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Jackson v. Castevens

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

July 12, 2019

B. CASTEVENS, et al., Defendants.



         Andre Jackson, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [1] alleging violations of his First, Fifth, and Eighth Amendment rights. Defendants B. Castevens, John Bowers, E. McGuire, B. L. Kanode, John Coe, H. Sharpe, Jane Wall, [2] and Harold Clarke filed a motion to dismiss, [3] and Jackson responded, making this matter ripe for disposition. Upon review of the record, I conclude the defendants' motion to dismiss must be denied as to Correctional Officer (“C/O”) Castevens, C/O Bowers, and C/O McGuire and that defendants' motions to dismiss must be granted as to Warden Kanode, Sgt. Coe, Maj. Sharpe, Nurse Wall, and Director Clarke.

         I. Factual Background

         On March 23, 2018, after a medical transport, Jackson was placed into a medical isolation cell at River North Correctional Center (“RNCC”) until his Remote Activated Custody and Control (“RACC”) belt could be removed. C/O Castevens threatened “to get [Jackson] back for filing grievances and receiving infractions.” Compl. 2 (Dkt. No. 1). C/O Castevens then conversed with C/O Bowers and C/O McGuire, although Jackson was unable to hear what was discussed. C/O Castevens told Jackson that “a lesson was about to be taught” and then he activated Jackson's RACC belt, causing it to shock Jackson. Id. at 3. According to Jackson, C/O Bowers, C/O McGuire, and C/O Castevens were “conspiring with one another to inflict physical harm” in retaliation for Jackson's exhaustion of administrative procedures and appeal of disciplinary infractions. Id. Jackson saw the correctional officers laughing at his reactions to being electrocuted. After waiting for 45 minutes, Jackson was treated by Nurse Wall.

         On April 4, 2018, Jackson filed an informal grievance regarding the incident. Maj. Sharpe responded on April 11, 2018, finding the grievance to be unfounded. Jackson appealed. On May 1, 2018, Warden Kanode upheld Maj. Sharpe's decision stating that “the electronic belt was accidentally activated by the Correctional Officer who was removing the restraints. There is no indication of malice or ill intent surrounding the incident.” Resp. to Mot. to Dismiss, Exh. 1, 1 (Dkt. No. 36-1). Jackson appealed. On June 15, 2018, Regional Administrator Marcus Elam overturned Warden Kanode's decision, deeming the grievance founded and stating that “[p]rocedure violations are noted and steps have been taken to help ensure that staff is more cautious in the future so that reoccurrences do not take place.” Id. at 3.

         Liberally construed, Jackson's claims are that: (1) C/O Castevens used excessive force against Jackson without provocation in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (2) C/O Castevens, C/O Bowers, and C/O McGuire retaliated against Jackson in violation of the First Amendment; (3) C/O Bowers and C/O McGuire are liable as bystanders; (4) Nurse Wall acted with deliberate indifference to Jackson's serious medical needs; (5) Warden Kanode, Sgt. Coe, Maj. Sharpe, and Director Clarke are liable for claims 1-4 under the theory of supervisory liability; and (5) Warden Kanode and Maj. Sharpe did not follow proper Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”) procedure with respect to Jackson's grievances.[4]

         II. Legal Standard

         A complaint need only contain “a short, plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations. See Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co., 708 F.3d 527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Stated differently, to survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         A court need not “accept the legal conclusions drawn from the facts” or “accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” E. Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, with all 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. Making the plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         III. Analysis

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Notably, a plaintiff must sufficiently allege a defendant's personal act or omission leading to a deprivation of a federal right. See Fisher v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Author., 690 F.2d 1133, 1142-43 (4th Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Cty. of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991). Negligent deprivations are not actionable under § 1983. See, e.g., Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986); Pink v. Lester, 52 F.3d 73, 77 (4th Cir. 1995).

         A. Supervisory Liability

         Jackson alleges that Warden Kanode, Sgt. Coe, Maj. Sharpe, and Director Clarke are liable for the alleged constitutional violations as supervisors of C/O Castevens, C/O Bowers, and C/O McGuire. A supervisory officer may not be held liable merely under a theory of respondeat superior in a § 1983 action. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-92 (1978); Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994). Rather, supervisory liability requires facts showing: (1) that the defendants had actual or constructive knowledge that their subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed “a pervasive and unreasonable risk” of constitutional injury to Jackson; (2) that the defendants' response to that knowledge was so inadequate as to show “deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices”; and (3) that there was an “affirmative causal link” between the defendants' inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by Jackson. See Shaw, 13 F.3d at 799.

         Jackson fails to allege any basis for supervisory liability by Warden Kanode, Sgt. Coe, Maj. Sharpe, and Director Clarke. With respect to Director Clarke, Jackson relies solely on the fact that Director Clarke “is responsible for all employees of the VA Dept. of Corrections and supervisor liability applies to him also.” Compl. 5. Such a statement is insufficient to establish supervisory liability against Director Clarke. Regarding Warden Kanode and Maj. Sharpe, Jackson does not plead any facts necessary to establish supervisory liability. Jackson's assertions against Warden Kanode and Maj. Sharpe are based solely on their involvement in the grievance process. With respect to Sgt. Coe, Jackson claims that Sgt. Coe was present in the medical unit at RNCC and that he “never attempted to prevent the officers from inflicting harm, nor did he discipline the officers after the incident.” Id. at 2-3. However, Jackson does not plead facts to establish that Sgt. Coe had actual or constructive knowledge that C/O Castevens was going to activate the RACC belt and, ...

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