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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE

NASHVILLE DIVISION



JAMES H. ROBINSON III and
KENNETH FLETCHER,

Plaintiffs,

v.



CCA MEDICAL STAFF/KITCHEN,
CCA DENTAL STAFF,

Defendants.




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No. 3:13-mc-0060

Judge Campbell

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs James H. Robinson III and Kenneth Fletcher are inmates at the Metro-Davidson County

Detention Facility in Nashville, Tennessee. The Court has granted the plaintiffs leave to proceed in forma

pauperis. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the Court is required to dismiss any in forma

pauperis complaint or prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to

state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such

relief. 28 U.S.C. '' 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. ' 1997e(c). The Court must read a pro se plaintiff=s

complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept the plaintiff=s allegations as

true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).

Based on these standards, the plaintiffs= present action will be dismissed for failure to state a claim.

I.

Standard of Review

The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), Agoverns

dismissals for failure to state a claim under [the PLRA] because the relevant statutory language tracks the

language in Rule 12(b)(6).@ Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470B71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive scrutiny on

initial review, Aa complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to >state a claim to relief

that is plausible on its face.=@ Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). AA 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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

Case 3:13-cv-01024 Document 9 Filed 09/20/13 Page 1 of 5 PageID #: 38

II.

Factual Allegations

In the complaint in this action, the lead plaintiff, James Robinson, alleges that on April 9, 2013, he put

pasta salad served for lunch in his own bowl with a lid to save for later. Around 3:00 that afternoon, he was

eating his pasta salad in his cell. Robinson alleges that while eating the pasta salad, he Aalmost swallowed this

piece of sharp metal.@ (ECF No. 1, at 5.) He asserts that he Acould have died or really gotten hurt.@ (Id.) He

claims that the metal scraped the top of his gums and damaged some dental work, and that the injury

continues to cause discomfort. He spit out the metal object immediately, and reported the event to Corrections

Officer Vaughan and to his counselor, Ms. Taylor. Kenneth Fletcher, Robinson=s cellmate, was present and

witnessed the incident.

Robinson states he put in a request for medical attention the same day, April 9, 2013, through Ms.

Taylor, but was not called to medical until April 17. Robinson states he was Amad because it took them a long

time@ so he refused a medical examination. He has not requested further medical or dental attention. He

states, APlus I did not have three dollars to give them.@ (Id.) In addition to the request for medical attention, he

submitted two informal grievances, two grievances, and an inmate request form to the warden, who denied his

grievance after meeting with the plaintiff on June 5, 2013. (Id.)

For relief, Robinson seeks Adental work . . . form an outside source@ and for CCA, which operates the

Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility, to pay for any dental work Abecause of their carelessness.@ (Id.)

The complaint is signed by both Robinson and Fletcher. The named defendants are ACCA Medical

Staff/Kitchen,@ and ACCA Dental Staff.@

III.

Discussion

The plaintiffs bring suit under 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. Section 1983 confers a private federal right of action

against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or

immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Burnett v. Grattan, 468 U.S. 42, 44 n.3 (1984); Stack v.

Killian, 96 F.3d 159, 161 (6th Cir. 1996). Thus, to state a ' 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1)

a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that Athe deprivation

was caused by a person acting under color of state law.@ Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F. 3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003)

(citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. ' 1983.

As an initial matter, it is clear that plaintiff Kenneth Fletcher does not allege the violation of any rights.

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He does not allege any involvement in the event alleged in the complaint, except that he apparently witnessed

it. In entering an initial deficiency order in this case, the Court noted that it was unclear whether Fletcher

intended to join the action as a plaintiff, because he appeared only to be a witness. The Court gave Fletcher

the opportunity to opt out by instructing him to inform the Court if he was merely a witness and did not intend

to join the action. Instead, Fletcher submitted his own application to proceed in forma pauperis, indicating his

affirmative desire to join this action. Regardless, because Fletcher does not allege that he himself suffered any

violation of his rights, his claims in this matter must be dismissed for failure to state a claim for which relief

may be granted.

As for Robinson, he alleges that he cut his mouth on a piece of metal found on one occasion in his

food. He sought medical treatment, but then refused to take a sick call because he was angry about not

having received medical attention sooner. He claims he needs dental work, but he does not remotely allege

how having cut his gum affected his dental work. Moreover, he refused treatment when given the opportunity,

and never sought treatment after the initial refusal. Based on these allegations, it appears the plaintiff=s claim

has three components: (1) a claim against CCA on the basis that CCA was negligent in failing to ensure the

safety and wholesomeness of his food; (2) a claim based on CCA medical staff=s failure to provide prompt

medical care after the plaintiff encountered a piece of metal in his food; and (3) a claim that he is being denied

dental care.

The Court presumes that the plaintiff intends to bring suit for violation of his rights under the Eighth

Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Eighth Amendment, by its terms, prohibits the infliction of

cruel and unusual punishment against those convicted of crimes. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. In its application by

the courts, the Eighth Amendment actually protects a wide assortment of interests, and has been specifically

construed to prohibit the Aunnecessary and wanton infliction of pain,@ Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173

(1976) (plurality opinion), and conduct repugnant to Aevolving standards of decency,@ Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S.

86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion). The amendment imposes affirmative duties on prison officials to Aassume

some responsibility for [each prisoner=s] safety and general well-being,@ and to Aprovide for his basic human

needs,@ including medical care. DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep=t of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199B200

(1989).

The Supreme Court has also confirmed, however, that mere negligence or carelessness on the part of

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prison officials, for instance, the accidental or inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care to a

prisoner, would not violate the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103B04 (1976). Instead,

only the Adeliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of prisoners@ violates the Eighth Amendment,

because it constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain contrary to contemporary standards of

decency. Id. at 104.

Under this analysis, what constitutes Aunnecessary and wanton infliction of pain@ will vary depending

on the nature of the alleged constitutional violation, but the Supreme Court has clarified that the question in

this context involves both a subjective and an objective component: The objective prong asks whether the

harm inflicted by the prison official=s conduct is sufficiently Aserious@ to warrant Eighth Amendment protection.

Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8B9 (1992). The objective component is contextually driven and is responsive

to A>contemporary standards of decency.=@ Id. at 8 (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103). The subjective

component requires an inmate to show that prison officials have Aa sufficiently culpable state of mind in

denying medical care.@ Brown v. Bargery, 207 F.3d 863, 867 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511

U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). Again, deliberate indifference Aentails something more than mere negligence,@ Farmer,

511 U.S. at 835, but it can be demonstrated Aby something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of

causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result.@ Id. Under Farmer, Athe official must both be aware of

facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also

draw the inference.@ Id. at 837.

Based on these principles, the Court finds, first, that Robinson fails to state a claim against CCA

kitchen staff based on one instance of finding a small piece of metal in his food. He does not allege that this is

a regular occurrence, and he apparently concedes that the event was the result of carelessness or negligence.

He has not alleged facts suggesting deliberate indifference on the part of CCA itself or CCA=s kitchen staff.

Second, the Court finds that the injury at issue, for which the plaintiff refused medical treatment one

week after incurring the injury, was not sufficiently serious to warrant Eighth Amendment protection. He

indicates that his gum was scraped, but he does not allege that the wound bled profusely or that the wound

failed to heal properly after a week without treatment.

And third, although the plaintiff claims that the piece of metal damaged dental work, he does not state

how a scrape on his gum damaged Adental work,@ nor does he even specify what type of dental work he

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believes he needs. Moreover, the plaintiff does not allege that he ever sought and was then denied dental

treatment at the prison. The Court therefore finds, with respect to this claim, that the complaint does not

contain sufficient factual content to state a claim that is plausible on its face, or to allow the Court reasonably

to draw the inference that the named defendants are liable for any misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

IV.

Conclusion

For the reasons set forth herein, the complaint will be dismissed in its entirety. An appropriate order is

filed herewith.














Todd Campbell
United States District Judge











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