United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
JOHN M. LONGORIA, TDCJ # 01878423, Plaintiff,
BRYAN COLLIER, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Hanks Jr United States District Judge
John M. Longoria is incarcerated in the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division
(“TDCJ”). On February 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed a
pro se civil rights complaint alleging that prison
officials denied him adequate medical care (Dkt. 1).
Plaintiff has paid the Court's filing fee. Because
Longoria is a prisoner seeking redress from government
officials, the Court is required by the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (“PLRA”) to scrutinize the pleadings.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). 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 from a
defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(b). After reviewing Plaintiff's complaint
(Dkt. 1), more definite statement (Dkt. 4), and supplemental
more definite statement (Dkt. 7), and having considered the
applicable law, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's
claims against Defendants Owusu, Collier, Jones, and Matthews
must be DISMISSED for the reasons that
follow. Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Isabel will
be TRANSFERRED to the Houston Division of
the Southern District of Texas.
March and April 2018, while incarcerated at the Ferguson Unit
in Madison County, Plaintiff sought treatment for symptoms
including pain and swelling in his leg, a dry hacking cough,
and chest pain (Dkt. 1, at 4). He alleges that Nurse Isabel, who
is named as a Defendant in this action, failed to recognize
his potentially fatal condition and his need for immediate
treatment. In particular, he alleges that on March 30 and
April 16, 2018, Isabel gave him non-aspirin and instructed
him to return to his cell, refusing him additional treatment
(id. at 4, 6; Dkt. 4, at 13).
April 16, 2018, after Plaintiff allegedly had complained
about his symptoms “for 16 day[s] straight, ” a
major at the Ferguson Unit called 911 and arranged for
Plaintiff's emergency transport to a hospital in
Huntsville (id.). Longoria later was transferred to
Hospital Galveston and had emergency surgery for blood clots
to the lungs, or pulmonary embolism. See Dkt. 1-1,
at 5 (discharge summary dated April 30, 2018). He states that
his pulmonary embolism was caused by untreated and
undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis. He alleges that, as a
result of Isabel's failure to provide adequate treatment
from March 30 through April 16, he suffered pain in his leg,
swelling, lack of oxygen in his lungs, and emotional trauma
(Dkt. 4, at 15).
2018, shortly after his discharge, Longoria was transferred
to the Terrell Unit in Brazoria County. Longoria alleges in
his pleadings that he has been “untreated” since
his discharge in April 2018, stating that he “remains
in URGENT need of corrective/preventative procedures/surgery
for Pulmonary Thrombo-embolism and emergency intervention for
blood clot migration to his lungs and is at imm[i]nent risk
of sudden death” (Dkt. 1, at 6). See Dkt. 4,
at 10 (“Since April 2018 to present, no treatment has
been ordered that I know of”); id. at 6
(“I receive no treatment to help medical
issues”). However, Plaintiff also acknowledges that he
takes Warfarin, a blood thinner, for his condition and has
had multiple medical appointments since his discharge.
See id. at 5-6 (referencing Warfarin and follow up
care on October 25 and November 15, 2018); id. at
25-31 (I-60 forms furnished by Plaintiff reflect medical
appointments in May 2018, June 2018, and March 2019); Dkt.
1-1, at 4 (grievance response furnished by Plaintiff
references medical appointment on September 7,
2018). Moreover, in response to this Court's
questions, Plaintiff clarified that new blood clots have not
formed since his April 2018 discharge.
brings claims against Kwabena Owusu, M.D., a physician at the
Terrell Unit, for failure “to properly identify and
treat” his pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis
and for failure to transfer him to the hospital. See
Dkt. 1, at 5 (Owusu did not “transfer Plaintiff to a
hospital when Plaintiff had a medical condition that any
provider should be able to recognize” with symptoms of
painful, swollen leg, dry cough, and chest pain). Despite the
Court's request, Plaintiff has provided no dates or other
specific information regarding his complaint that Dr. Owusu
denied him medical care. See Dkt. 4, at 17-18 (in
response to Court's question about when Owusu failed to
provide adequate treatment or what treatment was necessary at
the time, Plaintiff stated that he is “still in need of
treatment to resolve my medical problem the clot and the
abnormal size leg and an open wound” and referred the
Court to “medical records”).
also alleges that Dr. Owusu improperly denied him medical
restrictions on his prison work assignments. See id.
at 17 (alleging that Dr. Owusu “put the medical issue
off” and forced Plaintiff to work and stand on his
leg); id. at 18 (alleging that Owusu “only
gave [him] 3 times a 30 day work restriction”). In
response to the Court's questions, Plaintiff identified
the dates of Owusu's denials as May 22, 2018 and January
7, 2019. See Dkt. 7, at 2. He refers the Court to
his medical restrictions list which reflects that, on both
dates listed by Plaintiff, Dr. Owusu authorized a four-hour
work restriction for Plaintiff (Dkt. 4, at 24). Plaintiff
therefore appears to complain that Dr. Owusu issued a
four-hour restriction rather than the “medically
unassigned” status Plaintiff requested (Dkt 7, at 3).
He failed to respond directly to the Court's instruction
to identify any specific physical harm that resulted from Dr.
Owusu's decision to order a four-hour work restriction
for the two relevant periods. The Court notes that, based on
the documents submitted by Plaintiff, Dr. Owusu had
authorized medically unassigned status at other times since
Plaintiff's hospital discharge, and other medical
personnel at the Terrell Unit issued a medical unassignment
to Plaintiff as recently as April 2019.
brings claims against Dr. Jones, the medical director at the
Terrell Unit, for failure to provide adequate treatment
alleging that she “is the head provider she should
[have] known as she reviews all patients' medical
problems . . . and she didn't do anything medical
wise” (Dkt. 4, at 15). He states that Jones should have
referred him “to a professional doctor of internal
medicine” (id. at 17). Despite the Court's
request, he did not provide a date or approximate date on
which Jones allegedly denied him treatment (id. at
alleges that Bryan Collier is liable for his claims regarding
denial of medical care because, as director of TDCJ, he has
“legal authority” (id. at 13). Plaintiff
alleges no personal involvement by Collier.
6, 2019, approximately one week after filing his supplemental
more definite statement, Longoria filed a request for a
temporary restraining order (Dkt. 8). Plaintiff alleges that,
on May 1, 2019, Dr. Jones laid him in for a medical
appointment “then took [his] medical unassigned
restriction without reason” (id. at 1).
See Dkt. 8-1, at 6 (“job change” slip
dated May 1, 2019 states that Longoria is assigned to the
cannery). Plaintiff states, “[t]his is the 4th to 5th
time medical unassigned restriction was issued by medical
staff, ” and alleges “Direct Retaliation”
by Dr. Jones (Dkt. 8, at 1). He does not provide any
information about what allegedly motivated Jones to retaliate
against him.He seeks relief in the form of a court
order directing Terrell Unit officials to stop denying him
medically unassigned status pending resolution of his case
(Dkt. 8, at 2).
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 from a defendant who is immune from such
relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(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).
dismissal for failure to state a claim is governed by the
same standard as a motion under 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 relief.”
Harrington v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 563
F.3d 141, 147 (5th Cir. 2009) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted).
reviewing the pleadings, the Court is mindful of the fact
that Plaintiff proceeds pro se. Complaints filed by
pro se litigants are entitled to a liberal
construction and, “however inartfully pleaded, must be
held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Even under this lenient standard a pro se
plaintiff must allege more than “‘labels and
conclusions' or a ‘formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007));
see Patrick v. Wal-Mart, Inc., 681 F.3d 614, 617
(5th Cir. 2012). “Threadbare recitals of the elements
of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678 (citation omitted). Additionally, regardless of how
well-pleaded the factual allegations may be, they must
demonstrate that the plaintiff is entitled to relief under a
valid legal theory. See Neitzke v. Williams, 490
U.S. 319, 327 (1989); Geiger, 404 F.3d at 373.
defendants were, at all relevant times, TDCJ or University of
Texas Medical Branch (“UTMB”) officials. A claim
against a state employee in his or her official capacity is a
claim against the State of Texas. See Mayfield v. Tex.
Dep't of Crim. Justice, 529 F.3d 599, 604 (5th Cir.
2008). Because the Eleventh Amendment protects the
states' sovereign immunity, federal courts lack
jurisdiction over suits against a state for money damages
unless the state has waived its immunity or Congress has
clearly abrogated that immunity. NiGen Biotech, L.L.C.,
v. Paxton, 804 F.3d 389, 393-94 (5th Cir. 2015);
Moore v. La. Bd. Of Elem. And Secondary Educ., 743
F.3d 959, 963 (5th Cir. 2014). Texas has not waived its
Eleventh Amendment immunity, and Congress did not abrogate
that immunity when enacting Section 1983. NiGen, 804
F.3d at 394.
seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. To the
extent he brings any claims for money damages against
Defendants in their official capacities, the state is immune
under the Eleventh Amendment. The claims therefore will be
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.