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Thomas v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

March 24, 2017

VINCENT E. THOMAS, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN MCBRYDE JUDGE

         After having conducted the preliminary screening contemplated by 28 U.S.C. § l9l5A(a), the court has concluded that pursuant to the directives of §1915A(b), certain of the claims asserted in the above-captioned action should be dismissed, but that the claims against United States of America should be allowed to proceed.

         I.

         Nature of the Action and Identities of Defendants

         A. The Charges

         Plaintiff, Vincent E. Thomas, an inmate of FCI Fort Worth, a facility of the United States Bureau of Prisons, filed this action on March 20, 2017, complaining that because of "the Defendants [sic] failure to exercise the ordinary care required, and failure to address the Plaintiff's serious, life threatening, extremely painful, emergent medical needs [he] now suffers from life long, permanent disability." Doc. 1 at 10.[1] He sought and received in forma pauperis status for the filing of the action.

         Plaintiff alleged that he suffered a stroke in January 2014 that could have been avoided if he had been given proper care and treatment at his place of confinement (FCI Fort Worth), and that such conduct of defendants constituted a violation of his constitutional rights and negligence, and caused him to suffer physical pain and mental anguish, in the past and future, disfigurement, in the past and future, physical impairment, in the past and future, permanent disability, in the past and future, medical expenses in the future, loss of future wages, and loss of bodily function. Id. at 11-12. Plaintiff also alleged that after he suffered a stroke in January 2014, and was returned "to the facility, " he had trouble trying to obtain treatment for the injuries caused by the stroke. Id. at 9-10.

         Plaintiff sued each defendant other than the United States of America in the defendant's official and individual capacities. His claims against United States of America appear to be based on the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et,, seq., ; id., at 1-2, 11, and, his claims against the other defendants in their individual capacities were brought pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).[2] Id. at 1, 10-11. Plaintiff alleged that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment constitutional rights by being deliberately indifferent to his serious, life threatening, emergent medical needs. Id. at 10.

         B. The Defendants

         The defendants named in the complaint are:

1. United States of America;
2. Rodney Chandler ("Chandler"), who is identified as the Warden of FCI Fort Worth;
3. Todd Williamson ("Williamson"), who is identified as the Health Services Administrator, FCI Fort Worth;
4. Fateh Hyder ("Hyder"), Clinical Director, FCI Fort Worth;
5. Butch Tubera ("Tubera"), Doctor, FCI Fort Worth;
6. A. Baruti ("Baruti"), Doctor, FCI Fort Worth;
7. Nurse Sayarath ("Sayarath"), FCI Fort Worth;
8. Nurse Barkman ("Barkman"), FCI Fort Worth; and
9. Correctional Officer Ramon ("Ramon"), FCI Fort Worth.

         II.

         The Court's Obligations Under § 1915A

         Sections 1915A(a) and (b) provide as follows:

(a) Screening.-The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for dismissal.-On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) & (b).[3]

         Thus, the court is obligated at this time to review plaintiff's complaint against the government and officers and employees of the government to identify cognizable claims and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if it or any part of it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. The basic principles to be considered in determining whether the court should dismiss a claim for one of those statutory reasons are as follows:

         A. Frivolousness

         A claim is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The "term 'frivolous, ' when applied to a complaint, embraces not only the inarguable legal conclusion, but also the fanciful factual allegation." Id.

         When evaluating the frivolousness issue, the court is to bear in mind that the § 1915 review provisions for possible sua sponte dismissal are "designed largely to discourage the filing of, and waste of judicial and private resources upon, baseless lawsuits that paying litigants generally do not initiate because of the costs of bringing suit and because of the threat of sanctions for bringing vexatious suits . . . ." Id., at 327. To that end, the statute "accords judges . . . the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Id.; see also Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992) .

         With respect to a district court"s evaluation as to whether facts alleged are "clearly baseless, " the Supreme Court in Denton, in response to a request that it define the "clearly baseless" guidepost with more precision, said "we are confident that the district courts, who are 'all too familiar' with factually frivolous claims, are in the best position to determine which cases fall into this category, " and thus declined "the invitation to reduce the 'clearly baseless' inquiry to a monolithic standard." Denton, 506 U.S. at 33 (citation omitted).

         The Neitzke and Denton decisions both dealt with a version of 2 8 U.S.C. § 1915 that contained in its subsection (d) an authorization for the district court to dismiss a claim filed in forma pauperis "if satisfied that the action is frivolous." Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 324; Denton, 504 U.S. at 27. While the current version of § 1915 still mandates in its subsection (e) (2) (B) (i) dismissal of an in, .forma pauperis complaint if it is frivolous, the court's focus here is the part of the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act codified as 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which directs the court to review "as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity" (28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a)), and, on review, to "dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint is frivolous, " 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The court has no reason to think that the Supreme Court or the Fifth Circuit would give to the "frivolous" dismissal provision of § 1915A a narrower meaning than that given to the similar dismissal provision in § 1915. In its unpublished opinion in Widner v. Aguilar, 398 F.App'x 976, 978-79 (5th Cir. 2010), the Fifth Circuit equated the two. The legislative history of § 1915A suggests that the courts could well have even broader discretion in the frivolousness evaluations in litigation filed by prisoners against the government or prison employees or officials.

         B. Maliciousness

         In Ballentine v. Crawford, 563 F.Supp. 627, 628-29 (N.D. Ind. 1983), the court held that "a complaint plainly abusive of the judicial process is properly typed 'malicious' within the context of Section 1915(d) which authorizes immediate dismissal of the same." A suit brought for the purpose of harassing the defendants is brought maliciously. Daves v. Scranton, 66 F.R.D. 5, 8 (E.D. Pa. 1975).

         C. Failure ...


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