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Hanson v. United States

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

October 17, 2018



          David L. Bunning United States District Judge.

         Pro se plaintiff Bryan Alan Hanson claims he suffered a violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when he was deprived of the use of the restroom on one occasion at the Federal Correctional Institute (“FCI”)-Manchester. Accordingly, Hanson has sued an FCI-Manchester employee, Officer Mills, for damages pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), and he also seeks compensation from the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Hanson's claims.


         Bryan Alan Hanson is a federal inmate currently incarcerated in Marion, Illinois. Proceeding pro se, Hanson filed a civil Complaint in this Court stemming from an incident that occurred on August 21, 2016, while he was incarcerated at FCI-Manchester in Manchester, Kentucky. (Doc. # 1). Hanson's Complaint alleges, among other things, that Officer Mills prevented him from using the toilet and, as a result, Mr. Hanson soiled himself in public. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, the Court conducted an initial screening of Hanson's Complaint. (Doc. # 11). The Court dismissed a number of Hanson's claims upon screening, but the Court ultimately concluded that Hanson's Bivens claim against Officer Mills in his individual capacity and his FTCA allegation against the United States could proceed. (Id.)

         Subsequently, Officer Mills and the United States both moved to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment on those remaining claims. (Doc. # 21). The matter is now fully briefed and ripe for the Court's review.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         While the Defendants' motion invokes both Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 56, the bulk of the Motion argues that Hanson failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under Rule 12(b)(6). (See Doc. # 21-1 at 3-13). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. Gardner v. Quicken Loans, Inc., 567 Fed.Appx. 362, 364 (6th Cir. 2014). To evaluate such a motion, the Court views the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts all “well-pleaded facts” in the complaint as true. D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014). Because Hanson is proceeding without the benefit of an attorney, the Court reads Hanson's complaint to include all fairly and reasonably inferred claims. See Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012).

         B. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Hanson's Bivens claim is granted.

         The first matter before the Court is Hanson's Bivens claim against Officer Mills in his individual capacity. Hanson alleges that Mills violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when Mills refused to allow Hanson to use the restroom during a urinalysis procedure, causing Hanson to defecate on himself.[1] (See Doc. # 1 at 4-8). While the facts alleged are unfortunate, the Court finds that they do not provide a basis for Hanson to recover money damages under the Bivens doctrine. See Bivens, 403 U.S. 388. Hanson's claim presents a new context for a Bivens action, and there are special factors counselling against expanding the Bivens remedy to this context.

         Unlike a civil-rights claim against state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which is a remedy explicitly created by Congress, a civil-rights claim against federal officials under Bivens is a judicially-created cause of action that has been implied only in limited circumstances. Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843, 1854 (2017). The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has noted that “[a] Bivens remedy is available only if (1) there are no alternative, existing processes for protecting a constitutional interest and, (2) even in the absence of an alternative, there are no special factors counselling hesitation before authorizing a new kind of federal litigation.” Haines v. Fed. Motor Carrier Safety Admin., 814 F.3d 417, 431 (6th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Further, the United States Supreme Court has recently “made clear that expanding the Bivens remedy is now a ‘disfavored' judicial activity.” Ziglar, 137 S.Ct. at 1857. Indeed, the Supreme Court's Ziglar opinion emphasizes that lower courts must consider in the first instance whether a plaintiff's claims are cognizable under Bivens, even if courts have historically assumed the availability of a Bivens remedy for a particular constitutional allegation. See Id. at 1863-65; see also Gonzalez v. Hasty, 269 F.Supp.3d 45, 57 (E.D.N.Y. 2017).

         To begin, Hanson's claim against Officer Mills presents a new Bivens context, particularly in light of the guidance recently set forth in Ziglar v. Abassi. To date, the Supreme Court has recognized only three contexts where a Bivens claim was appropriate: a Fourth Amendment claim in the search and seizure context, a Fifth Amendment discrimination claim against a congressmen who fired a female secretary, and an Eighth Amendment claim for a prison official's deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical needs. Ziglar, 137 S.Ct. at 1854-55. Hanson's complaint is sufficiently distinct from all three of these prior contexts, and, therefore, is considered a “new context” for purposes of the Court's present analysis. Regarding the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment cases where the Supreme Court previously allowed plaintiffs to recover damages under Bivens, Hanson's case invokes entirely different constitutional rights and plainly presents a new context. Id. at 1860 (noting a case may present a new Bivens context when there is a different “constitutional right at issue”). Further, although Hanson alleges a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights, Hanson's case still differs meaningfully from the Eighth Amendment deliberate-indifference case where the Supreme Court previously allowed a Bivens remedy.

         Simply because the Supreme Court has previously recognized a Bivens remedy in one Eighth Amendment context does not mean that any and all Eighth Amendment claims present a Bivens remedy going forward. See Id. at 1859 (noting that a case may involve the same constitutional right and mechanism of injury but that the context from a prior case may nonetheless differ); Corr. Serv. Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U.S. 61, 70 (2001). The Ziglar court made clear that while “the constitutional right at issue” is one factor courts may use to determine whether a case presents a new Bivens context, other factors- such as “the generality or specificity of the official action”-also impact the analysis. Ziglar, 137 S.Ct. at 1859-60. In the prior Eighth Amendment case where recovery under Bivens was allowed, the key issue was whether prison officials had been deliberately indifferent to an inmate's serious medical needs. See Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980). Deliberate indifference to an inmate's medical needs is but one subset of the Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Other subsets include the deprivation of essential food, lack of hygiene, the deprivation of adequate shelter or clothing, and “other conditions intolerable for prison confinement.” See Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 348 (1981); Bellamy v. Bradley, 729 F.2d 416, 419 (6th Cir. 1984).

         While Hanson's complaint uses the phrase “deliberate indifference” on at least one occasion, it does not at its core allege any deliberate indifference to Hanson's medical needs. (See Doc. # 1). Hanson does not argue he had a medical condition above and beyond the typical individual's need to periodically use the restroom. He instead takes issue with a different condition of his confinement-indeed, Hanson challenges Officer Mills's refusal to allow him to use the restroom on one occasion, implying that the Eighth ...

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