IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JAMES H. ROBINSON III and
CCA MEDICAL STAFF/KITCHEN,
CCA DENTAL STAFF,
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.
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)[email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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
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 [email protected]
(ECF No. 1, at 5.) He asserts that he Acould have died or really gotten [email protected]
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
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 [email protected]
(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 [email protected]
and for CCA, which operates the
Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility, to pay for any dental work Abecause of their [email protected]
The complaint is signed by both Robinson and Fletcher. The named defendants are ACCA Medical
Staff/Kitchen,@ and ACCA Dental [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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
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
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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 [email protected]
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.
For the reasons set forth herein, the complaint will be dismissed in its entirety. An appropriate order is
United States District Judge
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