United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
SYLVESTER M. CHEATHAM, Plaintiff,
KANODE, et al., Defendants.
ELIZABETH K. DILLON ELIZABETH K. DILLON UNITED STATES
M. Cheatham, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, against the Warden, a doctor, and a nurse at River
North Correctional Center (River North). Cheatham alleges
that he was denied medical treatment after an injury.
Defendants filed motions to dismiss, and this matter is ripe
for disposition. Having considered the pleadings, the court
concludes that defendants' motions must be granted.
alleges that on July 4, 2017, another inmate hit him on the
left side of his head with the metal footrest from a
wheelchair, causing injuries to his skin, ear, and eye, and
prolonged dizziness. On July 6, 2017, Cheatham was seen by
defendant Dr. Stevens, had x-rays taken, and was prescribed
ibuprofen. That same day, Cheatham submitted a request for
service form addressed to defendant Nurse Parks. In the form,
Cheatham noted that he had seen Dr. Stevens that day and had
x-rays taken. He also requested a magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) because of his injuries. He did not indicate on the
form that an MRI had been ordered by a doctor. On July 10,
2017, someone responded to that request by indicating that
Cheatham had been placed on sick call. On August 1, 2017,
Cheatham filed a regular grievance, stating that he was still
experiencing blurred vision, slight incoherence, dizziness,
and headaches. On August 2, 2017, Cheatham was seen in the
medical department for a follow-up appointment, at which time
he was referred for consultations with an optometrist and an
ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT). On September 25, 2017,
Cheatham had an eye examination. On November 8, 2017,
Cheatham was seen by an ENT regarding “left ear pain
and hearing loss due to injury.” On November 13, 2017,
Cheatham had another eye examination. On December 14, 2017,
Cheatham was seen by an optometrist. Compl., Dkt. No. 1, 4;
Med. Rec., Dkt. No. 1-2, 11-17, 21, Request for Serv. Form,
Dkt. No. 1-2, 21; Reg. Grievance, Dkt. No. 1-2, 26.
complaint, Cheatham states that on an unspecified date, he
saw an unnamed eye doctor at River North who ordered an MRI
and that he has not been sent out for the MRI yet. There is
no indication in the medical records attached to
Cheatham's complaint that any doctor actually ordered an
MRI. Cheatham also states in his complaint that he was told
that he needs a “good audiogram” but that he has
not been sent out for one of those either. The attachments to
his complaint show that the ENT who evaluated him on November
8, 2017, noted that he “needs a good audiogram, ”
but Cheatham does not allege, and there is no indication in
the medical records, that the ENT or any doctor actually
ordered an audiogram. Cheatham alleges that his
“problems” are getting worse and “nothing
is being done.” He claims that Nurse Parks and Dr.
Stevens failed to follow the “Medical Standards and
Procedures.” Compl., Dkt. No. 1, 4-5; Med. Rec., Dkt.
No. 1-2, 17; Reg. Grievance, Dkt. No. 1-2, 30.
letter submitted with his complaint, Cheatham states that,
after he was hit with the wheelchair footrest, another
“incident” took place “with another
wheelchair in [the] same pod.” He does not allege that
he was involved in this second incident. Cheatham claims
that, after that second incident, defendant Warden Kanode and
security staff altered the wheelchairs by bolting down all
the removable parts of the wheelchairs. Letter, Dkt. No. 1-1.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
defendants have filed motions to dismiss. A 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. 662 (2009).
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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). 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.” Id. 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). 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).
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).
deciding a motion to dismiss, attachments to the complaint
may be considered. See Butters v. James Madison
Univ., 145 F.Supp.3d 610, 616 (W.D. Va. 2015) (citing
Sec'y of State for Defence v. Trimble Navigation,
Ltd., 484 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2007)); see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(c) (2018). Here, plaintiff
attached certain records to his complaint upon which he
relies. In the event of conflict between the bare allegations
of the complaint and any attached exhibit, the exhibit
prevails. Fayetteville Investors v. Commercial Builders,
Inc., 936 F.2d 1462, 1465 (4th Cir. 1991).
Official Capacity Damages
extent Cheatham brings this action against the defendants in
their official capacities for monetary damages, such relief
is not available via § 1983. Will v. Michigan
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989).
Therefore, the court will grant defendants' motions to
dismiss as to ...