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Carter v. Koprivnikar

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 14, 2016



Kristen L. Mix United States Magistrate Judge

This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and/or for Summary Judgment [#16][1] (“Motion”). Plaintiff, who proceeds in this matter pro se, [2] filed a Response [#22], and Defendant filed a Reply [#27]. The Court has reviewed the Motion, the Response, the Reply, the entire docket, and the applicable law, and is sufficiently advised in the premises. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion [#16] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff Joseph Carter is an inmate in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”) at San Carlos Correction Facility in Pueblo, Colorado. Am. Compl. [#7] at 2. Plaintiff filed this civil action on March 2, 2015 against Defendants Joan Koprivnikar, M.D., a CDOC prison psychiatrist; Tiffany Holubek, a legal assistant in a CDOC law library; and Lieutenant John Scoleri, a CDOC hearing officer. Compl. [#1]. In his Complaint, Plaintiff appeared to allege violations of the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments as a result of his involuntary medication by CDOC personnel. Id. However, these allegations were unclear. As a result, the Court issued an Order on March 4, 2015 finding that the Complaint failed to provide a short and plain statement of his claims in compliance with Rule 8 and ordered Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. Order [#6] at 2-3.

Pursuant to the Court’s Order, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on March 20, 2015. Am. Compl. [#7]. In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts one claim: “Use of Involuntary Medication to Commit Corporal Punishment in Direct Violation of [Eighth] Amendment Prohibitions of Such.” Id. at 4-5. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Koprivnikar violated his constitutional rights by recommending that Plaintiff be involuntarily medicated.[3] Id. at 10-17. This claim is only brought against Defendant Koprivnikar, and neither Mr. John Scoleri nor Ms. Tiffany Holubek are named as Defendants (or otherwise mentioned) in the Amended Complaint. Id.

On July 6, 2015, Defendant filed the present Motion seeking dismissal of Plaintiff’s claim. Motion [#16]. At the outset, the Court notes that Defendant has essentially made two separate requests for relief in a single motion which seeks: (1) dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on Plaintiff’s claim alleging a constitutional violation under either the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment;[4] and (2) summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 on the basis that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing suit. Id. In support of her request for summary judgment, Defendant has attached and relies on an affidavit. See Affidavit of Anthony DeCesaro (“Affidavit”) [#16-1]. Because this evidence is submitted outside the pleadings, the Court considers it only with respect to Defendant’s request for summary judgment. See Jackson v. Integra Inc., 952 F.2d 1260, 1261 (10th Cir. 1991).

Thus, the Court will first address the arguments for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for a constitutional violation, and proceed to address the issue of administrative exhaustion pursuant to Rule 56.

II. Standard of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test “the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true.” Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (stating that a complaint may be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted”). “The court’s function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff’s complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Sutton v. Utah State Sch. for the Deaf & Blind, 173 F.3d 1226, 1236 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). To withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Shero v. City of Grove, Okla., 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide ‘plausible grounds’ that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff’s allegations.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)).

“A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Id. (brackets in original; internal quotation marks omitted).

To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the factual allegations in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Christy Sports, LLC v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 555 F.3d 1188, 1191 (10th Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” a factual allegation has been stated, “but it has not show[n] that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” as required by Rule 8(a). Iqbal, 552 U.S. at 679 (second brackets added; citation and internal quotation marks omitted).[5]

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

The purpose of a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 is to assess whether trial is necessary. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Under Rule 56, the Court must dismiss Plaintiff’s claims without prejudice if the evidence presented does not create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant were properly exhausted. Gatlin v. Brown, 2014 WL 1818245, at *4 (D. Colo. 2014) (noting that dismissal of unexhausted claims on summary judgment should be without prejudice). An issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could resolve the issue in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing substantive law. Id.

The burden is on the movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670-71 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). When the movant does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, the “movant may make its prima facie demonstration [of the absence of a genuine issue of material fact] simply by pointing out to the [C]ourt a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant’s claim.” Id. at 671. If the movant carries the initial burden of making a prima facie showing of a lack of evidence, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to put forth sufficient evidence for each essential element of his claim such that a reasonable jury could find in his favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Simms v. Okla. ex rel. Dep’t of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Servs., 165 F.3d 1321, 1326 (10th Cir. 1999), abrogation recognized by Eisenhour v. Weber County, 744 F.3d 1220, 1227 (10th Cir. 2014). Conclusory statements based merely on conjecture, speculation, or subjective belief are not competent summary judgment evidence. Bones v. Honeywell Int’l, Inc., 366 F.3d 869, 875 (10th Cir. 2004). The nonmoving party’s evidence must be more than “mere reargument of [his] case or a denial of an opponent’s allegation” or it will be disregarded. See 10B Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 2738 at 356 (3d ed.1998).

III. Analysis

A. Excessive Force

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