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Sammons v. Overton

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

September 11, 2019

WILLIAM Q. OVERTON, JR., et al, Defendants.


          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Michael H. Sammons, an inmate proceeding pro se, has filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1] The matter before the court is the motion to dismiss filed by defendants Sheriff William Q. Overton, Jr., Deputy Sergeant Robert Feather, Jr., Deputy Sergeant Robert Pigg, Deputy Teresa Bailey, Deputy Robert Hodges, the Franklin County Board of Supervisors, and Superintendent Bobby Russell.[2] Upon review of the record, I conclude that the defendants' motion must be granted.


         On December 3, 2017, Sammons, while confined at the Franklin County Jail ("Jail"), slipped and fell due to a leaky faucet in the holding cell.[3] According to Sammons, Sheriff Overton's "misappropriation of funds and failing to have the faulty faucet repaired/replaced" caused a "wet hazardous condition" that led to Sammons' slip and fall.[4] (Compl. ¶ 31 [ECF 1]). Following the incident, Sammons received treatment for his injuries.

         Sammons alleges that his injury was caused by the "negligence of the Sheriff or/and his agents disregard for faulty faucets." (Id. at ¶ 34). Prior to Sammons' fall, there were "numerous slip and falls caused by the wet hazardous conditions." (Id. at ¶ 35). Sammons claims that he was left on the floor, covered in feces and urine, and that the guards laughed at him. The guards also did not provide Sammons with soap, clean clothing, or proper bedding for a period of five days.

         At the emergency room, Sammons was examined by a physician, given a CT scan, and prescribed medication. According to Sammons, "the staff of Franklin County Jail failed to follow or fill [the prescription]." (Id. at ¶ 43). Sammons further alleges that he was denied treatment during his detainment at Western Virginia Regional Jail.

         Liberally construed, Sammons' claims are that: (1) the conditions in the holding cell, including the leaky faucet, violated his Eighth Amendment rights; and (2) jail staff failed to give him prescribed medication in violation of the Eighth Amendment.


         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 plaintiffs 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).

         Sammons is proceeding pro se and, thus, entitled to a liberal construction of his pleading. See, e.g., Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 90-95 (2007). However, "[principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints are not . . . without limits." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). "A court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.


         "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. Conditions of Confinement

         Sammons alleges that a cell where he was held at the Jail had a leaky faucet, which led to his slip and fall, and subsequent injury. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment on one convicted of a crime. U.S. Const, amend. VIII. The Eighth Amendment provides protection with respect to "the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined." Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). Prison officials must take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of inmates. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). To make out an Eighth Amendment cruel-and-unusual-punishment claim, a plaintiff must satisfy two prongs: first, "the deprivation of [a] basic human need was objectively sufficiently serious" and, second, ...

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