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Adkins v. Boyd County

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

September 27, 2013

BOYD COUNTY, ET AL., Defendants.


HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiff Gabriel I. Adkins is an inmate confined in the Todd County Detention Center located in Elkton, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Adkins has filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint challenging conditions of his confinement in the Boyd County Detention Center ("BCDC") in Catlettsburg, Kentucky. [D. E. No. 1] Adkins alleges that between December 13, 2012, and February 1, 2013, the named defendants[1] subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. By prior Order [D. E. No.4], the Court has granted Adkins's motion to proceed in forma pauperis.

The Court must conduct a preliminary review of Adkins' complaint because he has been granted pauper status and because he asserts claims against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim that is frivolous or 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. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607-08 (6th Cir. 1997).

The Court evaluates Adkins' complaint under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). At this stage, the Court accepts Adkins's factual allegations as true, and liberally construes his legal claims in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Having reviewed the complaint, however, the Court must dismiss it with prejudice because Adkins had failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


The following is a summary of Adkins' factual allegations. After being moved from Cell #137 to the "D" Block of the BCDC, Adkins smeared his face with his own feces "like war paint, '" D.E. No. 1, p. 2, and covered the walls of the "D" Block cell with his feces. Adkins blames his behavior on the fact that he had been in the BCDC for two weeks without "proper medication." [ Id. ] Adkins alleges that Damon Matthews then used pepper-spray on him without justification, and that he was kept in a separate area of the BCDC until he could talk to someone at Pathways, Inc.[2] [ Id. ] The next day, after talking to someone at Pathways, Inc., Adkins was left on "moderate watch, " but was not released to return to the "D" Block. [ Id., pp. 2-3] Adkins alleges that Pathways, Inc., failed to keep him on "high risk" status and to properly medicate him. [ Id., p. 3]

Adkins alleges that after he was returned to the "D" Block, he was "mentally in an uproar over my son having a terminal illness, " and that BCDC Nurse Practitioner Carol Cornett failed to discuss his psychiatric medication with him prior to adjusting that medication. [ Id., p. 3] Adkins further alleges that Cornett failed to provide him with proper medical treatment for an abscessed tooth and failed to properly treat a condition which he described as either the flu or a bad head cold. Finally, Adkins alleges that BCDC Jailer Joe Burchett "has control to over see [sic] all this & find a solution & did nothing." [ Id. ]

Adkins seeks unspecified damages for pain and suffering, an order requiring the defendants to "compensate their job titles, "[3] and an order directing the defendants to "fix the problem so other inmates are provided with proper medical assistance." [ Id., p. 8, § VI]


1. Alleged Use of Excessive Force by Damon Matthews

Adkins does not use the term "excessive force, " but a liberal reading of the complaint suggests that he could be alleging that Matthews applied excessive force when using the pepper-spray on him. The Eighth Amendment protects prisoners against the imposition of"cruel and unusual punishment, " and the use of excessive force against prisoners may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992). However, not every use of intentional force upon a prisoner by a prison official will rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation. See Parrish v. Johnson, 800 F.2d 600, 604 (6th Cir. 1986) ("[T]he good faith use of physical force in pursuit of valid penological or institutional goals will rarely, if ever, violate the Eighth Amendment.") (citations omitted).

An Eighth Amendment claim is comprised of both an objective and a subjective component. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833-36 (1994). The objective element of the claim requires plaintiff to show a "sufficiently serious" deprivation, id. at 834, ( i.e., that the force was "harmful enough" to establish a constitutional violation). The subjective inquiry focuses on whether a defendant possessed a culpable state of mind. In the context of excessive force, the question is one of a defendant's intent-whether a defendant used force in a good faith effort to restore order or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7; Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320 (1986)). Thus, plaintiff needs to produce evidence that the force was "harmful enough to establish a constitutional violation" and applied "maliciously and sadistically to cause harm" rather than in a "good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7-8.

Excessive force claims must be decided "based on the nature of the force rather than the extent of the injury." Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 34 (2010). Still, "the extent of injury may suggest whether the use of force could plausibly have been thought necessary... [and] provide some indication of the amount of force applied, " even though "[i]njury and force... are only imperfectly correlated." Id. at 37-38. A prisoner's complaint "of a push or shove that causes no discernible injury almost certainly fails to state a valid excessive force claim." Id. at 38 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Here, Adkins does not allege that he suffered any injury after the pepper-spray was used on him, or that he sought or received medical treatment as a result of the alleged use of pepper-spray.

To the extent that Adkins may have suffered emotional distress stemming from Matthews' alleged use ofpepper-spray on him, "No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). See also Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 601 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)) ("[A] claim of psychological injury does not reflect the deprivation of the minimal civilized measures of life's necessities, ' that is the touchstone of a conditions-of-confinement case"); Jarriett v. Wilson, 162 F.Appx. 394, 400 (6th Cir. 2005). ...

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