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Welty v. Meletis

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

April 11, 2019

JERRY WELTY, JR., Plaintiff,
PETE MELETIS, et al., Defendants.


          John A. Gibney, Jr. United States District Judge

         Jerry Welty, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action.[1] The matter is proceeding on Welty's Fourth Particularized Complaint ("Complaint," ECF No. 94) against Pete Meletis, George Hurlock, and Glendell Hill ("Defendants"). Meletis is the Superintendent of the Prince William Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center ("ADC"). (ECF No. 1, at 2.) Hurlock is the Director of Security at the ADC. (Id. at 3.) Hill is the Chairman of the Prince William-Manassas Jail Board. (Id. at 4.) The matter is before the Court on Defendants* Motion to Dismiss and the Court's obligation to review prisoner actions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Welty has responded. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 98) will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.


         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 Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 556). In order for a claim or complaint to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, 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 will not act as the inmate's advocate and develop, sua sponte, statutory and constitutional claims that the inmate failed to clearly raise on the face of his complaint. See Brock v. Carroll, 107F.3d241, 243 (4th Cir. 1997) (Luttig, J., concurring); Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).


         A. The Assault

         On January 5, 2015, Welty was incarcerated in the ADC. (Compl. 1.) Welty was detained in the main jail of ADC ("MJ"), block 31. (Id.)[2] At approximately 9:45 p.m., Welty was standing in the middle of the dayroom when he was assaulted by an unknown inmate or inmates. (Id.) The beating went on for roughly 45 minutes, until Welty's unconscious body was discovered by ADC staff. (Id.)

         Welty was awoken by ADC staff. (Id. at 2.) Welty was transported to a local hospital. (Id. at 3.) Welty required in excess of a dozen stitches and sustained deep bruising to his pubic area and penis. [Id. at 1-2.)

         When he was returned to ADC, Welty was placed in cell 25. (Id. at 4.) "The two inmates that were in cell 25 were moved to 26. One of the inmates was Patterson, AKA Beast, a known Blood gang member. Patterson was in 31 at the time of the attack." (Id. at 4.) Sergeant Delany asked Welty if "any inmates tried to help him from the floor. Patterson was said to have a fresh wound with blood all over his hands. [Patterson] claimed they came from helping Welty up. Patterson was in jail for murder." (Id.)

         B. Security in the ADC Dayrooms

According to Welty:
There was/is no reasonable security within MJ 3I... i.e., no security cameras, intercoms, staff presence, staff does not enter dayrooms on security walks, only 3 (three) small observation windows (one 2' x 3' and two 2' x 2') whose size and positioning "hinder" visibility, dim lights in the dayroom(s) while hall lights are kept bright creating a mirror effect preventing staff vision, extreme architectural design flaws preventing visibility, inmates see staff coming long before being seen.

(Id. at 2.) Welty contends that because of the lack of monitoring in the dayrooms, inmates know they are "free to commit acts of violence" as "the only form of inmate monitoring is through 'listening.'" (Id.)

         C. Defendants' Knowledge Regarding the Security in the ADC Dayrooms

         Welty contends that Defendants "Hurlock and Meletis have had 20 (twenty) plus years [of] prior knowledge" of the above conditions. (Id.) Welty contends that Defendant "Hill's knowledge has been for an unknown amount of years ...." (Id.)

         D. Allegations Pertaining to Grievances

         Welty presents the following allegations regarding grievances that he filed after the assault:

In July 2016, ADC Major Osborne and Defendant Hurlock visited Welty in protective custody concerning a large number of grievances he was filing and to discuss their nature. Each pertained to a specific part of the attack on Welty. After learning the information was going to be used for litigation they said they were all being voided and not to file anymore.
For this Obsorne told Welty via memo that in order to file a grievance he must request permission to do so from Sgt. Fenner only by written request. Sgt. Fenner is then to view the grievance and decide whether to allow the grievance to be filed. This is gross abuse of policy which is located in the inmate ...

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