United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Michael F. Urbanski, Chief United States District Judge.
Antonio Lamont Allison, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro
se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, against Unit Manager Turner and Officer Ball at
Keen Mountain Correctional Center (“Keen
Mountain”). Allison alleges that Officer Ball violated
the Eighth Amendment by calling him a snitch and child
molester in front of staff and other inmates. Defendants
filed a motion to dismiss and Allison responded with a motion
for summary judgment against Officer Ball. This matter is
ripe for disposition. Having reviewed the record, the court
concludes that defendants' motion to dismiss must be
granted in part and denied in part, and Allison's motion
for summary judgment must be denied.
alleges in his unverified complaint that, on multiple
occasions, beginning on August 24, 2017 and continuing
through November 29, 2017, in front of other inmates and
staff, Officer Ball called Allison names such as,
“snitching mother fucker, ” “hot mother
fucker, ” and “child molester.” Allison
also alleges that Officer Ball told other inmates
Allison's cell number and told his coworkers that he
hated Allison and implied that Allison had filed grievances
against them. On one occasion, Officer Ball was blowing up
rubber gloves and popping them “as he was shooting at
also alleges that other non-defendant staff and inmates
called Allison a snitch and child molester, and that other
inmates also threatened to physically attack, stab, or kill
him. Allison claims that on November 29, 2017, one inmate
“was trying to pay” another inmate to
“assault [him] and get [him] out of the pod.” He
also claims that other inmates wrote grievances under his
January 9, 2018, inmate Walker, an “unstable, violent
offender” with a “history of violence, ”
was assigned to Allison's pod. On January 12, 2018,
Walker “violen[tly] attacked” Allison multiple
times in his cell, by punching, kneeing, and biting him.
Later that evening, Allison reported the incident to the
building sergeant and received medical treatment.
January 25, 2018, and continuing through March 4, 2018,
Officer Ball called Allison derogatory names again and said
that Allison: likes to fight, was “scared to death,
” wrote request forms on staff, and should go back to
general population so that “they can kill his
‘snitching ass.'” In addition, during that
same time period, other staff and other inmates called him
derogatory names and laughed at him.
complaint, Allison makes no allegations against and describes
no conduct committed by defendant Unit Manger Turner. The
only reference to Unit Manager Turner is in a grievance
response attached to the complaint. In the response, the
Warden of Keen Mountain addresses Allison's complaints
that Officer Ball called him names on August 24, 2017 and
that another officer called him names on August 26, 2017.
With regard to Unit Manager Turner, the Warden states,
“Unit Manager Turner states after investigating this
and speaking to the staff involved . . . . all staff have
been supervised and have been trained in the proper way to
conduct themselves while assigned to C-Building. He reports
he can find no evidence the staff have treated you in an
Unit Manager Turner and Officer Ball filed a motion to
dismiss Allison's complaint. 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).
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
show direct personal involvement by each particular
defendant. Trulock v. Freeh, 275 F.3d 391, 402 (4th
Cir. 2001) (noting that liability in a civil rights case is
“personal, based upon each defendant's own
constitutional violations”); see also Garraghty v.
Va. Dep't of Corr., 52 F.3d 1274, 1280 (4th Cir.
1995). That is, as the Supreme Court has cautioned,
“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.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Here, however, Allison has
not identified any specific, alleged misconduct with respect
to Unit Manager Turner. To the extent he could be complaining
that Turner did not adequately investigate his allegations,
any such claim fails. See Charles v. Nance, 186
Fed.Appx. 494, 495 (5th Cir. 2006) (holding that alleged
failure to investigate a grievance “fails to assert a
due process violation”); Sweat v. Rennick, No.
9:11-2908, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55200, at *5, 2012 WL
1358721, at *2 (D.S.C. Feb. 7, 2012) (“Plaintiff's
complaint that this Defendant has not properly investigated
his claims . . . fails to set forth a claim for a violation
of a constitutional right.”); Lewis v.
Williams, Nos. 05-13, 05-51, 05-52, 2006 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 8444, at *18-19, 2006 WL 538546, at *7 (D. Del. Mar. 6,