United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge
Everett Bowman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed
this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
claiming that prison officials were deliberately indifferent
to a hazardous condition and failed to provide adequate
medical treatment for pain caused by spina bifida. After
review of the record, the court concludes that this civil
action is appropriately dismissed without prejudice for
failure to state a claim.
is confined at Pocahontas Correctional Center
("PCC"), a prison facility operated by the Virginia
Department of Corrections ("VDOC"). He alleges that
on or about May 7, 2018, three correctional officers were
discussing an informal complaint Bowman had filed about being
denied drinking water while in "the rec-yard."
Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Speaking so that other inmates could
hear them, these officers called Bowman "a snitch, a
li[a]r and a fag." Id. Bowman asserts that
inmates who are so labeled are put in danger of being beaten,
robbed, raped, or even killed by other inmates. Bowman
alleges that because of the officers' actions, he has
suffered emotional distress and sought mental health
also alleges that he has had spina bifida since birth and
suffers from nerve damage and other complications of this
condition. For over ten years before his incarceration,
Bowman had taken the prescription medications
"Neurotin" and "Wellbutren" to relieve
the pain from the disease. Id. at 4. When he entered
the VDOC, "the medical staff and doctors that are
staffed in the prisons by the DOC, stopped [Bowman's]
medications and have not as of the time of this complaint
prescribed [him] with any other type of medications" for
his symptoms. Id. at 4. Bowman states that he
"suffers with severe pain every day." Id.
filed his § 1983 complaint in May 2019. The only
defendants Bowman identifies are the PCC warden, Dr. Mullins,
and Carol Yates. He is seeking monetary damages of $100, 000.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court determines that the action or claim is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(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). A complaint must be dismissed if it
does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
complaint does not state a plausible claim against the
defendants he has identified. Bowman does not explain who
Carol Yates is, nor does he describe any action that Yates,
the warden, or the doctor has taken, personally, that
violated Bowman's rights or harmed him in any way. Bowman
apparently seeks to hold the warden vicariously liable for
the actions of his subordinates at PCC. Vicarious liability
for supervisory officials, also known as respondeat
superior, does not apply in § 1983 cases, however.
See, e.g., Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550
F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (finding that under §
1983, "liability will only lie where it is affirmatively
shown that the official charged acted personally in the
deprivation of the plaintiff['s] rights"). Moreover,
the warden and other nonmedical personnel at PCC could
rightly rely on the medical expertise of Bowman's
treating physician at PCC to determine the appropriate course
of medical care for his spina bifida pain and other
complications. See Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 167
(4th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).
"[d]eliberate 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). Thus, Bowman cannot state a
§ 1983 claim against the doctor or any other medical
staff member without explaining in the complaint when and how
each individual knew of Bowman's medical needs
and what actions each of them took or failed to take in
response to those needs. Bowman's complaint does not
provide any information about how or when his defendants
interacted with him, when and what they learned about his
medical needs, or how they, personally, caused violations of
his constitutional rights. Thus, Bowman has not stated any
actionable § 1983 claim against them.
Vinnedge, 550 F.2d at 928.
stated reasons, the court concludes that Bowman's
submissions do not state any claim upon which relief could be
granted against the defendants he has sued. Therefore, the
court will summarily dismiss the action without prejudice
under § 1915A(b)(1). An appropriate order will enter
this day. Such a dismissal leaves Bowman free to refile his
claims in a new and separate civil action if he can correct
the deficiencies described in this opinion and subject to the
applicable statute of limitations.
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion
and accompanying order to plaintiff.