United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.
Nelson Watts, IV, is an inmate presently confined at the
Northpoint Training Center in Burgin, Kentucky. Watts has
filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 1] The Court granted his motion to
proceed in forma pauperis in a prior Order. [R. 8]
Court must conduct a preliminary review of Watts's
complaint because he has been granted permission to pay the
filing fee in installments 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. Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When
testing the sufficiency of Watts's complaint, the Court
affords it a forgiving construction, accepting as true all
non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construing
its legal claims in the plaintiff's favor. Davis v.
Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir.
complaint, Watts alleges that in May 2016 while housed at the
Fayette County Detention Center (“FCDC”), he
filed a request seeking medical attention for an inguinal
hernia. On May 9, 2016, nurse practitioner Pat Warner
approached him in his housing unit where he was working as a
meal-time trustee. At that time, Warner told Watts to lower
his pants and conducted an examination at that location,
which Watts states did not afford him any privacy. Watts
indicates that one inmate was able to observe the
examination. Watts contends that this conduct violated his
rights to privacy under the Eighth Amendment and under the
“Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act.”
Watts has named as defendants nurse Pat Warner, FCDC Jailer
Steve Haney, and Kristin Fryman, a medical administrator at
Corizon Medical. [R. 1 at, 7]
thoroughly reviewed the complaint, the Court concludes that
it must be dismissed for a number of reasons. First, in a
letter filed shortly after his complaint was filed, Watts
readily acknowledged that he did not attempt to exhaust his
administrative remedies regarding his claims following an
internal affairs investigation because “I was unaware
that I was required to file a grievance about the
incident.” [R. 9 at 1] Federal law, however, requires
that all administrative remedies be exhausted as a
precondition to filing suit. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a);
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 212 (2007)
(“There is no question that exhaustion is mandatory
under the PLRA and that un-exhausted claims cannot be brought
in court.” Dismissal upon initial screening is
therefore appropriate. Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d
641, 645 (6th Cir. 1999).
addition, Watts named the jailer and a medical administrator
as defendants, but he makes no allegations against them in
his complaint. They are not liable merely because they hold
supervisory positions at the jail. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009) (“[i]n a §
1983 suit or a Bivens action -where masters do not
answer for the torts of their servants - the term
‘supervisory liability' is a misnomer.”);
Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325-26 (1981).
And while the examining nurse could have been more sensitive
to Watts's desire for privacy, her actions were simply
not serious enough to implicate the Eighth Amendment. Cf.
Rodriguez v. Ames, 287 F.Supp.2d 213, 219 (W.D.N.Y.
2003) (“The Eighth Amendment's right to be free
from cruel and unusual punishment does not guarantee that
plaintiff will receive any and all medical care in total
privacy.”); Newman v. County of Ventura, No.
CV 09-4160, 2010 WL 1266719, at *9 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2010)
(dismissing Eighth Amendment claim against nurse who ordered
inmate to pull down pants in room crowded with other inmates
to examine injury to inmate's buttocks); Jefferson v.
Katavich, No. 1: 16-CV-359, 2017 WL 56725890, at *1
(E.D. Cal. Nov. 22, 2017).
the federal statute Watts refers to in his complaint is
actually called the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). Title II of the Act
does contain a privacy rule, but it requires only that
medical records and documents be kept confidential - it does
not create a broad right to “privacy” generally.
See 45 C.F.R. § 160.103 (defining “protected
health information”); § 164.104(a). Watts's
complaint therefore states no claim under HIPAA.
it is ORDERED as follows:
1. Plaintiff's complaint [R. 1] is DISMISSED WITH
2. The Court will enter an appropriate judgment.
3. This matter is STRICKEN from the active