United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon United States District Judge.
Taylor, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his
amended complaint now before the court (Dkt. No. 77), Taylor
asserts more than twenty “claims” that various
events and/or conditions at Wallens Ridge State Prison
(Wallens Ridge) violated his constitutional rights. After
review of the record, I conclude that the defendants'
dispositive motions must be granted.
has been confined at Wallens Ridge since July 25, 2006, and
has been assigned to segregated housing on numerous
occasions. Within the Virginia Department of Corrections
(VDOC), segregated (or special) housing is not to be used as
punishment. (D. Collins Aff. ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 89-2.)
Operating Procedure (OP) 861.3 defines conditions for
segregation housing. (Id., at Encl. A, Dkt. No.
89-2.) Such inmates leave their cells only for showers (three
times per week), recreation (one hour, five days per week),
and medical appointments. (Id., at ¶¶ 3,
6.) Segregation inmates may sponge bathe in their cells
whenever they choose. (OP 861.3(V)(E)(13)(b).)
segregation cell has a metal bed and mattress, sink, toilet,
metal table, and metal shelf; staff members deliver meals and
dispense medications to a segregation inmate through a tray
slot in the cell door. (D. Collins Aff. ¶ 3.) Staff
members deliver clean clothes to each inmate three times per
week and exchange bed linens weekly. Inmates may retain
authorized personal property items while in segregation and
may purchase commissary items, but no storage lockers are
authorized for segregation housing. Per policy, inmates are
expected to maintain sanitary conditions in their cells. Each
inmate receives cleaning products and two sponges twice per
week to sanitize their cells, and officers inspect cells
weekly for sanitation.
began this action in late November, 2015. After his initial
complaint, he submitted numerous “declarations”
and amendments, seeking to add claims and defendants. By
order entered in June 2016, the court denied Taylor's
many amendments and granted him 21 days to: “file an
amended complaint which must be a new pleading that stands by
itself without reference to a complaint, attachments, or
amendments already filed. The amended complaint must conform
to the joinder rules [Fed. R. Civ. P. 18 and 20, as explained
in the order]. . . . The amended complaint shall replace his
original complaint and shall constitute the sole
complaint.” (Order 1-2, Dkt. No. 68.). In September
2016, Taylor submitted the replacement pleading that the
court now considers the full statement of his claims in this
action, Dkt. No. 77-herein referred to as the amended
amended complaint consists of twenty-one “claims,
” each presenting one or more events or frustrations
that Taylor has experienced in the Wallens Ridge segregation
housing units. Taylor asserts that these claims describe
violations of his rights under the Eighth and/or Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution, committed by
one or more of the nearly thirty defendants he has named.
Taylor seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief.
memorandum opinion and order entered on March 6, 2017, the
court granted summary judgment as to Taylor's claims
against Dr. Dulaney and Nurse Stanford. Taylor v.
Fleming, No. 7:15CV00653, 2017 WL 888362 (W.D. Va. Mar.
6, 2017). Among other things, Taylor alleged that Dr. Dulaney
had not adequately monitored or treated him for excessive
weight loss in 2014 and 2016. Id. at *1-2. The court
found that Taylor had not presented disputed facts to show
that Dr. Dulaney had acted with deliberate indifference to
any serious medical need implicated by Taylor's weight
loss and that Taylor could not hold Nurse Stanford
vicariously liable under § 1983 for the actions or
omissions of others. Id. at *3-5.
remaining defendants have filed dispositive motions that are
ripe for the court's consideration. Dr. Miller has
filed a motion to dismiss Taylor's claim against him
(Claim 9) as time-barred under the applicable statute of
limitations (Dkt. No. 111). Defendants Barker and C. Collins
(the medical defendants) have filed a motion for summary
judgment (Dkt. No. 90), arguing that Taylor has not
established any constitutional claims against them (Claim
19). The other (nonmedical) defendants have filed a motion
for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 88), asserting that some of
Taylor's claims should be dismissed as time-barred, or
for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies as
required under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), and that the
defendants are entitled to qualified immunity or to summary
judgment as a matter of law as to the remaining claims.
has submitted numerous documents in support of the amended
complaint and in response to the defendants' motions: an
unverified “motion to proceed without summary judgment,
” Dkt. No. 83, restating all of his claims with some
additional details; several documents titled
“declaration under the penalty of perjury, ” Dkt.
Nos. 104, 109, 114, 120, and 121; and an untitled response to
Dr. Miller's motion to dismiss, Dkt. No. 119. The court
will consider all of these submissions to the extent that
they offer any factual matter or argument in support of the
claims raised in the amended complaint. Many of the
declarations, however, concern events and issues unrelated to
the claims before the court. Any new legal claims related to
these later submissions are not properly joined to the
existing action, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 18 and 20, and
they present no indication that Taylor exhausted
administrative remedies before submitting them, as required
under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Therefore, the court will
not construe any such submissions as motions to amend and
will consider only the claims presented in the amended
Standards of Review
12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a
plaintiff's complaint to determine whether the plaintiff
has properly stated a claim. Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). To avoid
dismissal, the complaint must establish “facial
plausibility” by pleading “factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In
essence, he must “nudge[ ] [his] claims across the line
from conceivable to plausible.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
provides that a court should grant summary judgment “if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “As to
materiality, . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). Summary judgment is inappropriate “if the
dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine, ' that
is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Id.; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports
Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001). In
considering a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, a
court must view the record as a whole and draw all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. See Id. at 255; Shaw v. Stroud, 13
F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994).
moving party has the burden of showing - “that is,
pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
If the movant satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must
set forth specific, admissible facts that demonstrate the
existence of a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id.
at 322-23. A party is entitled to summary judgment if the
record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find in favor of the non-movant. Williams v.
Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991); see
Ennis v. Nat'l Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio,
Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995) (“Mere
unsupported speculation . . . is not enough to defeat a
summary judgment motion.”).
Misjoinder of Claims
has submitted an amended complaint that pulls together, in
one omnibus civil action, multiple and unrelated claims from
different time periods against nearly thirty defendants, in
blatant defiance of the federal rules of joinder.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 18 and 20. The court's order
granting him the opportunity to file the amended complaint
explained the requirements of these rules:
Rule 18(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a
plaintiff to only join “either as independent or as
alternate claims, as many claims, legal, equitable, or
maritime, as the party has against an opposing party.”
Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows the
joinder of several parties only if the claims arose out of
the same transaction or occurrence, or series thereof, and
contain a question of fact or law common to all the
(Order 1 n. 1, Dkt. No. 68.); see also Green v.
Denning, No. 06-3298, 2009 WL 484457, at *2 (D. Kan.
Feb. 26, 2009) (“[A] plaintiff may name more than one
defendant in a multiple claim lawsuit only if the claims
against all defendants arose out of the same incident or
incidents and involve a common factual or legal
question.”). These procedural rules apply with equal
force to pro se prisoner cases. Id.
claims against a multitude of defendants involve neither
common legal issues nor common facts. Indeed, the only common
thread his claims share is that they occurred during his
incarceration for ten years at Wallens Ridge, a connection
that simply does not satisfy the elements of joinder
authorized under Rules 18 and 20. See Pruden v. SCI-Camp
Hill, No. 3:07cv0304, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36874, at
*5-6 (M.D. Pa. 2007). Many of Taylor's claims assert that
various officials' actions violated VDOC policies. State
officials' failure to abide by state procedural
regulations is not a federal due process issue, and is,
therefore, not actionable under § 1983. Riccio v.
Cty. of Fairfax, 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1990)
(“If state law grants more procedural rights than the
Constitution would otherwise require, a state's failure
to abide by that law is not a federal due process
issue.”). Thus, a common theme of policy violations is
not a sufficient nexus to meet the requirements of proper
joinder under Rules 18 and 20 in this § 1983 action.
the Federal Rules, such disparate claims as Taylor raises
here must be presented in separate complaints in separate
civil actions. Accordingly, the court would be well within
its authority to sever this case into multiple civil actions
of properly joined claims and require Taylor to consent to
pay filing costs for all of them before resolving any of his
claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b) (requiring
prisoner plaintiffs to pay filing fee for civil actions).
Because the case is ripe for resolution at this stage, for
the sake of judicial efficiency, the court will forego
severing this action and decide the defendants' motions.
Immunity against Claims for Damages
1983 permits an aggrieved party to file a civil action
against a person for actions taken under color of state law
that violated “a right arising under the Constitution
or laws of the United States.” Cooper v.
Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013).
“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their
official capacities are “persons” [subject to
being sued] under § 1983.” See Will v.
Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70
(1989). Thus, to the extent that Taylor brings this action
against the defendants in their official capacities for
monetary damages, such relief is not available under §
1983. Id. at 70. Therefore, the court will grant the
defendants' motions for summary judgment as to all such
the exception of Dr. Miller, the defendants assert that they
are entitled to qualified immunity against Taylor's
claims for monetary damages. This doctrine provides that
government officials “performing discretionary
functions generally are shielded from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Such an official
will be protected by qualified immunity if his actions were
objectively reasonable. Anderson v. Creighton, 483
U.S. 635, 639 (1987).
Exhaustion of Available Administrative Remedies
defendants also contend that many of Taylor's claims
should be dismissed because he failed to present the facts
and issues to prison officials using the administrative
remedies available to VDOC inmates. Under 42 U.S.C. §
1997e(a), a prisoner cannot bring a civil action concerning
prison conditions until he has first exhausted available
administrative remedies. This exhaustion requirement is
“mandatory.” Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct.
1850, 1856 (2016), and “applies to all inmate suits
about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances
or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive
force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle,
534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).
comply with § 1997e(a), an inmate must follow each step
of the established grievance procedure that the facility
provides to prisoners and meet all deadlines within that
procedure. See Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90-94
(2006). Even if the particular form of relief the inmate
seeks in his lawsuit is not available through the
prison's grievance proceedings, he must, nevertheless,
exhaust properly all available remedies under that procedure
as to each claim before bringing that claim in a civil action
in this court. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741
court has elected to address Taylor's multiple and
diverse claims one by one. As to each claim, the court will
summarize the allegations in Taylor's submissions and the
defendants' evidence and present the resolution of the
defendants' motions as to that claim under applicable
1: No hand-washing facilities for food servers
alleges that none of the housing units at Wallens Ridge have
a sink where pod workers or officers may wash their hands
before serving inmates' food. He alleges that
“[t]here have been times when officers have used the
urinal” in a vacant cell or nearby outside recreation
area, or “snake toilets” in inmates' cells,
only to serve food minutes later without first washing their
hands. (Am. Compl. at 7, Dkt. No. 77.) Officers do not always
have access to the pod office, where they might have hand
sanitizer. Taylor contends that “[t]his day-to-day
unsanitary food distribution has put the prisoners'
health at serious risk.” (Id.)
raised some of these complaints through the inmate grievance
procedures. Officials investigated his allegations and found
no evidence of unsanitary food handling. (Fleming Aff. ¶
5 and Encl. C, Dkt. No. 89-3.) It is undisputed that persons
distributing inmates' meal trays wear latex gloves.
of personal involvement by defendants
court concludes that the defendants are entitled to summary
judgment. Taylor has not alleged facts showing that any of
the defendants, personally, designed the housing units
without hand washing facilities, served food without washing
their hands, or knew and did not take action to correct this
alleged, unsanitary practice. Thus, Taylor fails to state any
constitutional claim against the defendants under § 1983
in their individual capacities. See Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“Because
vicarious liability is inapplicable to . . . § 1983
suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official
defendant, through the official's own individual actions,
has violated the Constitution.”) Moreover, Taylor also
fails to state facts showing any violation of his
constitutional rights by anyone related to this alleged
deficiency in the Wallens Ridge furnishings.
Eighth Amendment claim
Eighth Amendment, which applies to the states under the Due
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, “protects
inmates from inhumane treatment and conditions while
imprisoned.” Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d
756, 761 (4th Cir. 1996). “[T]he Constitution does not
mandate comfortable prisons, ” however, and conditions
that are “restrictive and even harsh . . . are part of
the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses
against society.” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S.
337, 347-49 (1981). It is well established that “only
the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the
Eighth Amendment.” Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S.
294, 297 (1991).
sustain an unconstitutional conditions claim, a prisoner must
show that: (1) objectively, the deprivation was sufficiently
serious, in that the challenged, official acts caused denial
of “the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities”; and (2) subjectively, the defendant
prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference to
inmate health or safety.” Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). The prisoner must show
“significant physical or emotional harm, or a grave
risk of such harm, ” resulting from the challenged
conditions. Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th
Cir. 1995). Taylor must also show that each defendant was
deliberately indifferent - that each one knew of and
disregarded an excessive risk to Taylor's health or
safety. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
allegations in Claim 1 do not make these showings. He does
not allege that he has been deprived of any necessity for
life, such as food or shelter, or that he has suffered any
serious harm from the alleged food service practices at
Wallens Ridge. ...