United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MARK A. CHRISTENSEN, Plaintiff,
EDDY MEJIA, et al., Defendants.
Lindsay United States District Judge
the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to
State a Claim (Doc. 72), filed April 6, 2016. On October 26,
2016, United States Magistrate Judge Renee Harris Toliver
entered the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations of the
United States Magistrate Judge (Doc. 103)
(“Report”), recommending that Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss be granted and that all of Plaintiff's
claims against Defendants Eddy Mejia, Laine Jaffe, Ronda
Hunter, Azucena Duckworth, and Marquita Humphrey be dismissed
with prejudice. Plaintiff filed an objection to the Report.
Plaintiff objects to nearly every aspect of the Report. His
objections fall into three broad categories. He contends that
the Report: (1) misstates facts related to Plaintiff's
treatment; (2) errs by determining that deliberate
indifference did not exist; and (3) errs by finding that he
made conclusory statements to support his allegations.
Plaintiff also requests that he be allowed to conduct
discovery to collect more facts to support his contentions.
respect to Plaintiff's objections to the facts set forth
in the Report, Plaintiff contends that the magistrate judge
“appears to be confused on several of the issues and
time lines of those issues.” Pl.'s Obj. 2. To
support his argument, Plaintiff contends that the magistrate
judge incorrectly states the time line of his tumor and his
last visit to the neurologist. The court has compared the
Report to the record and finds that the facts set forth in
the Report accurately reflect those set forth in the record.
The court, therefore, overrules Plaintiff's objection to
the allegations set forth in the Report.
also objects to the Report's finding that he has not
alleged that Defendants' acted with deliberate
indifference. A prison official violates the Eighth Amendment
when he acts with deliberate indifference to a prisoner's
serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S.
97, 106 (1976). To act with “deliberate indifference,
” a prison 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 v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
837 (1994). “The deliberate indifference standard is a
subjective inquiry; the plaintiff must establish that the
jail officials were actually aware of the risk, yet
consciously disregarded it.” Lawson v. Dallas
Cty., 286 F.3d 257, 262 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837). In addition, the facts
underlying a claim of “deliberate indifference”
must clearly evince the medical need in question and the
alleged official dereliction. Johnson v. Treen, 759
F.2d 1236, 1238 (5th Cir.1985) (citing Woodall v.
Foti, 648 F.2d 268 (5th Cir. 1981)). “[N]egligent
medical care does not constitute a valid section 1983 claim.
Further, delay in medical care can only constitute an Eighth
Amendment violation if there has been deliberate
indifference, which results in substantial harm.”
Mendoza v. Lynaugh, 989 F.2d 191, 195 (5th Cir.
objection regarding deliberate indifference continues to
reiterate that the Defendants should have taken different
actions and that the treatment he received was insufficient.
Plaintiff further highlights several dates to demonstrate
that there were delays in his treatment that constitute
deliberate indifference. Pl.'s Obj. 18. Plaintiff,
however, does not allege that the Defendants consciously
disregarded the risk of his course of treatment or set forth
allegations from which the court can reasonably infer that
Defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Plaintiff,
therefore, has not connected the alleged insufficient
treatment and delays to Defendants being deliberately
indifferent. Without that connection, the alleged
insufficient treatment and delays are not a violation of the
Eight Amendment. Plaintiff also contends that numerous staff
members witnessed the animosity towards him, and that this is
deliberate indifference towards his required and needed
medical care. Plaintiff does not describe what actions
constitute the animosity, and stating that individuals
witnessed animosity is too conclusory to allege deliberate
indifference. Throughout his objection, he does not identify
what specific actions by any of Defendants constitute
deliberate indifference, as he has not alleged that any of
Defendants were actually aware of the risks of
Plaintiff's course of treatment, yet consciously
disregarded them or set forth allegations to establish
same. The court, therefore, overrules Plaintiff's
objection related to the Report's finding that there was
no deliberate indifference, as the Report correctly applied
the high standard for deliberate indifference to the facts
and determined that it did not exist.
objects to the Report's finding that his statements
regarding delayed treatment were conclusory. He contends that
the record is “fraught with examples of the
Defendants' deliberately cancelling the Plaintiff's
pending appointment without any valid medical reason
supporting the cancellation of the appointment.”
Pl.'s Obj. 16. Plaintiff, however, does not identify any
allegations to support that Defendants deliberately
canceled his appointments. Instead, his objection makes a
conclusory statement that his appointments were deliberately
canceled. The court agrees with the Report. Plaintiff's
allegations that certain Defendants were responsible for the
delays are conclusory and not entitled to the presumption of
his objections, Plaintiff requests that he be “allowed
to conduct discovery, depositions [, ] and production of
documents.” Plaintiff contends that by conducting
discovery and deposing witnesses he will be able to clarify
the issues and provide evidence to support his Complaint. The
court, however, cannot allow discovery, as Plaintiff has not
pleaded a Complaint sufficient to survive or defeat
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
moved to dismiss all of Plaintiff's retaliation claims;
however, the Report does not address Plaintiff's claim
for retaliation for exercising his right to petition. The
court has reviewed the claim and determines that it is too
conclusory to survive Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. The
ultimate question in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is whether the
complaint states a valid claim when it is viewed in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff. Great Plains Trust Co.
v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th
Cir. 2002). While well-pleaded facts of a complaint are to be
accepted as true, legal conclusions are not “entitled
to the assumption of truth.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (citation omitted).
Further, a court is not to strain to find inferences
favorable to the plaintiff and is not to accept conclusory
allegations, unwarranted deductions, or legal
conclusions. R2 Invs. LDC v. Phillips, 401 F.3d 638,
642 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).
claim for retaliation for exercising his right to petition
The Defendants placed the Plaintiff in the Special Housing
Unit (SHU) in retaliation for pursuing these claims. The
Defendant[s'] placed the Plaintiff in the SHU just weeks
before the two[-]year statute of limitations would expire on
filing this lawsuit. They seized all of the Plaintiff's
legal, and medical, materials and denied the Plaintiff access
to them. The Plaintiff was also denied access to a law
library and his legal mail was held and tampered with. The
Plaintiff has presented this court evidence of this. While in
the SHU the Plaintiff was also denied access to medical care
and treatment. Additionally, the Plaintiff's offsite
consults were cancelled. All of this was in retaliation for
pursuing this legal action.
Pl.'s Sec. Am. Compl. 11. It would be a strained
inference to infer that Plaintiff was purposely placed in the
SHU to prevent him from filing his complaint before the end
of his two-year statute of limitations. Further, Plaintiff
does not state facts to support a sufficient nexus between
the alleged retaliation and his right to petition; instead,
he makes the conclusory statement that those acts were done
in retaliation for his pursuing legal action. Accordingly,
the court determines that this claim is too conclusory to
survive the motion to dismiss.
in reviewing Plaintiff's factual allegations against
Defendants as true and in the light most favorable to him,
the court determines that Plaintiff may have arguably set
forth allegations that Defendants' alleged inaction
constituted gross negligence. The general and conclusory
allegations asserted by Plaintiff are well below what is
necessary for the court to infer that he was injured as a
result of Defendants acting with deliberate indifference.
“Gross negligence” is not the same as
“deliberate indifference.” The terms “gross
negligence” and “deliberate indifference”
are sometimes confused and interchanged; however,
“deliberate indifference” is a stricter standard.
Doe v. Taylor Indep. Sch. Dist., 15 F.3d 443, 453
(5th Cir. 1994). “Gross negligence” is a
heightened degree of negligence, whereas “deliberate
indifference” is a “lesser form of intent.”
Id. at n.7 (citation omitted). A showing of
heightened negligence is insufficient to state a claim for
deliberate indifference. Bd. of the Cty. Comm'rs of
Bryan Cty., Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 407 (1997).
reviewed the file, Report, record, applicable law, and
conducting a de novo review of Plaintiff's
objections, the court determines that the findings and
conclusions of the magistrate judge are correct, and accepts
them as those of the court. Further, for the reasons herein
stated, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for retaliation. The
court, therefore, overrules Plaintiff's objections;
grants Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State
a Claim; and dismisses with ...