United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge
Michael Derrick Edwards, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
has filed this civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that prison officials retaliated
against him for filing grievances. After a review of
Edwards' submissions, the court concludes that his
complaint must be summarily dismissed.
is confined at Red Onion State Prison ("Red
Onion"), a facility operated by the Virginia Department
of Corrections ("VDOC"). He alleges the following
sequence of events in support of his § 1983 claims. On
February 27, 2019, a correctional officer served Edwards a
lunch tray. Edwards alleges that the main dish smelled and
tasted like it had been tainted with cleaning fluid. When he
complained, the officer provided him with a replacement tray.
Edwards thought the main dish on that tray also smelled and
tasted of cleaning solution. The building lieutenant
contacted food service. A few minutes later, food service
supervisor Still came to Edwards' cell with a third lunch
tray. Edwards told her that the main course still smelled and
tasted like cleaning solution. Still said she would not give
Edwards "anything else," told him "that's
what [he] get[s] when [he] write[s] food service up,"
and walked away. Compl. 2, ECF No. 1. Edwards received no
other meal until dinner.
after lunch on February 27, 2019, Edwards filed an Emergency
Grievance, stating that he "was feeling nausea and
stomach pains due to possible food poisoning from the
cleaning solution" in the main dish of his lunch tray.
Id. at 3. An officer returned the Emergency
Grievance to Edwards around 8:00 p.m. Nurse Yates had written
a response on the form, stating that Edwards' complaint
did not meet the definition of a medical emergency. The next
morning, Edwards asked Yates why she had denied him medical
care when he had possible food poisoning. Yates said that if
Edwards "would of never wrote her up [he] would of
gotten medical treatment." Id.
sues Still, food service director Scarberry, and Yates. He
contends that these defendants deprived him of adequate food
and medical care, in violation of his Eighth Amendment
rights, and/or retaliated against him for exercising his
First Amendment right by filing grievances. As relief, he
seeks monetary, declaratory, and injunctive relief.
court may summarily dismiss a case "brought with respect
to prison conditions ... by a prisoner confined in any jail,
prison, or other correctional facility if the court is
satisfied that the action is frivolous, malicious, [or] fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). Section 1983 permits an aggrieved
party to file a civil action against a person for actions
taken under color of state law that violated his
constitutional rights. Cooper v. Sheehan. 735 F.3d
153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013).
plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant,
through the official's own individual actions, has
violated the Constitution." Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Supervisory officials may not be
held automatically liable for the unconstitutional conduct of
their subordinates. Id. Edwards fails to describe
any action whatsoever that defendant Scarberry took in
violation of his constitutional rights. Accordingly, his
claims against this defendant must be summarily dismissed.
allegations also fail to state any claim under the Eighth
Amendment about his allegedly tainted meal. The Eighth
Amendment protects prisoners from cruel and unusual
conditions. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347
(1981). On the other hand, living conditions in prison are
not intended to be comfortable. "To the extent that such
conditions are restrictive and even harsh, they are part of
the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses
against society." Id. To state a claim, Edwards
must show that he suffered a serious injury from the
allegedly unsafe condition. Strickler v. Waters. 989
F.2d 1375, 1380-1381 (4th Cir. 1993). Merely missing one meal
because he did not like the taste of one dish simply does not
rise to the level of a constitutional deprivation. See,
e.g.. White v. Gregory, 1 F.3d 267, 269 (4th
Cir. 1993) (affirming district court's dismissal as
frivolous inmate's claim that he received only two meals
per day during weekends, because inmate alleged no
significant resulting injury); Hamm v. DeKalb
County, 774 F.2d 1567, 1575 (11th Cir. 1985) ("The
fact that the food occasionally contains foreign objects or
sometimes is served cold, while unpleasant, does not amount
to a constitutional deprivation."); Brown v.
Mathena. No. 7:10CV00192 (W.D. Va. May 14, 2010)
(Wilson, J.) (dismissing inmate's claim that he missed
one dinner meal), affirmed. No. 10-6772 (4th Cir.
Aug. 26, 2010); Islam v. Jackson, 782 F.Supp. 1111,
1114 (E.D. Va. 1992) (finding that inmate missing one meal as
isolated event did not state Eighth Amendment violation).
complaint is similarly deficient concerning his medical
claim. "A prison official's deliberate indifference
to an inmate's serious medical needs constitutes cruel
and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment."
Jackson v. Lightsey, 775 F.3d 170, 178 (4th Cir.
2014) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
(1976)). An inmate alleging a deliberate indifference claim
must establish that his medical condition was objectively
serious-that is, "one that has been diagnosed by a
physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious
that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity
for a doctor's attention." Iko v. Shreve.
535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks
omitted). Edwards makes no such showing here. His report of
stomach pain and nausea and his self-serving diagnosis of
possible food poisoning are not sufficient to state a claim
that his condition rose to the level of a serious medical
need for the emergency medical care he requested.
to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim, the inmate must also
show that the defendant subjectively knew of and disregarded
an excessive risk to the inmate's health or
safety. Jackson. 775 F.3d at 178 (citing Farmer
v. Brennan. 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). Again, Edwards
makes no such showing. He mentioned only possible food
poisoning in his Emergency Grievance. Moreover, the nurse did
not refuse care-she merely found no need for emergency
treatment. An inmate cannot prove deliberate indifference
merely by stating his personal disagreement with a medical
professional on "[q]uestions of medical judgment,"
which the court cannot second-guess in a § 1983 action.
Russell v. Sheffer, 528 F.2d 318, 319 (4th Cir.
1975). Furthermore, Edwards has not alleged that his
abdominal discomfort continued into the next day or ever
required medical treatment to subside. The court will
summarily dismiss Edwards' Eighth Amendment claims.
also characterizes the defendants' actions as retaliation
for his filing of grievances, in violation of the First
[T]o state a colorable retaliation claim under Section 1983,
a plaintiff must allege that (1) he engaged in protected
First Amendment activity, (2) the defendant took some action
that adversely affected his First Amendment rights, and (3)
there was a causal relationship between his protected
activity and the defendant's conduct.
Martin v. Duffy,
858 F.3d 239, 249 (4th Cir. 2017),
cert denied, 138 S.Ct. 738, (2018). "For
purposes of a First Amendment retaliation claim under Section
1983, a plaintiff suffers adverse action if the
defendant's allegedly retaliatory conduct would likely
deter a person of ordinary ...