United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
SALEEM M. NELSON, Plaintiff,
RYAN CREWS, et al., Defendants.
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on initial review of
plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2). In an opinion, memorandum and order dated
August 23, 2019, the Court ordered plaintiff to file an
amended complaint to make specific factual allegations
against each named defendant. See ECF No. 6.
Pursuant to that order, plaintiff filed his amended complaint
on October 28, 2019.
files his amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging the conditions of his confinement at Moberly
Correctional Center (“MCC”) are unconstitutional
because of the presence of black mold, fungus, asbestos,
dust, inadequate cleaning, flooding, sewage, and vermin. He
names as defendants Ryan Crews (Deputy Division Director,
Missouri Department of Corrections (“MoDOC”));
Dean Minor (Warden, MCC); Mark Trusty (FUM, MCC); and
Samantha Licht (Case Manager, MCC). He sues all defendants in
their individual and official capacities.
states that the cells at MCC flood during heavy rains, and
that “sewage laden water often flows into the offender
living areas and . . . into the ventilation systems.”
He also alleges that the air at MCC is contaminated with
mold, fungus, and asbestos. In particular, plaintiff states
that housing unit three is littered with construction debris
from an incomplete asbestos abatement project. No other
housing unit has been scheduled for asbestos abatement
despite the presence of asbestos. As for vermin, plaintiff
states that “mice, cockroaches, and small black worms
that appear to be leaches” infest the inmates'
living areas. Plaintiff alleges these conditions have existed
at MCC since November 2016.
alleges he suffers chronic sinus issues, constant headaches,
bloody mucus and nose bleeds, eye aches, shortness of breath,
throat aches and coughing, chest pains, and fatigue as a
result of the conditions at MCC. For relief he seeks $5
million and injunctive relief allowing him to see an outside
physician with all expenses paid. He also seeks to have
“all of the fungus, mold, asbestos, and dusty
ventilation problems cured/fixed by renovation and
discussed in the Court's opinion, memorandum and order
dated August 23, 2019, the Supreme Court has stated that the
“Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons,
” Rhodes v. Chapman, 492 U.S. 337, 349 (1981),
and that only “extreme deprivations” that deny
“the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities are sufficiently grave to form the basis”
of a § 1983 conditions-of-confinement claim. Hudson
v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9 (1992). “Although the
Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, inmates
are entitled to reasonably adequate sanitation, personal
hygiene, and laundry privileges, particularly over a lengthy
course of time.” Whitnack v. Douglas Cty., 16
F.3d 954, 957 (8th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation and
citations omitted). “Conditions of confinement,
however, constitute cruel and unusual punishment ‘only
when they have a mutually enforcing effect that produces the
deprivation of a single, identifiable human need such as
food, warmth, or exercise.'” Id. (quoting
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 304- 05 (1991)).
“Nothing so amorphous as ‘overall conditions'
can rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment when no
specific deprivation of a single human need exists.”
Id. (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 305).
“Conditions, such as a filthy cell, may be
‘tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for
weeks or months.'” Howard v. Adkison, 887
F.2d 134, 137 (8th Cir. 1989) (quoting Hutto v.
Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 687 (1978)).
construing plaintiff's complaint, and taking all facts
alleged as true, the Court finds that plaintiff has stated an
unconstitutional conditions-of-confinement claim arising out
of the alleged black mold, fungus, asbestos, dust, inadequate
cleaning, flooding, raw sewage, and vermin at MCC since 2016.
The Court will order the Clerk to serve process on defendants
Dean Minor, Mark Trusty, and Samantha Licht, each of whom
work at MCC, in their individual capacities.
Court will dismiss, however, defendant Ryan Crews, Deputy
Division Director of MoDOC. Plaintiff's complaint fails
to adequately allege facts showing how defendant Crews was
personally aware of and disregarded a substantial risk to
plaintiff's health or safety. Although Crews reviewed
plaintiff's grievance appeal, this is not sufficient to
create liability. “Liability under § 1983 requires
a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the
deprivation of rights.” Madewell v. Roberts,
909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see also Martin v.
Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (stating
that a § 1983 claim was not cognizable where plaintiff
failed to allege that defendant was personally involved in or
directly responsible for incident that injured him).
Plaintiff's complaint does not demonstrate this causal
link as to defendant Crews. Rather, plaintiff relies on the
supervisory or administrative positions of Crews to assert
liability, which is inadequate to state a claim. See
Rogers v. King, 885 F.3d 1118, 1122 (8th Cir. 2018)
(stating that government officials may not be held liable for
unconstitutional conduct under a theory of respondeat
the Court will dismiss plaintiffs claims brought against
defendants in their official capacities. Naming a government
official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of
naming the government entity that employs the official, in
this case the State of Missouri. Will v. Michigan
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).
“[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their
official capacity are ‘persons' under §
1983.” Id. As a result, the complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted against
defendants in their official capacities.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Clerk of Court
shall issue process or cause process to issue upon the
amended complaint, pursuant to the service agreement the
Court maintains with the Missouri Attorney General's
Office, as to defendants Dean Minor (Warden, MCC), Mark
Trusty (FUM, MCC), and Samantha Licht (Case Manager, MCC) in
their individual capacities.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that the complaint against
defendant Ryan Crews (Deputy Division Director, MoDOC) is
DISMISSED without prejudice.
IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff s claims brought
against defendants in their official capacities ...