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Harrison v. Crick

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

September 11, 2019



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff James Harrison filed a pro se, in forma pauperis 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the following reasons, the complaint will be dismissed.


         Plaintiff is a convicted prisoner currently incarcerated at the Kentucky State Penitentiary (KSP), who, in the past, has been housed in various other facilities, some of which are located in the Eastern District of Kentucky. His complaint named more than 100 Defendants. The Court, by prior Orders, severed Plaintiff's claims against Defendants residing in the Eastern District of Kentucky. See DNs 12 & 13. The remaining 36 Western District Defendants are located at either KSP or the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex (LLCC). The Defendants at LLCC are Dagon Moon, Timothy Forgy, Scott Jordan, Jennifer Bowlersock, Karen Wilder, Michelle Heightchew, Joseph Reno, David E. Crawford, Sherri Gissinger, Benjamin Harlan, Charles Risinger, Marcus Benjamin, Jonathan Kimbrell, Sarita Schoenbachler, and Cody Pittman. The Defendants employed at KSP are Jesse Coombs, Lisa Crick, Harry Vension, Randy White, Brendan Inglish, Steven Birdsong, Harlan R. Martin, Dan Smith, Jesse R. Jenkins, James R. Beeler, W. Sanders, Brittany Fralex, William Simpson, James B. Harris, James C. Smith, Linda Comick, T. Whatley, R. O'Dell, Carl McLevain, J. Higgins, and John and Jane Does. The facts pertinent to the Western District Defendants will be summarized in conjunction with the analysis of the claims against them below.

         II. ANALYSIS

         When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action, 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 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and (2). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The Court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Statute of limitations

         Because § 1983 does not provide a statute of limitations, federal courts borrow the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-80 (1985). Thus, in Kentucky, § 1983 actions are limited by the one-year statute of limitations found in Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.140(1)(a). Collard v. Ky. Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 182 (6th Cir. 1990). “[T]he statute of limitations begins to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of his action[, ] and [ ] a plaintiff has reason to know of his injury when he should have discovered it through the exercise of reasonable diligence.” Id. at 183 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Though the statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, a court may raise the issue sua sponte if the defense is obvious from the face of the complaint. Fields v. Campbell, 39 Fed.Appx. 221, 223 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Haskell v. Washington Twp., 864 F.2d 1266, 1273 (6th Cir. 1988)).

         Here, Plaintiff's complaint is considered filed on May 15, 2019.[1] The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff's allegations concerning actions or events predating May 15, 2018, are barred by the statute of limitations. According to the complaint, Plaintiff was not housed in the Western District during the one-year prior to filing his complaint until he was transferred from the Little Sandy Correctional Complex (LSCC) to the LLCC on February 7, 2019. From there, he was transferred to KSP on May 15, 2019. Both LLCC and KSP are located within the Western District of Kentucky. Thus, the only claims alleged by Plaintiff that are within the one-year statute of limitations period and within the Western District of Kentucky occurred between February 7, 2019, and May 15, 2019. The claims against the Western District Defendants arising before his transfer to the Western District on February 7, 2019, are time-barred and will be time barred. These time-barred claims include Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Warden Randy White, Lisa Crick, Brendan Inglish, Dan Smith, Jesse Jenkins, Linda Comick, Jesse Coombs, T. Whatley, R. O'Dell, and Harlan R. Martin, all of which relate to Plaintiff's incarceration at KSP before he was transferred to the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in March 2018.[2]

         Claims against LLCC Defendants Schoenbachler and Wilder

         Plaintiff alleges that on February 8, 2019, nurse supervisor LLCC Defendant Schoenbachler discontinued his recently prescribed medications and orders for a bottom bunk and wedge pillow. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Schoenbachler urged Defendant Wilder to destroy the pillow wedge “and kept most my property and files.” Plaintiff states ten paragraphs later in the complaint that on March 13, 2019, while still housed at LLCC, he was rushed to the hospital when his “oxygen level dropped[.]” He states that on March 17, 2019, he was returned from the hospital to LLCC “and placed back into the same environmental hazardous wing condition with the backed up sewage on the floor, lingering in the air, and gnats flying throughout the wing area.” He does not allege that his trip to the hospital was related to the denial of medication, pillow wedge, or bottom bunk.

         To establish an Eighth Amendment violation premised on inadequate medical care, a prisoner must demonstrate that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with “‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.'” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835 (1994) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)); Terrance v. Northville Reg'l Psychiatric Hosp., 286 F.3d 834, 843 (6th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff's allegations fail to state an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim because nothing in the complaint links Defendant Schoenbachler's alleged denial of medicine, a pillow wedge, or a bottom bunk to his hospitalization approximately five weeks later.

         Regarding his property and files, a prisoner claiming an unauthorized, intentional deprivation of property in violation of the Due Process Clause must show that state post-deprivation remedies are inadequate. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 531-33 (1984); Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir. 1995) (per curiam). Kentucky has adequate post-deprivation remedies for the confiscation or destruction of property, such as a tort action for conversion against individual defendants. See Wagner v. Higgins, 754 F.2d 186, 192 (6th Cir. 1985). Consequently, to the extent that Plaintiff alleges a due-process claim regarding deprivation of his property against Defendants Schoenbachler and Wilder, it must be dismissed.

         Claim against LLCC Defendant Forgy

         Plaintiff alleges that on February 25, 2019, Defendant Forgy confronted Plaintiff with a weeks' worth of Plaintiff's “privilege mail . . . addressed to various courts, counsels and other state agencies laid tore opened on the table.” Plaintiff states that Defendant Forgy accused him of violating prison rules by providing legal advice to other inmates housed at other facilities and signing their names on pleadings without their knowledge. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Forgy “made an indirect perceived death threat.”

         Although Plaintiff alleges that his privileged mail was opened, he states that it was done so as part of an investigation. Plaintiff does not have a constitutional right to be free from prison investigations into alleged misconduct. See, e.g., Walker v. Coffee, No. 1:18 CV 1965, 2019 WL 998809, at *4 n.4 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 1, 2019) (“[A] prisoner does ...

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