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Williams v. Danheim

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division

April 30, 2019

MONGO WILLIAMS, TDCJ # 01269681, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN DANHEIM, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          George C. Hanks Jr., United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Mongo Ja'barr Williams, an inmate in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division (“TDCJ”), proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (Dkt. 10-1) and, as instructed by the Court, has supplied a more definite statement of his claims (Dkt. 18). Because Williams is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) to scrutinize the pleadings. The Court must dismiss the case, in whole or in part, if it determines that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), § 1915(e)(2)(B). After reviewing all of the pleadings and the applicable law, the Court concludes that this case must be DISMISSED for the reasons that follow.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In this lawsuit, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Joseph Davis, a lieutenant at the Darrington Unit, denied him adequate medical care in connection with an injury to Plaintiff's ankle. He also alleges that Defendant James Danheim, a warden at Darrington Unit, violated Plaintiff's rights during the administrative grievance process.

         Williams injured his left ankle on December 30, 2014 in the chow hall at TDCJ's Darrington Unit. Williams states that a table fell on another inmate causing that inmate to fall into him, which then caused him to stumble and injure his ankle (Dkt. 10-1, at 4). He claims that his ankle made a “pop” sound and he felt a sharp pain in his foot (id.). He went to the unit infirmary, where he received a non-aspirin painkiller:

I tried to exit towards the chow hall's door. An officer told me to sit down. Food Service Manager Sgt. Micah Sim III helped me to the infirmary. As I stood by the infirmary door for about 5 minutes, Lt. Joseph Davis came and took me inside and took a picture of my feet. I was given some non-aspirin then I was told to leave. I was never given any ice or crutches for my swollen ankle.

(id.). Plaintiff received the painkiller from Patricia Brown, who apparently is a nurse in the infirmary (Dkt. 18, at 2) (“I was not properly treated by the V/N named Ms. Patricia Brown. I was only given a few non-aspirin, and was told to leave, limping, out of the infirmary”). Plaintiff maintains that prison officials should have given him an ice pack and crutches because his ankle was throbbing, swollen, and hard to stand on (id.). In response to the Court's questions about the extent of his injury, he stated that never received a diagnosis for his ankle and received no other treatment related to the incident (id. at 2-3).[1] Regarding the harm he suffered because of the alleged denial of medical care, Plaintiff explained as follows:

I suffered “great pain” in both my ankles. But my left ankle hurt[] the most. And it was swollen a lot more than my right ankle. I had to leave my footwear untied just so no pressure was applied to it. I was in great pain the whole time I left the chow hall until I reached the cell where I was confined to.

(id. at 6) (emphasis added).

         Plaintiff names Lieutenant Davis as a defendant in this suit. In response to the Court's questions regarding Davis' personal involvement in the relevant events, Plaintiff explains that he specifically requested ice and crutches from Davis while in the infirmary after his injury, but that Davis told him that he could walk and that Plaintiff “limped out” of the infirmary after Davis left him there (id.at 4-5). Based on these facts, he alleges that Davis denied him “treatment for [his] serious medical need” (id. at 4).

         Plaintiff also brings a claim against Warden James Danheim in connection with Plaintiff's administrative grievance regarding the incident (Dkt. 10-1, at 3). Plaintiff states that he filed Grievance No. 2015068412, in which he complained about his ankle pain and the denial of his request for crutches (Dkt. 18, at 7). By Plaintiff's description of the response he received, TDCJ officials denied the grievance after they investigated and found “no evidence” to support Plaintiff's claim that he was denied access to medical services, noting that Plaintiff had received medical attention immediately after the injury (id. at 7-8). Plaintiff alleges that Danheim violated his rights when he “took the job as warden” at the Darrington Unit and signed off on the denial of Plaintiff's grievance (id. at 8).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As required by the PLRA, the Court screens this case to determine whether the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), § 1915(e)(2)(B). A district court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous “if it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact.” Geiger v. Jowers, 404 F.3d 371, 373 (5th Cir. 2005); Samford v. Dretke, 562 F.3d 674, 678 (5th Cir. 2009). “A complaint lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory. . . . A complaint lacks an arguable basis in fact if, after providing the plaintiff the opportunity to present additional facts when necessary, the facts alleged are clearly baseless.” Rogers v. Boatright, 709 F.3d 403, 407 (5th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A dismissal for failure to state a claim is governed by the same standard for Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Newsome v. EEOC,301 F.3d 227, 231 (5th Cir. 2002). Under this standard, the Court “construes the complaint liberally in favor of the plaintiff, ” “takes all facts pleaded in the complaint as true, ” and considers whether “with every doubt resolved on [the plaintiff's] behalf, the complaint states any valid claim for ...


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