United States District Court, D. Colorado
KEITH V. GOSSELIN, Plaintiff,
SGT. KAUFMAN, OFFICER GONZALEZ, and SHARON PHILIPS, Defendants.
Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.
Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss [filed June 29, 2015; docket #46]. The Motion is briefed and oral argument would not materially assist the Court in its adjudication. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion.
Plaintiff, a prisoner proceeding pro se, initiated this action on March 16, 2015, filing a Complaint that named six Defendants for their alleged treatment of him while he was incarcerated at San Carlos Correctional Facility. Docket #1. Based on U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher’s Orders granting Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directing Plaintiff to amend his Complaint to clarify his claims [see dockets #8-9], Plaintiff filed the operative Amended Complaint on April 14, 2015 [see docket #11]. The Hon. Lewis T. Babcock then reviewed the Amended Complaint and dismissed three of the six Defendants, calling the claims against them “legally frivolous.” Docket #11 at 5-6. Remaining in the suit is Plaintiff’s 28 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for alleged violations of his Eighth Amendment rights by three Defendants: Sergeant Kaufman, Officer Gonzalez, and Sharon Philips. Id. at 7.
“The Eighth Amendment, which applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishments on those convicted of crimes.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 296-97 (1991). The Eighth Amendment is the main source of prisoners’ substantive rights and, regarding convicted prisoners, the legal standards under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments are generally congruous. See Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 1202 (10th Cir. 1996) (Where constitutional protection is afforded under specific constitutional provisions, here the Eighth Amendment, alleged violations of the protection should be analyzed under those provisions and not under the more generalized provisions fo the Fourteenth Amendment). Thus, the Court reviews Plaintiff’s claim under the Eighth Amendment as applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Riddle, 83 F.3d at 1202.
The following are factual allegations (as opposed to legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory allegations) made by Plaintiff against the moving Defendants in the operative Amended Complaint, which are taken as true for analysis under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Centennial Correctional Facility (“CCF”) in the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”), asserts claims for his alleged treatment as a prisoner housed at San Carlos Correctional Facility (“SCCF”), where Defendants worked at the time of the events. Docket #11 at 1. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Kaufman and Gonzalez violated the Eighth Amendment when Kaufman allegedly used excessive force on Plaintiff when Kaufman came to his cell at SCCF after a dispute regarding canteen and “kicked [Plaintiff] in his groin area with his right foot.” Id. at 10-11. Meanwhile, Plaintiff alleges Gonzalez was negligent by staying in his office during the incident and by failing to “stop Kaufman or help [Plaintiff]” and “turning a blind eye to the situation [and] opening the cell door for Kaufman.” Id. at 12.
Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Philips violated the Eighth Amendment by acting with deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition when she examined him in the SCCF medical clinic on October 23, 2012, after the event. Id. at 18. Philips examined Plaintiff’s bruised thigh and groin area and “ordered Tylenol and ice for a week to reduce pain and swelling.” Id. Plaintiff claims he later had a subsequent visit with Philips and asserts that “[t]he failure ... to provide adequate case . . . follow-up care and treatment . . . and referral to a specialist, constitutes the tort of negligence under the law of Colorado.” Id. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment that Defendants violated his rights, injunctive relief ordering Philips to arrange for Plaintiff to be “evaluated by a medical practitioner with expertise in the treatment of testicular injuries, ” and compensatory and punitive damages totaling approximately $1, 250, 000. Id. at 23-24.
II. Procedural History
After Judge Gallagher dismissed portions of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint, Plaintiff’s surviving claim asserts Eighth Amendment violations against three remaining Defendants. See docket #11. Plaintiff then on May 5, 2015, and June 5, 2015, sought appointment of counsel by the Court [see dockets ##30, 37], which the Court denied without prejudice for being premature as no response had been filed, so the Court could not determine the potential merit of Plaintiff’s claims and defenses [dockets ##31, 43]. Defendants then on June 29, 2015, filed the pending Motion to Dismiss. Docket #46. Plaintiff requested and received an extension to respond. See dockets ##47, 48.
The Court held a Status Conference on July 30, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared telephonically and said he was struggling to receive access to legal research materials from the law library at his correctional facility, CCF. See docket #49. The Court ordered defense counsel to inquire into the situation and provide a status report before August 6, 2015. Id. Defense counsel filed that report on August 12, 2015. See docket #53. Counsel explained Plaintiff’s high level of security prevented him from having personal access to the law library, but noted the facility provides “an alternative procedure to ensure adequate access to legal materials for those offenders.” Docket #52 at 2. The process required Plaintiff to “submit completed request forms to housing staff, or personally to the Facility Legal Assistant.” Id. Special forms needed to be used, which were available “upon request in all units.” Id. at 3. Offenders were allowed to make one request for no more than 10 items per week. Id. Materials could be used for 14 days, but no new materials would be provided until all older material had been returned. Id. As a result of the Status Report regarding access to legal research materials, the Court granted Plaintiff’s requests for additional extensions by which to file his Response to the pending Motion. See dockets #54, 56. Plaintiff filed his Response on September 30, 2015. Docket #59. Defendants did not file a reply.
I. Dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. ...