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Hammond v. Crum

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 13, 2016

GERALD ZACHARY HAMMOND, No. 310301, Plaintiff,
v.
PETER CRUM, Medical Doctor; STOB, Medical Doctor; CAROL ROGERS, Health Care Administrator; CAPTAIN KOONCE, ADA Officer; EUGENE, RN Nurse; RHONDA, RN Nurse; JANELLE, RN Nurse; ANGELA, RN Nurse; JOE, RN Nurse; JESSICA, RN Nurse; JOANNE, RN Nurse; KIM, RN Nurse; DON, RN Nurse; KAREN, RN Nurse; WENDY, RN Nurse; DEE, RN Nurse; LEAH, RN Nurse; JOSH, RN Nurse; JIM, RN Nurse; KELLIE/KELLY, RN Nurse; PATRICK FIRMAN; CARMEN, RN Nurse Supervisor; and D.S.D. DOBBINS, CO-TS, Defendants.

ORDER DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT

Gordon P. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff, Gerald Zachary Hammond, is a pre-trial detainee in custody at the Denver County Jail. He has filed a Prisoner Complaint, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming twenty-three defendants claiming that he is being denied adequate medical care in violation of the Constitution. Plaintiff has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

The Court must construe the Complaint liberally because Plaintiff is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not act as an advocate for pro se litigants. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. The Court has reviewed the complaint and has determined that it is deficient. For the reasons discussed below, Mr. Hammond will be ordered to file an amended complaint.

The Prisoner Complaint is deficient because Mr. Hammond fails to allege specific facts to show the personal participation of Defendants. Personal participation is an essential element of a civil rights action. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant’s participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993). A supervisor can only be held liable for his own deliberate intentional acts. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009); Serna v. Colo. Dep’t of Corrections, 455 F.3d 1146, 1151 (10th Cir. 2006) (“Supervisors are only liable under § 1983 for their own culpable involvement in the violation of a person's constitutional rights.”); see also Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008) (“[Section] 1983 does not recognize a concept of strict supervisor liability; the defendant’s role must be more than one of abstract authority over individuals who actually committed a constitutional violation.”).

The treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citation omitted). The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” U.S. CONST. Amend. VIII. Certain conditions of confinement, if they inflict pain unnecessarily and wantonly, may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). “An inmate making a direct chHammondge to conditions of confinement under the 8th Amendment, must show that, judged by contemporary standards of decency, the conditions either involve the wanton and unnecessary infliction of pain, that they are grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime, or that they entail serious deprivation of basic human needs.” Georgacarakos v. Wiley, 2010 WL 1291833 *11 (D. Colo. March 30, 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Prison officials must provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to inmates, and take reasonable measures to guarantee those inmates' safety.” Id. (citation omitted).

An Eighth Amendment claim includes both an objective component, whether the deprivation of a basic human need is sufficiently serious, and a subjective component, whether the officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). As for the objective component, “extreme deprivations” are required to make out a conditions-of-confinement claim. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1992). Thus, in a conditions-of-confinement case, a “sufficiently serious” deprivation is shown when “a prison official's act or omission ... result[s] in the denial of ‘the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.’ ” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981)). The subjective component follows from the principle that “ ‘only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment.’ ” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297). The “deliberate indifference” subjective standard applies to claims of inhumane conditions of confinement. Wilson, 501 U.S. at 303-04. A finding of deliberate indifference requires a showing that the defendant “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Under this standard, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.

It is not clear against which Defendant or Defendants Mr. Hammond is asserting the medical treatment claims or what any particular Defendant did with respect to medical treatment that violated his constitutional rights. The Eighth Amendment, through its prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, imposes a duty on prison officials to provide humane conditions of confinement, including adequate medical treatment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). A violation occurs when: 1) a medical need is serious; and (2) the acts or omissions by prison officials demonstrate “deliberate indifference” to the inmate's health or safety. Id. at 106. Thus, first, a complaint must allege facts showing a sufficiently serious medical need. A “medical need is sufficiently serious if it is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor’s attention.” Sealock v. Colorado, 218 F.3d 1205, 1209 (10th Cir. 2000). “Delay in medical care only constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation where the plaintiff can show the delay resulted in substantial harm.” Id. at 1210. The substantial harm requirement “may be satisfied by lifelong handicap, permanent loss, or considerable pain.” Garrett v. Stratman, 254 F.3d 946, 950 (10th Cir. 2001). Under Estelle, deliberate indifference is present when prison officials intentionally deny or delay access to necessary medical treatment for non-medical reasons, or when they interfere with a course of treatment once prescribed. Id. at 104-05. Under the subjective component, Plaintiff“must show that the defendants knew he faced a substantial risk of harm and disregarded that risk, by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Martinez, 563 F.3d at 1089.

In the context of a medical treatment claim, Mr. Hammond must state exactly what objectively serious medical need he was suffering from and what each specific Defendant did that amounted to deliberate indifference to that need. He must provide specific dates and provide a short statement as to each claim against each defendant. Plaintiff’s complaint does not specify what constitutional claims he is asserting against each defendant. He merely makes rambling statements.

To the extent Plaintiff asserts a constitutional claim against an individual, he must allege specific facts that demonstrate how that individual personally participated in the asserted constitutional violation. See Henry v. Storey, 658 F.3d 1235, 1241 (10th Cir. 2011) (allegations of “personal participation in the specific constitutional violation complained of [are] essential”). Moreover, the “denial of a grievance, by itself without any connection to the violation of constitutional rights alleged by plaintiff, does not establish personal participation under § 1983.” Gallagher v. Shelton, 587 F.3d 1063, 1069 (10th Cir. 2009). Furthermore, a defendant may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of his or her subordinates on a theory of respondeat superior. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Although a defendant can be liable in a § 1983 action based on his or her supervisory responsibilities, a claim of supervisory liability must be supported by allegations that demonstrate personal involvement, a causal connection to the constitutional violation, and a culpable state of mind. See Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Dept., 717 F.3d 760, 767-69 (10th Cir. 2013) (discussing standards for supervisory liability).

The complaint is deficient because it does not comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The twin purposes of a complaint are to give the opposing parties fair notice of the basis for the claims against them so that they may respond and to allow the Court to conclude that the allegations, if proven, show that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See Monument Builders of Greater Kansas City, Inc. v. American Cemetery Ass’n of Kansas, 891 F.2d 1473, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). The requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8 are designed to meet these purposes. See TV Communications Network, Inc. v. ESPN, Inc., 767 F.Supp. 1062, 1069 (D. Colo. 1991), aff’d, 964 F.2d 1022 (10th Cir. 1992). Rule 8(a) provides that a complaint “must contain (1) a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court’s jurisdiction, . . . (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought.” The philosophy of Rule 8(a) is reinforced by Rule 8(d)(1), which provides that “[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” Taken together, Rules 8(a) and (d)(1) underscore the emphasis placed on clarity and brevity by the federal pleading rules. Prolix, vague, or unintelligible pleadings violate Rule 8.

Claims must be presented clearly and concisely in a manageable format that allows a court and a defendant to know what claims are being asserted and to be able to respond to those claims. New Home Appliance Ctr., Inc., v. Thompson, 250 F.2d 881, 883 (10th Cir. 1957). For the purposes of Rule 8(a), “[i]t is sufficient, and indeed all that is permissible, if the complaint concisely states facts upon which relief can be granted upon any legally sustainable basis.” Id.

A decision to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 8 is within the trial court’s sound discretion. See Atkins v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 967 F.2d 1197, 1203 (8th Cir. 1992); Gillibeau v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969). The Court, however, will give Plaintiff an opportunity to cure the deficiencies in the Complaint by submitting an Amended Complaint that meets the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8.

Plaintiff is required to assert personal participation by properly named defendants in the alleged constitutional violation. See Bennett v. Passic, 545 F.2d 1260, 1262-63 (10th Cir. 1976). To establish personal participation, Plaintiff must show in the Cause of Action section of the complaint form how each named individual caused the deprivation of a federal right. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). There must be an affirmative link between the alleged constitutional violation and each defendant’s participation, control or direction, or failure to supervise. See Butler v. City of Norman, 992 F.2d 1053, 1055 (10th Cir. 1993).

Furthermore, TO STATE A CLAIM IN FEDERAL COURT PLAINTIFF MUST EXPLAIN (1) WHAT A DEFENDANT DID TO HIM; (2) WHEN THE DEFENDANT DID IT; (3) HOW THE DEFENDANT’S ACTION HARMED HIM; AND (4) WHAT SPECIFIC LEGAL RIGHT THE DEFENDANT VIOLATED AS TO EACH AND EVERY CLAIM. Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007) (noting that, to state a claim in federal court, "a complaint must explain what each defendant did to him or her; when the defendant did it; how the defendant’s action harmed him or her; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated"). Accordingly, in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff must allege specific facts to show how ...


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