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Boyd v. Anderson

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

November 27, 2013

SHAWN LEE BOYD, (Tarrant No. 0383146)
DEE ANDERSON, Sheriff, Tarrant County, Texas

OPINION and ORDER OF DISMISSAL UNDER 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(B) and UNDER 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)

REED C. O'CONNOR, District Judge.

This case is before the Court for review of pro-se inmate and plaintiff Shawn Lee Boyd's case under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A and 1915(e)(2)(B). In this case, Boyd submitted a form civil-rights complaint, with attachments, seeking relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Boyd names as defendant Dee Anderson, sheriff, Tarrant County, Texas. (Compl. Style; § IV(B).) Boyd complains of an injury sustained when a metal cage or housing surrounding a fire alarm/smoke detector fell on the top of his head. (Compl. § V.) Boyd seeks to be compensated for his injuries. (Compl. § VI.)

A complaint filed in forma pauperis that lacks an arguable basis in law should be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.[1] Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a district court retains broad discretion in determining at any time whether an in-forma-pauperis claim should be dismissed.[2] Furthermore, as a part of the PLRA, Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the Court to review a complaint from a prisoner seeking relief from a governmental entity or governmental officer or employee as soon as possible after docketing.[3] Consistent with § 1915A is prior case law recognizing that a district court is not required to await a responsive pleading to conduct its § 1915 inquiry.[4] Rather, § 1915 gives judges the power to "dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory."[5] After review of the complaint under these standards, the Court concludes that Boyd's claims must be dismissed.

Boyd specifically claims as follows:

I was sitting waiting for my name to be called before the courts. While waiting the metal cage surrounding the fire alarm/smoke detector fell on top of my head towards the back where I started bleeding. I went to the Tarrant County medical lab where I got medical treatment etc. I've constantly have [sic] been having headaches/dizzy spells. I feel that Dee Anderson didn't properly take the right safety precautions for my health or my safety and security. (Compl. § V.)
Boyd also alleges:
I feel the defendant didn't properly secure my safety by making sure the smoke detector cages were up to par. (Compl. § IV(B)).

In order to assert a claim for damages for violation of federal constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must set forth facts in support of the required elements of a § 1983 action: (1) that he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the defendants deprived him of such right while acting under color of law.[6] The constitutional rights of a pre-trial detainee flow from the procedural and substantive guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.[7] The Fourteenth Amendment protects the detainee's right to be free from punishment prior to an adjudication of guilt.[8] The applicable legal standard in the Fifth Circuit, however, depends on whether the claim challenges a condition of confinement' or an episodic act or omission.'[9] A condition-of-confinement case is a constitutional attack on "general conditions, practices, rules, or restrictions of pretrial confinement."[10] A claim of episodic act or omission occurs when the "complained-of harm is a particular act or omission of one of more officials."[11] As Boyd's claims involve specific events, his claims are of an episodic act or omission.

The Fifth Circuit has held that the deliberate-indifference standard normally associated with Eighth Amendment claims also applies with respect to episodic-act-or-omission claims by pretrial detainees.[12] Under that standard, an inmate is required to allege facts that indicate officials were deliberately indifferent to his health or safety.[13] A detainee is required to establish that the defendant official has actual subjective knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm but responds with deliberate indifference to that risk.[14] Such a finding of deliberate indifference, though, "must rest on facts clearly evincing wanton' actions on the parts of the defendants."[15] This subjective deliberate-indifference standard is equated with the standard for criminal recklessness:

[A] prison official cannot be found liable defining the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference can be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.[16]

A review of Boyd's factual allegations indicate that he has not stated any claims that would constitute deliberate harm or wanton disregard of his rights. Boyd complains that the metal housing around the fire alarm was not "properly secured, " was not "up to par, " and that Sheriff Anderson "didn't properly take the right safety precautions." Such factual allegations do not satisfy the standard that defendant Anderson was aware of a substantial risk of harm to Boyd and disregarded it. As another court recently stated in a review of similar facts: "Plaintiff's allegations regarding a piece of metal falling does not present a violation of a constitutional right."[17] At most, Boyd's allegations might support a claim that jail officials were negligent. Allegations of negligence are not sufficient to maintain an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[18] "Rather, a slip and fall case, ' without more, is merely a state tort claim to be pursued in state court."[19] Boyd's claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising from the allegedly unreasonable and unsafe condition of the metal unit surrounding the fire alarm/smoke detector does not state a claim of violation of a constitutional right, and thus must be dismissed.

Therefore, all Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and under 28 ...

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