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Duckett v. Texas Department of Criminal Justice Correctional Institutions Division

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

April 25, 2018

HERRON KENT DUCKETT, APPELLANT
v.
TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION, APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE 3RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT HOUSTON COUNTY, TEXAS (TR.CT.NO. 17-0097)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES T. WORTHEN CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Herron Kent Duckett appeals from the trial court's dismissal of his civil suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID). The dismissal was rendered pursuant to Chapter Fourteen of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Duckett raises two issues on appeal. We affirm.

         Background

         Duckett, an inmate, claims that he was injured on December 27, 2016, while working in the prison kitchen. A few days later, Duckett filed a Step 1 Offender Grievance Form with TDCJ-CID. According to Duckett's grievance, he was "attempting to place food in inserts into the warming table when [his] finger got caught in between the insert and warming table, " which broke his right index finger. Duckett complained that neither an officer nor supervisor was present when his injury occurred and that he had not been properly trained to perform his work duties. According to Duckett, the negligent training and supervision violated TDCJ-CID's policies. He further alleged that the kitchen does not provide warming gloves with which he is to handle food. Duckett also complained that he received inadequate medical treatment following his initial hospital visit. His grievance requested "proper training and proper treatment and therapy." In response to his grievance, TDCJ-CID told Duckett that he had been trained to work in the food service department and that it was his job to take proper safety precautions while working.

         Dissatisfied with the response, Duckett filed his Step 2 Offender Grievance Form with TDCJ-CID. Duckett again claimed that he was not properly supervised. However, for the first time, he claimed that he should "have been provided adequate tangible personal property (insert) that was not cracked, bent up and having jagged edges." He further complained that "the kitchen does not provide (insert replacement protector) to remove or replace the (hot) food inserts, nor are we provided (warming gloves)."

         Duckett then brought a pro se in forma pauperis suit as an indigent inmate alleging violations of the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). According to Duckett's petition, a TDCJ-CID employee was negligent in furnishing him with "Defective Inadequate tangible Personal Property (Defective Insert) and (Insert Replacement Protector)" and the employees failed to comply with TDCJ-CID safety policies. Duckett further alleged that TDCJ-CID breached its duty when its employees failed to follow TDCJ-CID policies and procedures.

         TDCJ-CID did not answer the suit. Acting sua sponte, the trial court dismissed Duckett's case without prejudice under Chapter Fourteen of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. The order of dismissal states the following:

On April 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed Civil Rights Lawsuit, Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983. It is obvious to the Court that this civil action is not brought under the Family Code and is a cause of action governed by Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
The Court finds [] all claims to be frivolous or malicious.

         This appeal followed.

         Dismissal of Suit

         In his first issue, Appellant argues the trial court abused its discretion when it dismissed his suit. In his second issue, Appellant contends the trial court erred when it mischaracterized his suit as a civil ...


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