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Lee v. Hill

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

March 21, 2017

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



         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants Regina Beggs, Paula Reed, Bill Stange and Ian Wallace's Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 20). 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 Beggs, Reed, Stange and Wallace (collectively "defendants") are employees of the Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC"). Plaintiff has also named eight additional defendants who are employees of Corizon, LLC, including Nina Hill and Linda Ahlfield.

         In the amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that Hill prescribed him a medication even though he was allergic to it, and that he suffered reactions including swelling of the tongue and trouble breathing and swallowing. Plaintiff alleges that Ahlfield refused to give him medical treatment, and also that she required him to take the medication, threatening him with conduct violations and restrictive housing if he complained.

         Plaintiff alleges that Beggs, Reed, Stange and Wallace violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment in that they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, and failed to give him adequate medical treatment. Plaintiff also alleges that defendants failed to take reasonable measures to prevent him being prescribed the wrong medicine, and that they condoned and ignored Hill and Ahlfield's conduct. Plaintiff also alleges that defendants conspired to alter medical records to make it appear that the matter had been properly addressed. He seeks monetary damages.

         In support of the instant motion, defendants argue that plaintiffs allegations against them should be dismissed because they are wholly conclusory. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion, and the time for doing so has passed. Defendants' motion is well taken, and plaintiffs claims against Beggs, Reed, Stange and Wallace will be dismissed.

         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 a complaint raises an arguable question of law which the district court ultimately finds is correctly resolved against the plaintiff, dismissal on Rule 12(b)(6) grounds is appropriate, but dismissal on the basis of frivolousness is not." Id. at 328.

         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

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and denied him adequate medical treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Defendants argue that plaintiffs allegations are merely 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. Deliberate indifference may be demonstrated by prison guards who intentionally deny or delay access to medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976). 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 but deliberately disregarded a serious risk to his health. Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997). A "serious medical need" is "one that has been diagnosed by a physician 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 Beggs, Reed, Stange and Wallace actually knew of any serious medical need, and he alleges no facts describing the manner in which they interfered with or denied him access to treatment. The Court therefore determines that plaintiffs allegations lack the factual enhancement required by the Supreme Court, and therefore fail to state a claim as a matter of law. Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 676; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. 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 the defendants collectively and states they violated his rights. The Court therefore concludes that plaintiff fails to state a claim of an Eighth Amendment violation against these defendants. See Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 667; see also 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).

         To the extent plaintiff can be understood to allege that defendants failed to intervene, such claims will be dismissed because the Eighth Circuit has recognized a duty to intervene only in the context of excessive use of force. See Hess v. Abies,714 F.3d 1048, 1052 (8th Cir. 2013). In addition, these prison official defendants cannot substitute their judgment for a medical professional's prescription, Meloy v. Bachmeier,302 F.3d 845, 849 (8th Cir. 2002), and cannot be held liable for the medical staffs ...

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