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Fernando Millsap v. Matthew Cate

September 10, 2012

FERNANDO MILLSAP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER

Plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This proceeding was referred to this court by Local Rule 302 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint. Dckt. No. 35.

I. Background

On July 28, 2010, plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that defendants had violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with a safe method of accessing the upper bunk to which he was assigned. Dckt. No. 1. Plaintiff claimed that on November 16, 2009, he was injured when the stool that he was using to access the upper bunk collapsed underneath him. Id. On October 21, 2010, the court screened plaintiff's complaint pursuant to § 1915A, and determined that plaintiff had stated a cognizable claim for relief against all defendants. Dckt. No. 7.

Thereafter, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Dckt. No. 17. The undersigned recommended that defendants' motion be denied, finding that plaintiff's allegations were adequate to state an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim based upon the structural design of the cell, and also finding that defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. Dckt No. 22.

On March 27, 2012, however, the district judge declined to adopt those findings. Dckt. No. 32. The district judge determined that plaintiff's "structural design" claim "boil[ed] down to Defendants' alleged failure to install ladders or other 'safety apparatus' to assist Plaintiff and other inmates in getting on and off upper bunks." Id. at 9. The district judge, citing to numerous district court cases for support, concluded that "Defendants' alleged failure to provide Plaintiff and other inmates with 'safety apparatus' to access top bunks does not violate 'contemporary standards of decency' to amount to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment." See id. at 11 (noting that plaintiff failed to present any facts to demonstrate otherwise or to suggest that he had any difficulties getting on and off the top bunk until the alleged incident).

The district judge also determined that defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable officer would not "would believe that his decision to refuse Plaintiff's request for a ladder or other 'safety apparatus' was in violation of Plaintiff's clearly established constitutional right." Id. at 14. The district judge therefore granted defendants' motion to dismiss and granted plaintiff leave to amend. Id. at 15. Now before the court is plaintiff's amended complaint. Dckt. No. 35.

II. Summary of Allegations in Amended Complaint (Dckt. No. 35)

Like the original complaint, the amended complaint alleges that plaintiff was injured when the stool he was using to access the upper bunk snapped off from the wall. It also alleges that plaintiff suffers from chronic neuropathy in his left arm and that because of this disability, he had a "medically necessary lower bunk designation" in his file. According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendants were aware that the stools "had the tendency to break off from the wall mount[s], due to the numerous occurrences where they have broken off and caused injuries." Dckt. No. 35 at 4. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Baker violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that defendants Virga, Walker, and Albee also violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 7.

III. Screening Requirement and Standards

Federal courts must engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners seek redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint "is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted," or "seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Id. § 1915A(b).

In order to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions," "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-557 (2007). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief has facial plausibility. 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." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. When considering whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept the allegations as true, Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S. Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007), and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974).

A pro se plaintiff must satisfy the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8(a)(2) "requires a complaint to include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. ...


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