United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Wolfgang Vonmozart Snipes, Pro Se Plaintiff.
P. Jones, United States District Judge.
plaintiff, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that jail officials failed to protect him from
another inmate who had threatened his life. After review of
the complaint, I find that it must be summarily dismissed.
is confined at that Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in
Duffield. He alleges that on December 27, 2018, Inmate Isaac
Henderson threatened to kill him. An officer moved Henderson
out of Snipes' cell and into a cell on the lower tier of
the housing area. In January, Officer Scott asked Snipes
“to take the keepaway off” Henderson because they
needed his cell. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Snipes agreed and
believed the keepaway had been removed. For seven months,
Snipes and Henderson lived on the same tier and had
recreation at the same time. Snipes was always nervous around
24, 2019, Officers Estep and Osbourne moved Henderson into
the same cell with Snipes. According to Snipes, after he
spent two nights in the same cell with Henderson, “2
people get talked into by another inmate to put a keepaway
on” Henderson. Id. Thereafter, Officer Scott
told Snipes that he had a keepaway on Henderson from December
27, 2018, so Snipes could no longer be housed on the top tier
with this inmate. Snipes asked if he could remove the
keepaway so that he could stay in the cell where he had been
for almost a year. Scott said no. Even after the move based
on the keepaway, in his job as a tray server, Snipes had to
serve trays to Henderson on at least two occasions.
signed his § 1983 Complaint on July 31, 2019. He sues
Scott, Osborne, and Estep, as well as the jail and two other
officials, Templeton and Hayes. As relief, Snipes seeks
“punitive damages, and mental anguish.”
Id. at 2.
court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a
prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the
court determines the action or claim is “frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). To state a
cause of action under §1983, a plaintiff must establish
that he has been deprived of rights guaranteed by the
Constitution or laws of the United States and that this
deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person
acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
cannot prevail in any claim against the jail, because it is
not a person subject to being sued under § 1983.
Id. He also states no viable claim against Templeton
and Hayes. In a § 1983 action, “liability will
only lie where it is affirmatively shown that the official
charged acted personally in the deprivation of the
plaintiff['s] rights. The doctrine of respondeat superior
has no application” in such cases. Vinnedge v.
Gibbs, 550 F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977). Because Snipes
states no facts about actions these defendants took,
personally, to violate his constitutional rights, he fails to
state any § 1983 claim against them.
construed, the Complaint alleges that Scott, Osborne, and
Estep housed Snipes on the same tier with Henderson for seven
months, despite the keepaway placed in December of 2018. When
Scott rediscovered the keepaway in July of 2019, he allegedly
“punish[ed]” Snipes by moving him, instead of
moving Henderson. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. My review of the
record reflects no viable constitutional claim arising from
being assaulted in prison is not part of the penalty that
criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society,
prison officials are responsible for protecting prisoners
from violence at the hands of other prisoners.”
Danser v. Stansberry, 772 F.3d 340, 346 (4th Cir.
2014). To prevail in an Eighth Amendment claim that officials
failed to fulfill this responsibility of protection, “a
prisoner must establish a serious deprivation of his rights
in the form of a serious or significant physical or emotional
injury.” Id. Snipes has made no such showing.
His self-diagnosed nervousness in Henderson's presence,
without more, cannot qualify as serious emotional injury.
Moreover, Snipes does not allege suffering any physical
injury whatsoever as a result of being housed with Henderson
for seven months or serving him meal trays. Finally, Snipes
does not state facts showing that his assignment to the lower
tier has caused him any serious physical or emotional injury
or that it is likely to do so.
stated reasons, Snipes does not provide facts to support the
necessary elements of his § 1983 claims. Therefore, I
will summarily dismiss this action without prejudice,
pursuant to § 1915A(b)(1), for failure to state a claim
upon which relief could be granted. Dismissal of the case
without prejudice leaves Snipes free to refile his claims in
a new and separate civil action if he can overcome the noted
separate Final Order will be entered herewith.