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Betancourt v. Director of Dept. of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

April 4, 2017

EDIL C. BETANCOURT, Plaintiff,
v.
DIRECTOR OF DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, OFFICER FRANCO, OFFICER NIEVES, C. MUNIZ, OSCEOLA COUNTY OF CORRECTIONS, OSCEOLA COUNTY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, OSCEOLA COUNTY MAINTENANCE, JAMIE DOW and H. JOHN DOW, Defendants.

          ORDER

          ROY B. DALTON JR. United States District Judge

         This case is before the Court on the following matters:

         1. Plaintiff has filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 24) within the time provided in the Court's February 22, 2017 Order (Doc. 23) granting in part Plaintiff's motion to reconsider the dismissal of this case. Therefore, the Order of Dismissal without Prejudice (Doc. 10) and Judgment (Doc. 11) are VACATED.

         2. The Clerk of Court is directed to reopen this case.

         3. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 24) fails to set forth his claims adequately and fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted as to some claims. Consequently, as discussed infra, the Court will dismiss those claims on which Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and provide Plaintiff a final opportunity to amend his complaint in accordance with this Order.

         First, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Osceola County of Corrections, Osceola County Maintenance, and the Director of DOC negligently installed the handicap shower seat that caused him to fall and injure his right leg. (Id. at 8, 10-12, 17). Plaintiff further generally asserts that all Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the unsafe condition in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at 15).

         To establish an Eighth Amendment violation based on prison conditions, a prisoner must demonstrate two components. Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004). A prisoner must first prove an “objective component, ” namely that the condition he complains of is sufficiently serious to violate the Eighth Amendment. Id. (citing Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). “The challenged condition must be ‘extreme.'” Id. (quoting Hudson, 503 U.S. at 9). At a minimum, the prisoner must “show that a condition of his confinement pose[s] an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his future health' or safety.” Id. (quoting Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 35 (1993)). Furthermore,

the Eighth Amendment requires more than a scientific and statistical inquiry into the seriousness of the potential harm and the likelihood that such injury to health will actually be caused by exposure to [the challenged condition of confinement]. It also requires a court to assess whether society considers the risk that the prisoner complains of to be so grave that it violates contemporary standards of decency to expose anyone unwillingly to such a risk. In other words, the prisoner must show that the risk of which he complains is not one that today's society chooses to tolerate.

Helling, 509 U.S. at 36. The second part of the analysis involves a “subjective component:”

[T]he prisoner must show that the defendant prison officials “acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind” with regard to the condition at issue. Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8, 112 S.Ct. at 999 (marks and citation omitted). The proper standard is that of deliberate indifference. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303, 111 S.Ct. 2321, 2327, 115 L.Ed.2d 271 (1991). Negligence does not suffice to satisfy this standard, id. at 305, 111 S.Ct. at 2328, but a prisoner need not show that the prison official acted with “the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm [would] result, ” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 835, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 1978, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994).

Chandler, 379 F.3d at 1289. Therefore, the subjective component “requires a prisoner to prove the prison official acted with ‘deliberate indifference' in disregarding that risk by showing that an official knew the inmate faced a ‘substantial risk of serious harm' and with such knowledge, disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.” Trantham v. Thomas, No. 2:12-CV-118-TMH, 2014 WL 4386437, at *5 (M.D. Ala. Aug. 4, 2014) (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, 837).

         Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment premised on the negligent/improper installation and maintenance of a handicap shower seat. Plaintiff has not demonstrated that Defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Pursuant to Plaintiff's own allegations, Defendants merely were negligent in the installation and maintenance of the shower seat. Negligence does not qualify as deliberate indifference. Furthermore, Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendants knew he faced a serious risk of harm from the shower seat and disregarded that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to repair it. Consequently, Plaintiff may not proceed on this claim, and it is dismissed.

         In addition, to bring a viable § 1983 action, the defendant must be an entity subject to being sued. Dean v. Barber, 951 F.2d 1210, 1214 (11th Cir. 1992). The capacity of a governmental corporation to be sued in federal court is governed by the law of the state in which the district court is located. Dean, 951 F.2d at 1214. A correctional facility or jail is not a proper defendant in a case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Lewers v. Pinnellas County Jail, No. 8:09-cv-572-T-30TBM, 2009 WL 3053702, * 3 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 18, 2009) (“[C]ounty jails are not legal entities amenable to suit.”). Therefore, the Osceola County of Corrections must be dismissed with prejudice as a defendant pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). See Marsden v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 856 F.Supp. 832, 836 (S.D.N.Y. 1994); Barber, 951 F.2d at 1214 (noting that sheriff's departments and police departments are not legal entities subject to suit under § 1983).

         Likewise, the Osceola County Medical Department and Osceola County Maintenance are part of the Osceola County Corrections Department and are not legal entities capable of being sued under § 1983. See, e.g., Hooten v. Fowlkes, No. 5:11-CV-115-CAR-CHW, 2011 WL 3629008, at *1 (M.D. Ga. Aug. 17, 2011) (“A prisons medical department is not a person or an entity subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.”); Murphy v. Clarke County Jail, No. 09-0660-WS-C, 2010 WL 1487872, at * 2 (S.D. Ala. 2010) (recognizing that the Clarke County Jail's “Nurses Department (or medical staff)” and “Correction Officers” were not entities subject to being sued, nor are they are “persons” for § 1983 purposes); Simrin v. Correctional Med. Servs., No. Civ. 05-2223 RBK, 2006 WL 469677, at *3-*4 (D.N.J. 2006) (collecting cases holding that a ...


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