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Lee v. Hill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

March 21, 2017

ROBERT LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
NINA HILL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the Motion to Dismiss filed by defendants Nina Hill, Linda Ahlfield, Kimberly Randolph, Kimberly Birch, Stormi Moeller, Billie Jo Gasaway, Glen Babich, and Todd Renshaw. (Docket No. 25). All matters are pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is an inmate at the Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC"). Defendants Hill, Ahlfield, Randolph, Birch, Moeller, Gasaway, Babich and Renshaw are employees of Corizon, LLC. In the amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that Hill prescribed him a medication even though he was allergic to it, and that he suffered an allergic response including swelling of the tongue, and trouble breathing and swallowing. Plaintiff alleges that Ahlfield refused him medical treatment and required him to take the medication, threatening him with conduct violations and placement in restrictive housing for complaining. Plaintiff alleges that Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller failed to take reasonable measures to correct the problem, and conspired to alter his medical records. He seeks monetary damages.

         In support of the instant motion, Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller argue that plaintiffs allegations against them are vague and conclusory and therefore fail to state a claim as a matter of law. Hill and Ahlfield argue that plaintiffs allegations against them do not amount to deliberate indifference. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion, and the time for doing so has passed. The motion is well taken.

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989). The motion to dismiss standard is different from the frivolity review standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), and dismissal for failure to state a claim does not invariably mean that the claim lacked arguable merit. Id. at 329. When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must assume that all of the factual allegations in the complaint are true, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 595 (8th Cir. 2009). The Court disregards legal conclusions, and reviews the factual allegations for facial plausibility. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). "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." Id. at 677. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, "a civil rights complaint must contain facts which state a claim as a matter of law and must not be conclusory." Gregory v. Dillard's, Inc., 565 F.3d 464, 473 (8th Cir. 2009) (en banc).

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendants Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller

         Plaintiff alleges that Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller (also "defendants") were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendants argue that plaintiffs allegations are vague and conclusory and therefore fail to state a claim. The Court agrees. The Eighth Amendment protects plaintiff from a confinement that involves cruel and unusual punishment through deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. To state a claim of deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must establish that he suffered from an objectively serious medical need, and that defendants actually knew of the need yet deliberately disregarded it. Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997). A "serious medical need" is "one that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment, or one that is so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention." Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 342 (8th Cir. 2011).

         Here, as defendants correctly argue, plaintiff sets forth his claims of Eighth Amendment violation in merely conclusory terms. He alleges no specific facts tending to show that defendants actually knew of any serious medical need, and he alleges no facts describing the manner in which defendants interfered with or denied him access to treatment. As defendants correctly argue, plaintiffs conclusory allegations lack the factual enhancement required by the Supreme Court. Giving plaintiffs allegations against defendants the benefit of a liberal construction and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs favor, the Court concludes that plaintiff alleges nothing more than a "mere possibility of misconduct, " and therefore fails to demonstrate a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment claims against Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller will therefore be dismissed.

         Plaintiff also fails to allege how each defendant was directly involved in or personally responsible for any alleged violation of his constitutional rights. Instead, he refers to defendants collectively and states, in conclusory fashion, that they violated his rights. The Court therefore concludes that plaintiffs claim is not cognizable under § 1983. See Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990) ("Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights"); Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (to be cognizable under § 1983, a claim must allege that the defendant was personally involved in or directly responsible for the incidents that deprived the plaintiff of his constitutional rights). In addition, to the extent plaintiff can be understood to allege that defendants failed to intervene, such claims will be dismissed. The Eighth Circuit has recognized a duty to intervene only in the context of the use of excessive force. See Hess v. Abies, 714 F.3d 1048, 1052 (8th Cir. 2013).

         Plaintiff also alleges that Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller conspired to alter his medical records to make it appear that medical staff immediately addressed and resolved his issue. In order to establish a § 1983 civil conspiracy claim, a plaintiff must show: 1) two or more individuals; 2) an object to be accomplished; 3) a meeting of the minds as to the object or course of action to pursue; 4) the commission of one or more unlawful overt acts; and 5) damages proximately resulting from the conspiracy. Livers v. Schenck, 700 F.3d 340, 360-61 (8th Cir. 2012). In the case at bar, plaintiffs allegations that defendants engaged in a conspiracy to alter his medical records are conclusory at best. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (to state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than "legal conclusions" and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements"). Giving plaintiffs allegations against defendants the benefit of a liberal construction, and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs favor, the Court concludes that plaintiff alleges nothing more than a "mere possibility of misconduct, " and therefore fails to demonstrate a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. Plaintiffs conspiracy claims against Randolph, Renshaw, Birch, Gasaway, Babich, and Moeller will therefore be dismissed.

         B. Defendants ...


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