United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge
Lee Knapp, Jr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed
this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that he was attacked and injured by another inmate.
After careful review of Knapp's allegations, the court
concludes that the complaint must be summarily dismissed.
is an inmate at a regional jail in Charlottesville, Virginia.
His allegations are brief:
Officer [Harpham] put John Bennett who is a co-defendant in
my case, in housing unit FC but Bennett was housed in FD.
[Harpham] took Bennett's word instead of checking the
housing sheet. When Bennett was put in FC he assaulted
[Knapp] while [he] was in the shower. [Bennett] cut
[Knapp's] nose and blacked [his] eye.
Compl. 2-3, ECF No. 1. Knapp brings a § 1983 claim
against Harpham, seeking monetary damages.
court is required to dismiss a prisoner's civil action
against a governmental officer if the action is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim on 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 United States
Constitution or laws and that this deprivation resulted from
conduct committed by a person acting under color of state
law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988). Plaintiffs
"[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right
to relief above the speculative level," to one that is
"plausible on its face," rather than merely
"conceivable." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
being assaulted in prison is not part of the penalty that
criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society,
prison officials are responsible for protecting prisoners
from violence at the hands of other prisoners."
Danser v. Stansberry, 772 F.3d 340, 346 (4th Cir.
2014). On the other hand, not "every injury
suffered by one prisoner at the hands of another .. .
translates into constitutional liability for prison officials
responsible for the victim's safety." Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). To state a claim that
an official failed to protect him, the inmate must present
evidence to "establish a serious deprivation of his
rights in the form of a serious or significant physical or
emotional injury." Danser, 772 F.3d at 346.
Also, he must show "deliberate indifference"-by
"introduc[ing] evidence suggesting that the prison
official had actual knowledge of an excessive risk to the
plaintiffs safety." Id. 346, 347. Negligent
failure to protect is not sufficient to establish a
constitutional violation. Grayson v. Peed, 195 F.3d
692, 695 (4th Cir. 1999); cf. Kingsley v.
Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2472 (2015) (noting in
pretrial detainee case that "liability for negligently
inflicted harm is categorically beneath the threshold of
constitutional due process.").
court will assume without finding that Knapp's facial
injuries were sufficiently serious to satisfy the first
element of the constitutional standard. His claim fails,
however, under the second element of that standard, because
he has not stated facts showing that Harpham acted with
deliberate indifference. According to Knapp, Harpham believed
Bennett's claim that he was assigned to FC unit and
allowed him to enter that housing area without verifying that
claim. These allegations do not support a reasonable
inference that Harpham knew, at that time, that Bennett and
Knapp were co-defendants or that Bennett posed a serious risk
of harm to Knapp if they were allowed contact with each
other. Rather, Knapp's allegations show nothing more than
simple negligence-Knapp should have checked the housing
sheet, but he failed to do so. An official's negligent
actions cannot support a constitutional claim actionable
under § 1983. Id. Accordingly, the court will
summarily dismiss Knapp's complaint under §
1915A(b)(1) without prejudice. An appropriate order will
issue this day. Dismissal without prejudice leaves Knapp free
to refile his claim in a new and separate civil rights
action, provided that he can correct the noted
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion
and accompanying order to plaintiff.
 In the heading of Knapp's
complaint, the defendant is identified as Scott Harpham, and
accordingly, the court's docket also lists the defendant
by that name. In the description of the incident, however,
the officer's name is spelled Harpman. For
consistency's sake, the court will refer to the defendant
by the name on its docket- Harpham.
 The court has omitted internal
quotation marks, alterations, and citations here and
throughout this memorandum opinion, unless otherwise
 Knapp's submissions do not
indicate whether he was a pretrial detainee or a convicted
felon at the time of the defendant's alleged actions.
Claims concerning confinement conditions imposed upon
pretrial detainees are to be evaluated under the Due Process
Clause, rather than under the Eighth Amendment, which applies
to convicted persons. Bell v. Wolfish.441 U.S. 520,
535-538 (1979). Due process proscribes punishment of a
detainee before proper adjudication of guilt has been
accomplished. Id. "Pretrial detainees are
entitled to at least the same protection under the Fourteenth
Amendment as are convicted prisoners under the Eighth
Amendment." Young v. City of Mount Ranier. 238
F.3d 567, 575 (4th Cir.2001). Therefore, the standard for
determining deliberate indifference under the Fourteenth
Amendment or Eighth Amendment is essentially the same. See
Barber v. City of Salem.953 F.2d 232, 235 (6th Cir.
1992) (holding that "the Eighth Amendment ...