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Smith v. Rollins

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

June 1, 2018

JOHN KEITH SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
WANDA ROLLINS, et. al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS)

          HENRY E. HUDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         John Keith Smith, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. The matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Wanda Rollins and C. Webb. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 23) will be granted.

         I. STANDARD FOR A MOTION TO DISMISS

         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 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 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.'" 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, " 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 BellAtl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, therefore, 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).

         II. SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS

         Smith brings his Particularized Complaint ("Complaint, " ECF No. 19) against three individuals who work at Sussex II State Prison ("SUSP"): Wanda Rollins, a Unit Manager; C. Webb, a Corrections Personal Property Officer; and Dr. Inder Jeet Singh Gujral. He alleges that various actions by these defendants violated his rights under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

         A. Pertinent Allegations with Respect to Smith's Due Process Claim

         On April 11, 2016, Rollins and Webb came to search Smith's cell. (Compl. 5.) Rollins and Webb had concerns about Smith's excessive amount of personal property. (Id. at 5-6.) Rollins instructed another correctional officer to remove all of Smith's personal property from the cell and place it on a table in the pod. (Id. at 6.) Smith informed Rollins and Webb "that the bulk of the property consisted of legal material... that [was] part of his ongoing post-conviction challenge and upcoming medical lawsuit against her and medical officials for refusing to provide him with a wheelchair pusher and denial of adequate medical care." (Id.) Smith advised Rollins and Webb of the prison policy concerning personal property and his belief that he had abided by that policy. (Id. at 7.)

         Rollins told Smith that he had thirty minutes to go through his property and retrieve the files he needed because the rest was going to be thrown away. (Id. at 8.) Smith then sorted through his property, but was "unable to locate his lawsuit, which he had already drafted ... as well as all associated notes and supporting documents ...." (Id. at 9.) After about thirty or forty minutes, Rollins told Webb and the other correctional officers to throw away the remainder of Smith's property. (Id. at 10.) Smith pleaded with Rollins not to take this action as it would interfere with his post-conviction challenges and his lawsuit. (Id.) Rollins responded, "You gotta do what you gotta do." (Id.)

         B. Pertinent Allegations with Respect to the Denial of Medical Care Claim

         Smith suffers from chronic degenerative joint disease. (Id. at 14.) "His medical condition has confined him to a permanent wheelchair assignment for mobility outside of the building." (Id.) As of 2011, Smith was assigned a "permanent wheelchair with an inmate 'caretaker' to assist [Smith] with mobility outside of the housing unit." (Id. at 15.) Sometime later, Dr. Gujral began to supervise Smith's medical care. (Id. At 15-16.) After ordering x-rays, Dr. Gujral concluded that Smith only had a mild case of arthritis. (Id. at 16.) Dr. Gujral prescribed Motrin, Tylenol, and anti-inflammatory medication. (Id.) Following Dr. Gujral's supervision of Smith's medical care, Smith's pain has increased and his mobility has decreased. (Id.)

         "Dr. Gujral refused to issue a medical detail for a caretaker and Defendant Rollins refused to assign one without a medical detail." (Id. at 17.) Defendant Rollins dismissed Smith's caretaker. (Id. at 16.) Smith is the only inmate at his prison "confined to a wheelchair without an assigned caretaker to assist him . . . ." (Id. at 17.) Smith insists that ...


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