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Truman v. Sgt. Frye

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

July 18, 2019

Cecil Guy Truman, Plaintiff,
Sgt. Frye, et al, Defendants.



         Cecil Guy Truman, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, initiated this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants Ramon Frye ("Frye"), Anthony Farley ("Farley"), and Jordan McDougal ("McDougal") (collectively "defendants") have filed a Motion to Dismiss the claims against them as well as a memorandum in support [Dkt. Nos. 28-29]. Plaintiff was provided the notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and the opportunity to file responsive materials pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), and has filed a memorandum opposing defendants' Motion [Dkt. No. 31]. For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be granted, and the underlying complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. Background

         The following allegations are assumed true for the purpose of ruling on defendants' Motion to Dismiss. At all relevant times, plaintiff resided in the protective custody block of the Prince William County Adult Detention Center ("PWCADC") [Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 5]. On June 29, 2018, in the presence of defendants Frye, Farley, and McDougal, inmate Walter Cook screamed death threats and racial comments at plaintiff while "violently kicking his cell door" [Id., at ¶ 7]. The same day, plaintiff "was asked to step into his cell so that inmate Walter Cook could come out of his cell to get his medication" [Id. at ¶ 8]. As Cook returned to his cell, he spat through the crack in plaintiffs cell door, spraying saliva on plaintiffs face [Ml. Cook continued "to spit... and scream threats while kicking and hitting" the cell door [Id]. Defendant McDougal witnessed this event and made eye contact with plaintiff through the observation window immediately thereafter [Id. at ¶ 24]. Inmate Cook had been exhibiting similar behavior-albeit without spitting on plaintiff-for approximately one month in the buildup to the incidents of June 29, 2018 [Id. at ¶ 6].

         Because plaintiff believed inmate Cook to be HIV-positive, he asked to be seen by medical staff at PWCADC after coming into contact with Cook's saliva [Id at ¶ 9]. Defendants refused plaintiffs request and instead offered plaintiff "disinfectant spray and paper towels" to clean inmate Cook's saliva off the cell door [Id. at ¶ 9-10].

         On July 2, 2018, plaintiff visited Magistrate Heath to pursue a criminal complaint regarding the events of June 29 [Id. at ¶ 12]. On his way to the magistrate, plaintiff encountered defendant Frye, who told plaintiff he would not help him seek relief for the actions of inmate Cook [Id. at ¶ 11]. At the hearing in front of the magistrate, in reference to Cook's actions, defendant Frye stated that, "This kind of thing happens all the time" [Id. at ¶ 12]. Plaintiffs request was ultimately denied [Dkt. No. 36]. Upon returning to his cell, plaintiff expressed concerns about his constitutional rights to defendant Frye, to which Frye responded by saying that, as a prisoner, plaintiff did not have rights [Id. at ¶ 13].

         On July 20, 2018, plaintiff was seen by medical officials for reasons unrelated to the incidents of June 29, 2018 [Id. at ¶ 16]. When plaintiff informed them of his contact with inmate Cook's saliva and stated that Cook was HIV-positive, medical staff stated that they could not treat plaintiff for anything unrelated to the scheduled purpose of the appointment [Id].

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants bring motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. This type of motion can take two forms: "First, it may be contended that a complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based ... Second, it may be contended that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint were not true." Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). Where, as here, a defendant argues that a plaintiff has not alleged facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, "all the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a Rule 12(b)(6) consideration." Id.

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint; it does not resolve contests surrounding facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses. Republican Part v. of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "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) (quoting Bell Atlantic Com, v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible if "the factual content of a complaint allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Nemer Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 256 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). A plaintiff must therefore allege facts in support of each element of each claim he or she raises; "threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements," are insufficient. Iqbal at 678.

         Where a complaint is filed by a prisoner proceeding pro se, that complaint must be construed liberally regardless of how unskillfully it is pleaded. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). A pro se litigant is not held to the strict pleading requirements demanded of attorneys, and, for this reason, a court's "power to summarily dismiss a prisoner's pro se complaint is limited." Figgins v. Hudspeth, 584 F.2d 1345, 1347 (4th Cir. 1978).

         III. Analysis

         1. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction - 12(b)(1)

         Defendants submit that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action. They argue that plaintiffs complaint fails to satisfy the requirements of either 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or § 1332, the federal question and diversity of citizenship jurisdiction statutes, respectively. Even if defendants are correct that there is no basis to find the existence of diversity jurisdiction in this instance, plaintiff provides sufficient facts in the complaint to form the foundation of a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § ...

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