 2014, Defendant Laurance filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. #21).

This court held a Preliminary Status Conference on January 15, 2014 (doc. #24). Plaintiff withdrew his notice of a possible parallel claim; and the undersigned denied without prejudice Plaintiff's Motion to Appoint Coun[sel] and Motion for a Temp[or]ary Restraining Order, and extended the deadline to March 3, 2014 for Plaintiff to respond to Defendant Laurance's Motion to Dismiss. Defendant Gonzales subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. #28) on January 17, 2014. This court extended Plaintiff's deadline to respond to Defendant Gonzales's Motion to Dismiss to March 3, 2014 (doc. #31). Plaintiff filed a second Motion for Temporary Restraining Order on February 3, 2014 (doc. #32), and counsel for Defendants filed a response on February 24, 2014 (doc. #36). To date, Plaintiff has not responded to either Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

Under Rule 12(b)(6) a court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations... and view these allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Casanova v. Ulibarri, 595 F.3d 1120, 1124 (10th Cir. 2010) (quoting Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009)). However, a plaintiff may not rely on mere labels or conclusions, "and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). As the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals explained in Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007), "the mere metaphysical possibility that some plaintiff could prove some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims." "The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief." Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). The ultimate duty of the court is to "determine whether the complaint sufficiently alleges facts supporting all the elements necessary to establish an entitlement to relief under the legal theory proposed." Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 478 F.3d 1149, 1160 (10th Cir. 2007).

Because Mr. Coyle is appearing pro se, the court "review[s] [his] pleadings and other papers liberally and hold[s] them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys." Trackwell v. United States Govt, 472 F.3d 1242, 1243 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted). However, a court may not assume that a plaintiff can prove facts that he has not alleged, or that a defendant has violated laws in ways that a plaintiff has not alleged. See Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1067 (10th Cir. 2009) (court's role is not to act as the pro se litigant's advocate); Drake v. City of Fort Collins, 927 F.2d 1156, 1159 (10th Cir. 1991) (the court may not "construct arguments or theories for the plaintiff in that absence of any discussion of those issues"). Furthermore, the court may, at any time and of its own accord, dismiss any action that is frivolous or which fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1108-10 (10th Cir. 1991).

B. Injunctive Relief

To succeed on a motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, the moving party must show (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a likelihood that the movant will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in the movant's favor; and (4) that the injunction is in the public interest. RoDa Drilling Co. v. Siegal, 552 F.3d 1203, 1208 (10th Cir. 2009) (citing Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008)). "[B]ecause a preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy, the right to relief must be clear and unequivocal." Beltronics USA, Inc. v. Midwest Inventory Distribution, LLC, 562 F.3d 1067, 1070 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Flowers, 321 F.3d 1250, 1256 (10th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). Granting such "drastic relief, " United States ex. rel . Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Oklahoma v. Enter Mgmt. Consultants, Inc., 883 F.2d 886, 888-89 (10th Cir. 1989), "is the exception rather than the rule." GTE Corp. v. Williams, 731 F.2d 676, 678 (10th Cir. 1984).

Title 18 U.S.C. § 3626(a)(2) requires that, "[i]n any civil action with respect to prison conditions, " any "[p]reliminary injunctive relief must be narrowly drawn, extend no further than necessary to correct the harm the court finds requires preliminary relief, and be the least intrusive means necessary to correct that harm."

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff did not respond to Defendants' motions to dismiss; however, this court cannot rest on the laurels of Defendants' arguments and must engage in an analysis of Plaintiff's claim. See Issa v. Comp USA, 354 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2003) ("[A] district court may not grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim merely because [a party] failed to file a response") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). This requirement "is consistent with the purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) motions as the purpose of such motions is to test the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true." Issa, 354 F.3d at 1177-78 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "Consequently, even if a plaintiff does not file a response to a motion to dismiss ...


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