United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
TERAH C. MORRIS, Plaintiff,
MRS. FLETCHER, et al., Defendants.
K. MOON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
C. Morris, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that defendants failed to provide him adequate
mental health treatment, diagnose him with gender identity
disorder (“GID”), and give him hormone shots.
Defendant Dr. McDuffie, a psychiatrist, filed a motion to
dismiss and Morris responded, making this matter ripe for
disposition. After reviewing the record, I conclude
that Morris has stated a plausible claim against Dr. McDuffie
and, therefore, will deny Dr. McDuffie's motions to
alleges that in response to Morris's multiple complaints
about not being evaluated or treated for GID, Dr. McDuffie
met with him on October 29, 2015. Morris asserted that he
suffers from GID and Dr. McDuffie asked Morris why he
believed he had a gender disorder since he “look[ed]
perfectly normal” to Dr. McDuffie and had male genitals
when he was classified during intake at the prison. Morris
alleges that when he started to try to explain his concerns
to Dr. McDuffie, Dr. McDuffie “cut [Morris] off and
yelled and said [that he] wrote two books on GID/G[ender]
D[ysphoria (“GD”), and that he did not] ever want
to he[ar Morris] discuss this subject again and told the
officers to get [Morris] the hell out of” Dr.
McDuffie's office. Morris states that Dr. McDuffie
“did not attempt or try to diagnose and/or treat [him]
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint to
determine whether the plaintiff has properly stated a claim;
“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). In considering a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, a court must accept all factual allegations
in the complaint as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Legal conclusions in the
guise of factual allegations, however, are not entitled to a
presumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
a complaint “does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause
of action's elements will not do.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations
and quotations omitted). “Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, ” id., with all the allegations in the
complaint taken as true and all reasonable inferences drawn
in the plaintiff's favor, Chao v. Rivendell Woods,
Inc., 415 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2005). Rule 12(b)(6)
does “not require heightened fact pleading of
specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570. Consequently, “only a complaint that
states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to
dismiss.” Id. A claim is plausible if the
complaint contains “factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged, ” and if there is
“more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
order to allow for the development of a potentially
meritorious claim, federal courts have an obligation to
construe pro se pleadings liberally. See, e.g.,
Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (citation
omitted). Moreover, “[l]iberal construction of the
pleadings is particularly appropriate where . . . there is a
pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.”
Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Loe v. Armistead, 582 F.2d 1291, 1295 (4th
Cir. 1978)). Nevertheless, “[p]rinciples requiring
generous construction of pro se complaints are not .
. . without limits.” Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). “A
pro se plaintiff still must allege facts that state
a cause of action.” Bracey v. Buchanan, 55
F.Supp.2d 416, 421 (E.D. Va. 1999) (quoting Sado v.
Leland Memorial Hospital, 933 F.Supp. 490, 493 (D. Md.
state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim for denial of
medical care, a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to
demonstrate that jail officials were deliberately indifferent
to a serious medical need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429
U.S. 97, 105 (1976); Staples v. Va. Dep't of
Corr., 904 F.Supp. 487, 492 (E.D.Va. 1995).
“Deliberate indifference may be demonstrated by either
actual intent or reckless disregard.” Miltier v.
Beorn, 896 F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990); see
Parrish ex rel. Lee v. Cleveland, 372 F.3d 294, 303 (4th
Cir. 2004) (“[T]he evidence must show that the official
in question subjectively recognized that his actions were
‘inappropriate in light of that risk.'”).
“A defendant acts recklessly by disregarding a
substantial risk of danger that is either known to the
defendant or which would be apparent to a reasonable person
in the defendant's position.” Miltier, 896
F.2d at 851-52. A health care provider may be deliberately
indifferent when the treatment provided is so grossly
incompetent, inadequate, or excessive as to shock the
conscience or is intolerable to fundamental fairness.
Id. at 851. A serious medical need is a condition
that “has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating
treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person
would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's
attention.” Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 241
(4th Cir. 2008).
alleges that he saw Dr. McDuffie concerning mental health
treatment, seeking an assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of
GID. At the meeting, Dr. McDuffie knew that Morris thought he
was suffering GID, asked Morris why he thought that, and then
did not allow Morris to answer before yelling at Morris and
telling him to get out of Dr. McDuffie's office and never
bring this issue up again. Accepting all factual allegations
in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable
inferences in favor of Morris, I conclude that Morris has
stated a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against Dr.
McDuffie. Accordingly, I will deny Dr. McDuffie's motions
to dismiss and give him the opportunity to file a motion for
 Dr. McDuffie also renewed his motion
to dismiss after Morris amended his ...