Submitted: November 17, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
BENTON and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges, and EBINGER,  District
EBINGER, District Judge.
inmate Steven Kulkay injured himself while using industrial
equipment in the workshop of a Minnesota correctional
facility. Kulkay sued the Minnesota Department of Corrections
and related parties alleging violations of his civil rights
under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as
negligence of prison employees. The district
court dismissed all of Kulkay's claims. On
appeal, Kulkay argues the district court erred in dismissing
his Eighth Amendment claims against the individual
defendants. We affirm.
accept as true the material allegations in the complaint and
present the facts in the light most favorable to Kulkay.
See Hager v. Ark. Dep't of Health, 735 F.3d
1009, 1013 (8th Cir. 2013).
2013, Kulkay was incarcerated at the Faribault, Minnesota,
correctional facility. Officials assigned him to work in the
prison's industrial workshop. After one-and-a-half months
in the workshop, Kulkay was directed to operate the beam saw.
The beam saw is a large, stationary machine that uses
computers to automatically move and cut wood beams. After a
worker loads a beam onto the saw's work table, sensors
detect the beam's size and location. The machine moves
the beam into position and circular blades extend to make the
desired cuts. The operator is not required to manually start
or stop the blade. The beam saw in the Faribault workshop was
designed to utilize plastic safety guards to protect the
operator from the blades. Kulkay alleges Faribault officials
never installed the safety guards while he was an inmate and
the parts sat unused in the workshop.
August 2013, Kulkay had worked in the workshop for
two-and-a-half months and with the beam saw for one month. He
received instruction on how to operate the saw from an inmate
with experience on the saw; he did not receive any formal
safety training from officials. Kulkay had never used or seen
a beam saw before his assignment to the workshop. On August
5, 2013, Kulkay severed three of his fingers and part of a
fourth while operating the saw. Doctors were unable to
reattach the severed fingers.
brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against several
institutional and individual defendants for violating his
civil rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The
defendants include the State of Minnesota; the Minnesota
Department of Corrections; Tom Roy, the commissioner of the
Department of Corrections; Alice Remillard, the safety
director at the Faribault facility; Jeremy Schwartz, the
supervising safety officer in charge of the facility's
workshop; and two unknown prison employees. Kulkay also
brought negligence claims against the State of Minnesota and
its Department of Corrections based on vicarious liability.
defendants jointly filed a motion to dismiss under Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The
magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R)
concluding the defendants' motion should be granted. The
R&R determined a number of Kulkay's claims were
barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity, his Fourteenth
Amendment claims could be brought only under the Eighth
Amendment, and his Eighth Amendment claims failed because the
individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
Kulkay objected only to the recommendation that his Eighth
Amendment claims against the individual defendants be
dismissed. The district court adopted the R&R in its
entirety and held Kulkay's complaint failed to state a
claim under the Eighth Amendment on the basis of qualified
immunity. Kulkay appeals.
court reviews a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal based on qualified
immunity de novo. Hager, 735 F.3d at 1013. We accept
the factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe
them in favor of the plaintiff. Id. We do not,
however, "presume the truth of legal conclusions couched
as factual allegations." Id.; accord Wiles
v. Capitol Indem. Corp., 280 F.3d 868, 870 (8th Cir.
2002) ("[T]he court is free to ignore legal conclusions,
unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences and sweeping
legal conclusions cast in the form of factual
survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,
"the complaint must include sufficient factual
allegations to provide the grounds on which the claim
rests." Drobnak v. Andersen Corp., 561 F.3d
778, 783 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). The stated claim for
relief must be "plausible on its face."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Although a plaintiff need not allege facts in painstaking
detail, the facts alleged "must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative ...