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Daugherty v. K.S.P. Medical Department

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky

August 22, 2017

WILLIAM J. DAUGHERTY PLAINTIFF
v.
K.S.P. MEDICAL DEPARTMENT DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge

         This is a pro se civil rights action brought by a state prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court for screening of Plaintiff's third amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP). On July 6, 2017, this Court conducted an initial screening of Plaintiff's complaint and two amended complaints (DN 16). In these documents, Plaintiff named “K.S.P. Medical Department” and Dr. Shastine Tangilag, in her official capacity only, as Defendants in this action. Plaintiff then made numerous allegations related to his medical care at KSP. Upon review, the Court allowed only one claim to proceed: an official-capacity claim against Dr. Tangilag based upon Plaintiff's allegation that only Caucasian inmates at KSP were permitted to see Dr. Tangilag while inmates of all other races were required to see a nurse practitioner. However, because Plaintiff's complaint and amended complaints contained several detailed allegations regarding his dissatisfaction with the medical care he was receiving at KSP, the Court allowed Plaintiff the opportunity to amend his complaint one final time to name as Defendants in their individual capacities any officials whom he believed had violated his constitutional right to receive appropriate medical care. It is this amended complaint that is now before the Court for review.

         II. SUMMARY OF THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT

         In his third amended complaint, Plaintiff names Dr. Shastine Tangilag as a Defendant in her individual capacity. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Tangilag responded to a medical grievance he had filed by stating that Plaintiff was suffering from the symptoms he complained of because he refused to wear bifocal eye glasses. Plaintiff seems to suggest that because Dr. Tangilag had not physically examined him, she should not have responded to this grievance, and the medical grievance committee should not have accepted her response. Plaintiff also faults Dr. Tangilag for not allowing him to see another doctor for a second opinion. Finally, Plaintiff reiterates in this complaint that Dr. Tangilag would not see non-white inmates, including himself, for physical examinations.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the court determines that it 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. See § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         “[A] district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). “[A] pro se complaint, 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) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, while liberal, this standard of review does require more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions. See Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995). The Court's duty “does not require [it] to conjure up unpled allegations, ” McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979), or to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require the Court “to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         “Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere.” Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep't of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). Two elements are required to state a claim under § 1983. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635 (1980). “[A] plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “Absent either element, a section 1983 claim will not lie.” Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 1991).

         A. Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Claim

         The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that a state may not “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, ” which is essentially a direction that all persons similarly situated should be treated alike. U.S. Const., amend. XIV; City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 (1985). To establish a violation of the Equal Protection Clause, an inmate must show that the defendants purposefully discriminated against him. Vill. of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Hous. Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 265 (1977). Such discriminatory purpose must be a motivating factor in the actions of the defendants. Id. at 265-66. “A plaintiff presenting a race-based equal protection claim can either present direct evidence of discrimination, or can establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the burden-shifting scheme set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973).” Umani v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 432 F. App'x 453, 458 (6th Cir. 2011). Here, Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Tangilag refused to see both himself and other inmates because they were not Caucasian. The Court will allow this individual-capacity claim to proceed against Dr. Tangilag at this time.

         B. Fourteenth Amendment ...


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