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Garrett v. Sulser

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Tyler Division

March 7, 2018



          Ron Clark, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Christopher Garrett (Garrett), an inmate confined within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging purported violations to his constitutional rights. The complaint was referred for findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations for the disposition of the case.

         The present memorandum opinion concerns only Defendant Linthicum's motion to dismiss, (Dkt. #19), and the Magistrate Judge's Report, (Dkt. #68), recommending that the motion be granted.

         I. Garrett's Underlying Allegations

         In his initial complaint, (Dkt. #1), and his amended complaint, (Dkt. #21), Garrett stated that in May 2015, while he was incarcerated at the Michael Unit, he received a job transfer in which new duties required him to climb up and down stairs, which resulted in debilitating pain in his knee and hip. On June 1, his leg “gave out” while walking, causing him to stumble and fall. Garrett states that the medical staff at the Michael Unit refused to issue him a walker or crutches and refused to treat or diagnose him for weeks.

         Garrett then highlighted how he slipped in the shower area on June 29, 2015, causing him to black out, fall onto the wet concrete, and sustain a severe hip fracture. He noted that he was sent to the infirmary on an emergency basis. Garrett contended that before and after he arrived at medical, a nurse repeatedly and intentionally twisted his foot and leg, causing unbearable pain and illustrating her-and others within the medical department-deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. After weeks of failing to treat and provide pain medication, Garrett was taken to a hospital in Galveston and underwent hip surgery on July 10, 2015.

         As for Defendant Linthicum, the Director of Health Services for TDCJ, Garrett insisted that she “acts with deliberate indifference to the Plaintiff's serious medical needs by refusing to take steps, as is [her] duty, to ensure the proper training of the TDCJ nursing staff and to ensure that the nursing staff does not act with deliberate indifference.” He also stated that it is routine practice for medical grievance investigators “to give obtuse responses to misdirect and obfuscate the grieved issue at both the Step I and Step II levels.” Finally, Garrett maintained that Defendant Linthicum is complicit in falsifying medical records to “further accomplish the delay and/or denial of needed health care.” Garrett requests declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as both punitive and compensatory damages.

         II. Defendant Linthicum's Motion to Dismiss and Garrett's Reply

         In her motion to dismiss, (Dkt. #19), Linthicum argues that Garrett presented merely conclusory claims against her. Additionally, she maintained that she had no personal involvement with respect to any of Garrett's claims and that Garrett failed to overcome qualified immunity.

         Garrett filed a response to Linthicum's motion to dismiss. He argued that she undoubtedly had personal involvement because she has ultimate authority over the Step II medical grievance procedures; given that role, her “refusal to properly investigate complaints in the Step II medical grievances creates policies, procedures and customs that assure the continuity of her subordinates act with deliberate indifference to the Plaintiff's serious medical needs.” Moreover, Garrett insisted that Linthicum had personal involvement through her failure to train the prison's nursing staff.

         III. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

         In recommending that Defendant Linthicum's motion be granted, the Magistrate Judge found that Garrett failed to demonstrate deliberate indifference, failed to illustrate Defendant Linthicum's personal involvement or supervisory liability, and failed to show any failure to train. Garrett has filed timely objections to the Report, (Dkt. #74).

         IV. Legal Standards

         A. Motions to Dismiss The Fifth Circuit has observed that motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are “viewed with disfavor and rarely granted.” See Turner v. Pleasant, 663 F.3d 770, 775 (5th Cir. 2011). Such motions are generally evaluated on the pleadings alone. See Jackson v. Procunier, 789 F.2d 307, 309 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Nevertheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal if a plaintiff “fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted where it does not allege sufficient facts which, taken as true, state a claim which is plausible on its face and thus does not raise a right to relief above the speculative level. See Montoya v. FedEx Ground Packaging System Inc., 614 F.3d 145, 149 (5th Cir. 2010) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). A claim has factual plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw reasonable inferences that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. See Hershey v. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., 610 F.3d 239, 245 (5th Cir. 2010); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This plausibility standard is not akin to a probability standard; rather, the plausibility standard requires more than the mere possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully. Bell, 550 U.S. at 556 (emphasis supplied).

         Although all well-pleaded facts are taken as true, the district court need not accept true conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions. See Whatley v. Coffin, 496 Fed.App'x 414, 2012 WL 5419531 (5th Cir. Nov. 7, 2012) (citing Plotkin v. IP Axess Inc., 407 F.3d 690, 696 (5th Cir. 2005)). Crucially, while the federal pleading rules do not require “detailed factual allegations, ” the rule does “demand more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pleading offering “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic ...

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