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Scott v. Walker

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

August 26, 2016

PRESTON A. SCOTT, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CORRECTIONAL OFFICER WALKER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (DISMISSING 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ACTION)

          HENRY E. HUDSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Preston A. Scott, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is before the Court for evaluation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A.

         I. PRELIMINARY REVIEW

         Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") this Court must dismiss any action filed by a prisoner if the Court determines the action (1) "is frivolous" or (2) "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The first standard includes claims based upon "'an indisputably meritless legal theory, '" or claims where the "'factual contentions are clearly baseless.'" Clay v. Yates, 809 F.Supp. 417, 427 (E.D. Va. 1992) (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989)). The second standard is the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         "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 5 A 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 plaintiffs 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 'a 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.'" BellAtl. 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, " id. at 570, rather than merely "conceivable." Id. "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 Ad. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). 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 will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that 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).

         II. SUMMARY OF PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         In his Complaint, Scott alleges:[2]

On October 8, 2013, while at MCV/VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, I was being pushed back to the offender holding cell by C/O Walker in a wheelchair while in full restraints, per procedures and V.D.O.C. policy (handcuffs, waist shackles, blackbox, ankle shackles). Once we arrived at the holding cell C/O Walker stepped away while behind the chair. I stood to be physically escorted to a seat in the holding cell believing that C/O Walker was behind me, per policy. I proceeded to fall forward as the wheelchair rolled backward pulling my ankle shackles. As a result, I fell to the floor head first, without anyone or anything to break my fall. As I regained some consciousness, I noticed only C/O Walker, the other officers and staff I couldn't make out. C/O Walker aided others in placing me back in the wheelchair, and from there C/O Walker wheeled [me] to the emergency room where I was examined and given a CAT scan. It was determined by the emergency room doctor that I had a concussion. I asked C/O Walker why didn't he observe me or provide physical assistance once I stood up? He refused to [answer] my question. I then asked him why did the wheelchair move? He still refused to respond. C/O Walker was negligent in the performance of his duty, and acted outside of his official capacity as a Department of Corrections officer when he violated security policies and procedures in the physical transfer of offenders while in restraints. He should have maintained physical contact/custody of my person as I exited the wheelchair. His negligence caused, and continues to cause me serious bodily injury and irreparable harm to my head. As I suffer chronic headaches constantly.

(Compl. 4-5, ECF No. 1.)

         The Court construes Scott's Complaint to raise the following claims for relief:

Claim One: Defendant Walker, a correctional officer, violated Scott's rights "when [he] failed to adhere to [the Virginia Department of Corrections' ("VDOC")] policies that he maintain physical contact/custody with offenders while being moved from one place to another, and/or while standing in full restraints on medical runs away from institution." (Id. at 7.)
Claim Two: Defendant Walker was "negligent in the performance of his duty" to ensure that Scott was not injured upon exiting the wheelchair. (Id. at 4.)
Claim Three: Defendant Woods, the Ombudsman for the Eastern Region, and Defendant Hudson, the Grievance Coordinator, violated Scott's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment[3] "in his attempts to utilize the institutional and departmental informal complaint and grievance ...

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