United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge
Edward James, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se,
filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against Jeffrey B. Kiser, the Warden of Red Onion State
Prison (“Red Onion”). The defendant has moved to
dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). After review of the record, the court concludes
that the defendant's motion must be granted.
an inmate at Red Onion, alleges that he has “been
trying to get the Effergrip denture adhesive placed back on
the commissary list for over a year.” Compl. 2, ECF No.
1. James asserts that he has “done everything [from]
writing letters to having a new set of dentures made, ”
that this product is “available at every facility in
the Commonwealth of Virginia, ” and that it is
“listed as a medical item for those of us with an
orthodontic device.” Compl. Attach. 1, ECF No. 1-1.
James has been denied forms to utilize the prison's
grievance procedure to ask for Effergrip.
response to James' letter requesting Effergrip, the
Operations Support Manager of the Virginia Department of
Corrections (“VDOC”) wrote: “This request
has been forwarded to the warden for response. The item is
available on the master commissary list, [but] the warden may
make the decision to include and/or exclude items based on
institutional restrictions.” Id. at 2.
Sometime thereafter, the warden stopped by James' cell
door “to say they are getting a new product.”
Mot. Am. 1, ECF No. 13.
explains that he needs denture adhesive “to ensure [he]
can adequately eat [his] food without choking.” Compl.
2, ECF No. 1. He has informed Warden Kiser that the adhesive
“helps to keep the dentures from moving around while
eating or talking, and that without it, he “can only
eat half of [his] tray at times.” Compl. Attach. 3, ECF
No. 1-1. He often eats his food without his “teeth in,
” has trouble chewing his food, and sometimes gets
“choked.” Pl.'s Opp'n 1, ECF No. 20. When
he eats using his dentures, he suffers pain and develops
“mouth sores.” Id.
construed, the § 1983 complaint as amended raises two
claims: (1) James has been deprived of Effergrip, which he
needs for medical reasons, and (2) James has been deprived of
grievance forms. In addition to monetary damages, James seeks
interlocutory and permanent injunctive relief ordering that
Red Onion provide him access to denture adhesive or transfer
him. The defendant has filed a motion to dismiss, and James
has responded, making the matter ripe for disposition.
district court should dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6)
if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint
as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences in the
plaintiff's favor, the complaint 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). “[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.” Id. at
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). Every inmate has the right under the Eighth Amendment
to serve his term of imprisonment without enduring cruel and
unusual punishment at the hands of prison officials.
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). On the
other hand, “only those deprivations denying the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities are
sufficiently grave to form the basis of an Eighth Amendment
violation.” Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166
(4th Cir. 1995). “[T]he ordinary discomfort
accompanying prison life is part and parcel of the punishment
those individuals convicted of criminal offenses endure as
recompense for their criminal activity.” Id.
inmate's Eighth Amendment protections include a right to
the medical care necessary to address his serious medical
needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103-04
(1976). Specifically, a prison official's
“deliberate 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).
first part of this legal standard is objective. It requires
showing that the inmate's medical condition is
“serious-one that has been diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay
person would easily recognize the necessity for a
doctor's attention.” Jackson v. Lightsey,
775 F.3d 170, 178 (4th Cir. 2014). The second, deliberate
indifference part of the standard is subjective. To prove
deliberate indifference, the plaintiff must show by a
preponderance of the evidence that the defendant knew of and
disregarded an excessive risk to inmate safety or health.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). It is
not sufficient to show that an official should have known of
a risk; he or she must have had actual subjective knowledge
of both the inmate's serious medical condition and the
excessive risk posed by the official's action or
inaction. Jackson, 775 F.3d at 178. Moreover,
supervisory prison officials are entitled to rely on the
professional judgment of trained medical personnel to
determine the nature of an inmate's medical need and the
necessary treatment for it. Shakka, 71 F.3d at 167.
has not satisfied either facet of his Eighth Amendment claim
here. He states no facts suggesting that denture adhesive is
a basic human need or that the lack of denture adhesive has
caused, or is likely to cause, him any serious physical harm.
At the most, he alleges that when using his dentures without
the adhesive, he experiences discomfort and develops sores in
his mouth, because the dentures move around. Without the
dentures, he allegedly cannot chew some foods well, and they
may cause him to choke. James does not allege, however, that
a medical professional has determined that he has a
serious medical need for dental adhesive or that the
alleged mouth sores he sometimes develops even require
medical treatment. Furthermore, without any allegations
suggesting that a doctor has diagnosed James with a medical
need for Effergrip, the court cannot find that the warden
knew preventing James from obtaining this product posed an
excessive risk of harm to his health. For the stated reasons,
the court concludes that James has not presented sufficient
factual matter in his submissions to state an Eighth
also cannot prevail on his second claim. "[I]nmates have
no constitutional entitlement or due process interest in
access to a grievance procedure. An inmate thus cannot bring
a § 1983 claim alleging denial of a specific grievance
process" or form. Booker v. ...