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Hurd v. Robichaux

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

November 7, 2017


          Lionel Thomas Hurd, Pro Se Plaintiff.


          James P. Jones United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Lionel Thomas Hurd, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed an Amended Complaint under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts that prison officials failed to protect him from an assault by another inmate. I conclude that Hurd's Amended Complaint must be summarily dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.


         Hurd's initial Complaint was dismissed without prejudice upon my finding that his allegations failed to state a claim because he did not allege personal involvement by any prison official. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). Hurd appealed. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that “[b]ecause Hurd may be able to remedy the pleading deficiencies identified by the district court by filing an amended complaint, we conclude that the order Hurd seeks to appeal is neither a final order nor an appealable interlocutory or collateral order.” Hurd v. Robichaux, 696 F. App'x 122 (4th Cir. 2017) (unpublished) (citing Goode v. Cent. Va. Legal Aid Soc'y, Inc., 807 F.3d 619, 623-24 (4th Cir. 2015) and Domino Sugar Corp. v. Sugar Workers Local Union 392, 10 F.3d 1064, 1066-67 (4th Cir. 1993)). The court of appeals thus dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, but remanded the case to permit Hurd to file an amended complaint. Accordingly, following the issuance of its mandate by the court of appeals, I directed Hurt to submit an amended complaint,

clearly titled as such, identifying all defendants, and making a full and complete statement of all of his claims, the facts in support thereof, and the relief requested. Such an Amended Complaint will replace all of Hurd's previous submissions, and I will not consider those prior submissions in deciding his claims.

         Order, Oct. 18, 2017, ECF No. 31. Hurd then filed an Amended Complaint, alleging the following facts.[1]

         In the fall of 2016, Hurd was incarcerated at Marion Correctional Treatment Center (the “prison” or “MCTC”). He had a prison job as a barber. On November 3, Hurd entered the secured wing of the prison to cut inmates' hair. D. Bowler, an inmate committed for mental health treatment, punched Hurd in the face. Hurd filed an assault charge against Bowler with the local state court, with unspecified results. Hurd's submissions indicate that as a result of Bowler's assault, he suffered a bruise on his cheek and headaches. The medical staff provided him with ice for his cheek and pain medication for the headaches.

         According to Hurd, Bowler is serving a life sentence and had been committed to MCTC by court order for mental health treatment. State law authorizes the Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections or his designee to petition a state court judge for commitment of a prisoner for treatment. Va. Code Ann. § 53.1-40.1(A). The court may order such commitment if clear and convincing evidence shows that the inmate “is incapable, either mentally or physically, of giving informed consent to such treatment” and such treatment is in his best interests. Id. Hurd contends that Bowler's commitment under this section put the MCTC medical staff and warden on notice that Bowler was dangerous. Bowler was also a high security inmate, while Hurd was a low security inmate. The MCTC staff failed to place Bowler in handcuffs or shackles before allowing Hurd to enter the secured area to cut his hair.

         As defendants to his § 1983 claims, Hurd has named the warden of the prison, Dara Robichaux, MCTC, and “staff.” Am. Compl. 1, ECF No. 32. He contends that the warden and the staff should be liable to him for monetary damages because Bowler was committed to their care when the assault occurred.[2]


         I am required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if I determine the action or claim is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). To state a cause of action under §1983, a plaintiff must establish that he has been deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that this deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         As an initial matter, Hurd has no legal basis for § 1983 claims against MCTC. “[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are ‘persons' under § 1983, ” and this rule also applies to “governmental entities that are considered ‘arms of the State' for Eleventh Amendment purposes.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989). Because the prison is properly considered an arm of the Commonwealth of Virginia, it cannot be sued under § 1983.

         While the warden and individual prison staff members are persons subject to suit under § 1983, Hurd has failed to state any claim against any of them for other reasons. In a § 1983 action, “liability will only lie where it is affirmatively shown that the official charged acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiff['s] rights.” Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (internal quotation marks, citations and alterations omitted). Given this requirement to show individual involvement, Hurd cannot proceed with any ยง 1983 claim against MCTC's medical staff as a group. He has not identified any individuals in this group with particular responsibility for Bowler's care in November 2016 or stated facts about actions any such individual personally took that, in any way, caused Hurd's injuries. Moreover, even if Hurd could show that some medical staff member erred ...

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