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Coles v. Clarke

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

September 12, 2014

HAROLD CLARKE, et al., Defendants.


ROBERT E. PAYNE, Senior District Judge.

Timothy Lee Coles, a Virginia prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983[1] action. The matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by the defendants[2] named in the Particularized Complaint and on a series of non-dispositive motions filed by the parties. For the reasons that follow the Court will Court will grant the Motion to Dismiss.


"A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, it does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin , 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1356 (1990)). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations are taken as true and the complaint is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari , 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993); see also Martin , 980 F.2d at 952. This principle applies only to factual allegations, however, and "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "require[ ] only la short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (second alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Plaintiffs cannot satisfy this standard with complaints containing only "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id . (citations omitted). Instead, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " id. (citation omitted), stating a claim that is "plausible on its face, " rather than merely "conceivable." Id. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. , 550 U.S. at 556). Therefore, in order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the plaintiff must "allege facts sufficient to state all the elements of [his or] her claim." Bass v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. , 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Dickson v. Microsoft Corp. , 309 F.3d 193, 213 (4th Cir. 2002); Iodice v. United States , 289 F.3d 270, 281 (4th Cir. 2002)). Lastly, while the Court liberally construes pro se complaints, Gordon v. Leeke , 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), it does not act as the inmate's advocate, sua sponte developing statutory and constitutional claims the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll , 107 F.3d 241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton , 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).


In 2011, Coles was incarcerated in Sussex II State Prison ("SIISP"). (Part. Compl. 1-2.)[3] SIISP is a "Level IV maximum security prison." (Id. ¶ 10.) On August 4, 2011, Anton Daniels, the Correctional Institutional Rehabilitation Counselor at SIISP, conducted a reclassification review of Coles. (Id. ¶¶ 1-2.) "[D]ue to plaintiff being (12) months charge free, he was eligible and suitable for a security level reduction" and possibly a transfer to a "Level I [s]ecurity facility (minimum security for non-violent offenders)...." (Id. ¶ 2.) Nevertheless, following a hearing conducted on August 10, 2011, A. Daniels and Roy Clary[4] "arbitrarily... recommended" that Coles remain at SIISP. (Id. ¶¶ 3, 5.) Marie Vargo, then the Assistant Warden of SSIIP, approved that recommendation. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 6-7.)

Coles then filed an inmate grievance challenging the refusal to reassign him to a lower security level prison. (Id. ¶ 7.) Prison officials, including Harold Clarke, Gail Jones, Gary Bass, [5] and Wendy Hobbs either denied his grievance and/or failed to take favorable action on his appeal from the denial of the grievance. (Id. ¶¶ 7-9.) Therefore, Coles remained at SSIIP. (Id. ¶ 11.)

On December 8, 2011, at 5:15 p.m., Coles was using a urinal at SIISP when fellow inmate D. Thomas, who is a gang member, assaulted Coles. (Id. ¶ 11.) Coles "was nearly beaten into a coma due to it was said and reported that plaintiff was a snitch' and such labeling had been disseminated throughout the SIISP's compound." (Id.)[6]

Following the assault, Coles "was taken to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), Richmond[, ] Virginia where plaintiff was x-rayed, stitched up[, ] and scheduled for plastic surgery due to plaintiff[']s left eye socket, left cheekbone, and the cradle of the left side of plaintiff's nose was fractured severely." (Id. ¶ 12.) Shortly thereafter, Coles returned to SIISP. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Upon his return to SIISP, prison officials initially placed Coles in the infirmary. (Id.) On December 11, 2011, prison officials moved Coles from the infirmary to a segregation unit. (Id.) On December 13, 2011, Roy Clary told Coles "that he would be released back to [the] General Population...." (Id.) Coles told Clary he feared for his safety in general population. (Id.) Clary told Coles that Coles would be charged with an institutional infraction if he refused to return to the general population. (Id.)

Coles names the following individuals as defendants: Clarke, Bass, Hobbs, Clary, Vargo, and Daniels (collectively "Defendants"). (Id. ¶ 1.)[7] Coles contends Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment[8] by continuing to house him at SIISP after August 4, 2011. (Id. at 6.) Coles contends that Defendants are liable "for the brutal aggravated assault by Offender D. Thomas" because they kept him at "the hostile[, ] volatile environment of SIISP.... after being talked about as being a snitch' throughout the SIISP's compound." (Id. at 6-7.) Coles demands $500, 000.00. (Id. at 7.)[9]


It is clear that the Eighth Amendment imposes a duty on prison officials "to protect prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners.'" Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (quoting Cortes-Quinones v. Jimenez-Nettleship , 842 F.2d 556, 558 (1st Cir. 1988)).[10] Nevertheless, not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the corrections officers responsible for the prisoner's safety. See id. at 834. The Supreme Court emphasized that it is conscious ...

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