United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Richard Vincent Letizia, also known as Richard
Vincent (SPN #02880904), has filed a Complaint for Violation
of Civil Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Complaint") (Docket Entry No. 1), concerning the
conditions of his confinement at the Harris County Jail. At
the court's request Letizia has supplemented his
pleadings with Plaintiff's More Definite Statement
("Plaintiff's MDS") (Docket Entry No. 8).
Because Letizia is an inmate who proceeds .in forma
pauperis, the court is required to scrutinize the claims
and dismiss the Complaint, in whole or in part, if it
determines that the Complaint "is frivolous, malicious,
or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted" or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant
who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
After considering the pleadings, the court concludes that
this case must be dismissed for the reasons explained below.
was arrested as an "out of state fugitive" and
placed in the Harris County Jail (the "Jail") on
July 6, 2016.He was released on bond, which was
later revoked. Letizia returned to the Jail on
February 18, 2018, where he remains incarcerated pending his
return to Florida, where he has been convicted and sentenced
in absentia to five years' imprisonment.
pending Complaint against Harris County Sheriff Edward
Gonzalez, Letizia claims that there was "no water
service" at the Jail for five days, starting on July 5,
2018, until July 10, 2018.As a result, inmates were forced to
defecate in plastic bags and urinate in the
shower. Letizia contends that the smell was
"unbarable [sic]" and that conditions were
"extremely unsanitary" during this time because no
showers could be taken. One inmate became upset or
"frustrated" with the conditions and assaulted
Letizia by striking him in the left eye on July 8, 2018,
which Plaintiff's MDS, Docket Entry No. 8, p. 2. required
hospitalization and has resulted in permanently blurred
contends that the conditions of his confinement that he
endured while the Jail was without water service for several
days during July 2018 violated the Fourth, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
Letizia seeks damages in the amount of $1 million for the
loss of vision in his left eye from being assaulted and the
psychological distress he experienced as the result of his
exposure to unsanitary conditions.
A. Supervisory Liability
only defendant identified by Letizia is Sheriff Gonzalez, who
is sued in his capacity as a supervisory official in charge
of the Harris County Sheriff's Department, which operates
the Jail. A public official cannot be held
vicariously liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the
conduct of those under their supervision. See Alderson v.
Concordia Parish Correctional Facility, 848 F.3d 415,
419 (5th Cir. 2017) (citing Mouille v. City of Live
Oak, 977 F.2d 924, 929 (5th Cir. 1992)). Supervisory
officials are accountable for their own acts of deliberate
indifference and for implementing unconstitutional policies
that causally result in injury. Id. In other words,
to establish supervisory liability under § 1983 a
plaintiff must allege either that they participated in acts
that caused a constitutional deprivation or that they
implemented unconstitutional policies causally related to his
injuries. See Alderson, 848 F.3d at 421 (citing
Mouille, 977 F.2d at 929).
does not allege facts showing that Sheriff Gonzalez was
personally involved in any of the incidents referenced in his
pleadings. Likewise, as discussed further below, Letizia does
not allege facts establishing a claim for which relief may be
granted or that he is entitled to recover damages due to the
existence of a constitutionally deficient policy attributable
to Sheriff Gonzalez. See Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d
298, 303-04 (5th Cir. 1987). Accordingly, the Complaint
against Sheriff Gonzalez must be dismissed.
Conditions of Confinement
cannot recover compensatory damages for psychological
distress due to his temporary exposure to unsanitary
conditions of confinement. The PLRA, which governs this
lawsuit, precludes an action for compensatory damages
"for mental or emotional injury-suffered while in
custody without a prior showing of physical injury or the
commission of a sexual act (as defined in section 2246 of
Title 18)." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e).
only physical injuries described by Letizia are those he
suffered when he was assaulted by another
inmate. Because Letizia does not identify
any physical injury that was caused by his exposure to
unsanitary conditions at the Jail, § 1997e(e) precludes
him from recovering damages for his mental and emotional
distress. See Alexander v. Tippah County, Miss., 351
F.3d 626, 630-31 (5th Cir. 2003) (concluding that two inmates
could not recover damages from their temporary exposure to
"deplorable conditions" because the only injury
alleged was nausea from the smell of raw sewage).
Accordingly, Letizia's conditions-of-confinement claim
must be dismissed.
Failure to ...