United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Panama City Division
ORDER DISMISSING THE AMENDED COMPLAINT IN
L. Hinkle, United States District Judge
amended complaint signed under penalty of perjury, the
plaintiff Garry Alan Ulland alleges that while detained in
the Bay County Jail awaiting trial on state charges, he
suffered medical conditions eventually including a severe
staphylococcus infection. He alleges he was seen by the
defendant Dr. Lippman, who was deliberately indifferent to
his condition, refusing to provide any treatment at all for a
significant period. Mr. Ulland alleges that as a result, he
suffered substantial, permanent liver damage. Mr. Ulland
asserts a claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He
names as defendants not only Dr. Lippman but also, in their
individual and official capacities, both the Sheriff
responsible for operating the jail and the Secretary of the
Florida Department of Corrections. Mr. Ulland was
incarcerated in the Department of Corrections after he was
convicted on the state charges.
amended complaint has not been served on the defendants but
has instead been screened by the magistrate judge under 28
U.S.C. § 1915A. The magistrate judge's report and
recommendation concludes the amended complaint should be
dismissed for failure to state a claim on which relief can be
granted. Mr. Ulland has filed objections. I have reviewed de
novo the issues raised by the objections.
doctor who is assigned to treat a prisoner violates the
Eighth Amendment when the doctor is deliberately indifferent
to a serious medical need. See, e.g., Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976) (holding that a correctional
official violates the Eighth Amendment when the official is
deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical
need). The same standard applies under the Fourteenth
Amendment to a detainee. An employing entity-including, for
example, a sheriff who operates a county jail-can be held
liable if the deliberate indifference stems from the
entity's custom or policy. See, e.g., Monell
v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978)
(holding that an employing entity is liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for an official's constitutional violation
only if the violation was based on the entity's policy or
custom or if the official is one whose edicts or acts may
fairly be said to represent official policy).
report and recommendation concludes that Dr. Lippman was at
most negligent-in effect, that Mr. Ulland's allegation
that Dr. Lippman was deliberately indifferent is incorrect.
That is probably right. But a complaint cannot
properly be dismissed just because a court concludes that the
plaintiff's allegations are probably incorrect.
to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a plaintiff
need only plead “factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). For this purpose, a
complaint's factual allegations, though not its legal
conclusions, must be accepted as true. Id.; see
also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). A complaint must include “allegations plausibly
suggesting (not merely consistent with)” the
plaintiff's entitlement to relief. Id. at 557.
The complaint must set out facts-not mere labels or
conclusions-that “render plaintiffs' entitlement to
relief plausible.” Id. at 569 n.14.
screening, like a motion to dismiss, is not the vehicle by
which the truth of a plaintiff's factual allegations
should be judged. Instead, it remains true, after
Twombly and Iqbal as before, that
“federal courts and litigants must rely on summary
judgment and control of discovery to weed out unmeritorious
claims sooner rather than later.” Leatherman v.
Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination
Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168-69 (1993).
cannot know, based only on the allegations of the complaint,
whether Mr. Ulland had a serious medical need and, if so,
whether Dr. Lippman (1) provided proper care or (2) was
merely negligent or (3) was deliberately indifferent to a
serious medical need. The allegation of deliberate
indifference is not implausible. Prison doctors deal with a
high volume of patients in difficult circumstances. Many
imprisoned or detained patients demand treatment that is
unwarranted. The doctors often provide good care. But
sometimes prison doctors are not only negligent but
deliberately indifferent to serious medical needs. Mr.
Ulland's allegation that that happened here cannot be
rejected based solely on the pleadings. And the allegation
that that happened plausibly suggests, it is not merely
consistent with, Mr. Ulland's entitlement to relief
against Dr. Lippman. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557.
report and recommendation correctly concludes that the
amended complaint does not state a claim against the Sheriff
or the Secretary in either their individual or official
these reasons, IT IS ORDERED:
report and recommendation is accepted in part. The claims
against the Sheriff and Secretary are dismissed. The case is
remanded to the magistrate judge for service of process ...