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Samuel v. Mercado

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

November 7, 2019

HODA SAMUEL, BOP No. 19252-097, Plaintiff,
v.
SERGIO MERCADO, Et Al., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)

          MARK T. PITTMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case was recently reassigned from the docket of Judge Reed O'Connor to this the “P” docket of the undersigned district judge. The case remains before the Court for review of pro-se inmate/plaintiff Hoda Samuel's pleadings in this civil suit filed against FMC-Carswell officials Sergio Mercado, M.D. Maitee Serrano-Mercado, M.D., Charles Langham, M.D., and Wendy McManus, under the screening provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). After conducting that review, the Court finds that all claims against the named defendants must be dismissed under the authority of § 1915A(b)(1).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Samuel, an inmate at the Bureau of Prisons FMC-Carswell facility, filed an original complaint naming the four defendants listed above arising from the medical care provided to her over the course of several years. Compl. 1-8, ECF No.1. The prior presiding judge, by order entered January 4, 2019, directed Samuel to file a more definite statement about the facts in support of some of her claims. Order, ECF No.6. After the case was dismissed without prejudice due to Samuel's failure to timely file a more definite statement, the case was then reopened and Samuel filed a more definite statement. Orders, ECF Nos. 13, 14, 17; More Definite Statement (“MDS”); ECF No. 18.

         Samuel claims that the defendants violated her rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to provide adequate medical care for her serious medical needs, and she separately lists a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. Complaint 7-10, ECF No. 1. She seeks declaratory relief from this Court that her constitutional rights were violated, along with compensatory, punitive and nominal monetary damages. Compl. 11, ECF No. 1.

         Important to the Court's review of the complaint in this action is the fact that Hoda Samuel previously filed a complaint against two of the defendants in this action, Sergio Mercado, M.D. and Maitee Serrano-Mercado, M.D. Samuel v. Sanchez, No. 4:15-CV-803-O (N.D. Tex. April 15, 2019) (Final Judgment). In that case, an original complaint was filed against Mercado, Serrano-Mercado, and three other defendants on October 26, 2015. Complaint, ECF No. 1, Samuel v. Sanchez, No.4:15-CV-803-O. By order and partial judgment entered on May 24, 2018, the prior court dismissed Samuel's claims against Sergio Mercado, M.D. and against Maitee Serrano-Mercado, M.D.. May 24, 2018 Order and Judgment, ECF Nos. 24, 25, Samuel v. Sanchez, No.4:15-CV-803-O.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD OF REVIEW UNDER § 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         As a part of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires a district court to review a complaint from a prisoner seeking relief from a governmental entity, officer, or employee as soon as possible after docketing. See 28 U.S.C.A. § 1915A(a) (West 2019). This provision authorizing review of prisoner pleadings is separate from the screening provision applicable to in-forma-pauperis proceedings, and it provides that when the Court makes the review required under § 1915A(a), the Court shall dismiss the complaint or any portion thereof, if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state 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.A. § 1915A(b)(1) and (2)(West 2019). Consistent with § 1915A is prior case law recognizing that a district court is not required to await a responsive pleading to conduct its § 1915 inquiry. See Schultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427, 1434 (5th Cir. 1995) (recognizing that a district court is not required to await a responsive pleading to conduct its § 1915 inquiry).

         A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). A claim lack an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A claim lacks an arguable basis in fact when it describes “fantastic or delusional scenarios.” Id. at 327-28. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, plaintiffs must allege facts sufficient to “raise the right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Mere “labels and conclusions” nor “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” suffice to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Duplicative Claims/Lawsuit Against Mercado and Serrano-Mercado

         As noted above, Samuel previously asserted the same claims against defendants Sergio Mercado, M.D. and Maitee Serrano-Mercado, M.D. in case number 4:15-CV-803-O. A review of the complaints filed in the two cases reveals that they are very similar, and in fact, the bulk of the paragraphs are worded exactly the same. Compare October 26, 2015 Complaint, ECF No.1, Samuel v. Sanchez, No.4:15-CV-803-O and August 6, 2018 Complaint, ECF No. 1. Indeed, a review of these two complaints shows that the title and introduction sections of the complaints are identical, and that 35 of the 44 enumerated paragraphs of the complaints are identical. See id.

         As noted earlier, by order and partial judgment entered on May 24, 2018, Judge O'Connor dismissed Samuel's claims against Sergio Mercado, M.D. and against Maitee Serrano-Mercado, M.D.. May 24, 2018 Order and Judgment, ECF Nos. 24, 25, Samuel v. Sanchez, No.4:15-CV-803-O. After reciting Samuel's obligation to complete service of summons under Rule 4(m) of the Rule of Civil Procedure, the order of dismissal provided:

By order entered October 24, 2017 (ECF No. 19) the Court implicitly allowed Plaintiff additional time to properly effect service of process upon Defendants Mercado and Serrano-Mercado by serving the United States. The Clerk of Court completed the summons forms that contained instructions for service of process on the United States and mailed them to Plaintiff. It has been over six months since the summons forms were provided to Plaintiff. The Court finds that Plaintiff has been afforded proper notice and ample time in which to effect service of process in compliance with Rule 4, but has failed to exercise diligence in doing so. Even upon receiving notice of the defect in service from the United States on January 30, 2017 (ECF No. 12), over a year ago, Plaintiff took no action to remedy the defect. The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate diligence in prosecuting her claims against Defendants Mercado and Serrano-Mercado. In light of these facts and circumstances, the Court finds that dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Mercado and Serrano-Mercado ...

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