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Johnson v. Slone

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

March 20, 2018

J. SLONE, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Jarrod Marquel Johnson is an inmate formerly confined at the United States Penitentiary-Big Sandy (“USP-Big Sandy”) in Inez, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Johnson filed a civil rights action against federal officials pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). [R. 1]. Defendants Jennifer Slone, Burney Borden, and Trina Burchett have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. [R. 15]. Johnson has filed a response [R. 17] and Defendants have filed a reply [R. 19]. Without seeking the Court's permission to do so, Johnson has filed a sur-reply [R. 20].[1] Thus, this matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

         I. Factual Background

         The events giving rise to Johnson's allegations in his Complaint occurred while he was housed in USP-Big Sandy in September 2015. According to Johnson, he submitted several written requests to his counselor, Defendant Slone, requesting that his cellmate be moved because they were “having problems.” These requests were denied. Johnson further alleges that, around this same time, his cellmate also approached an unidentified officer from the Special Investigative Services (“SIS”) department, informed the officer of the problems he and Johnson were having, and requested to be moved. This request was also denied. Johnson alleges that he again approached Defendant Slone and requested to be moved “to prevent a problem from occurring.” However, this request was denied. [R. 1 at p. 9].

         Johnson then alleges that, on September 6, 2015, he was beaten in the head with a metal lock by his cellmate. He claims that he was escorted to medical, where he informed Defendant Nurse Burchett about the seriousness of his injuries, but rather than examining him, she told him to put in a written request to be seen by medical. He alleges that he was then escorted to a cell in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”) without medication or anything else to help with the physical pain from the assault. He alleges that, despite submitting written requests to be seen about his physical condition, he was not seen by medical for about four weeks. He claims that, when he was seen on October 19, 2015, although he was prescribed him 800 mg of Ibuprofen, he was never given anything for his vision in his right eye or the blurriness or dizziness when standing. [R. 1 at p. 9-10].

         Based on these allegations, Johnson claims that Defendants Slone, Borden, and the unidentified SIS officer violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from the alleged assault after he requested to be moved to a different cell because of the “problems” he and his cellmate were having. Johnson also alleges that Nurse Burchett violated his Eighth Amendment rights based on his allegations of inadequate medical care. [R. 1 at 9-11]. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, arguing that Johnson's complaint should be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for violation of the Eighth Amendment and that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. [R. 15].

         II. Standard

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. Gardner v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 567 F. App'x 362, 364 (6th Cir. 2014). When addressing a motion to dismiss, the Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts as true all ‘well-pleaded facts' in the complaint. D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014). Because Johnson is proceeding without the benefit of an attorney, the Court reads his complaint to include all fairly and reasonably inferred claims. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012).

         Here, Defendants moved both to dismiss and for summary judgment, attaching and relying upon declarations extrinsic to the pleadings in support of their motion. [R. 15]. Thus, the Court will treat the defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint as a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Wysocki v. Int'l Bus. Mach. Corp., 607 F.3d 1102, 1104 (6th Cir. 2010). See also Ball v. Union Carbide Corp., 385 F.3d 713, 719 (6th Cir. 2004) (where defendant moves both to dismiss and for summary judgment, plaintiff is on notice that summary judgment is being requested, and the court's consideration as such is appropriate where the nonmovant submits documents and affidavits in opposition to summary judgment).

         A motion under Rule 56 challenges the viability of another party's claim by asserting that at least one essential element of that claim is not supported by legally-sufficient evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324-25 (1986). A party moving for summary judgment must establish that, even viewing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Loyd v. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580, 588 (6th Cir. 2014). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “come forward with some probative evidence to support its claim.” Lansing Dairy, Inc. v. Espy, 39 F.3d 1339, 1347 (6th Cir.1994). However, if the responding party's allegations are so clearly contradicted by the record that no reasonable jury could adopt them, the court need not accept them when determining whether summary judgment is warranted. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The Court must grant summary judgment if the evidence would not support a jury verdict for the responding party with respect to at least one essential element of his claim. Johnson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986).

         III. Analysis

         A. Claims Against Defendant Borden

         Defendants argue that Johnson's claims against Defendant Borden[2] are based solely on Borden's position as Slone's supervisor and, accordingly, must be dismissed. [R. 15-1 at p. 11-12]. Johnson does not dispute this characterization of his claims against Borden, but rather argues that “[t]he claims against Borden are that he failed [to] supervise properly and failed to establish [procedures] to where he would be made aware of on-going problems and intervene, so the failure to properly supervise constitutes deliberate indifference.” [R. 17 at p. 8].

         However, while Bivens expressly validated the availability of a claim for damages against a federal official in his or her individual capacity, an officer is only responsible for his or her own conduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.662, 676-677 (2009). See also Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843, 1860 (2017). The mere fact of supervisory capacity is not enough: an official must be personally involved in the conduct complained of ...

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