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Reid v. Polk

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

March 22, 2018

CLIFFORD LEON REID, Plaintiff,
v.
R.L. POLK, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARCIA MORALES HOWARD, JUDGE

         I. Status

         Plaintiff Clifford Leon Reid, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on November 17, 2014, by filing a pro se Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After several amendments, Reid filed his Fifth Amended Complaint (FAC; Doc. 22) with exhibits (P. Ex.) on January 17, 2017. In the FAC, he names the following individuals as Defendants: (1) R.L. Polk, Assistant Warden and a member of the Institutional Classification Team (ICT); (2) J.A. Parrish, Head of Classification and an ICT member; (3) Laurie L. Owens, an ICT member; (4) Michael L. Willis, Acting Warden at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI); (5) Monroe Barnes, CCI Warden; and (6) Sergeant Collins. See FAC; Order (Doc. 37); Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 33). He asserts that the Defendants violated his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they failed to protect him from harm by other inmates. As relief, he seeks a declaration that the Defendants' actions violated the laws and Constitution of the United States. See FAC at 22. Additionally, he requests that the Court direct Defendants Polk and Parrish to grant him permanent protective management status, and transfer him to a Y dormitory cell or bunk that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). See id. He also seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as a speedier release from prison. See id. at 23.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Polk, Parrish, and Willis' Motion to Dismiss (Motion; Doc. 45); Defendant Barnes' Motion to Dismiss (Barnes' Motion; Doc. 58); and Defendant Owens' Motion to Dismiss (Owens' Motion; Doc. 70).[1] The Court advised Reid that granting a motion to dismiss would be an adjudication of the case that could foreclose subsequent litigation on the matter, and gave him an opportunity to respond. See Order (Doc. 23). Plaintiff filed his responses in opposition to the motions. See Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Response; Doc. 55); Response in Opposition to Defendant Barnes' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 63); Response in Opposition to Defendant Owens' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 71). Defendants' motions are ripe for review.

         II. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations set forth in the complaint as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508 n.1 (2002); see also Lotierzo v. Woman's World Med. Ctr., Inc., 278 F.3d 1180, 1182 (11th Cir. 2002). In addition, all reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Omar ex. rel. Cannon v. Lindsey, 334 F.3d 1246, 1247 (11th Cir. 2003) (per curiam). Nonetheless, the plaintiff must still meet some minimal pleading requirements. Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomm., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Indeed, while "[s]pecific facts are not necessary[, ]" the complaint should "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Further, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim that is plausible on its face." 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, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see Miljkovic v. Shafritz & Dinkin, P.A., 791 F.3d 1291, 1297 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation and footnote omitted). A "plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations omitted); see also Jackson, 372 F.3d at 1262 (explaining that "conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal") (internal citation and quotations omitted). Indeed, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions[, ]" which simply "are not entitled to [an] assumption of truth." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 680.

         Thus, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face[.]'" Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         The Eleventh Circuit has stated:

To survive a motion to dismiss, [plaintiff]'s complaint must have set out facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This means he must have alleged "factual content that allow[ed] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant[s] [were] liable for the misconduct." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The allegations must be plausible, but plausibility is not probability. See id.

Lane v. Philbin, 835 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir. 2016).

         III. Fifth Amended Complaint[2]

         Reid asserts that the Defendants failed to protect him from harm and acted with "personal malicious hostility" towards him from the time he arrived at CCI in early March 2011 through September 2012. FAC at 14. He states the Defendants

knowingly and intentionally "used" said state facility with motive and aim of causing Reid's instant death[.] These Defendants regularly refused to provide Reid adequate safety and regularly refused to protect Reid from the predatory group of inmates (gang members and convicted murderers) being housed in B-dormitory and it was this use of said institution that directly gave rise to inmate Hawk's said kicking attack, inmate Otis Williams' said death threat and inmate Cheatham's May 31, 2012 unprovoked and unwant[ed] life jeopardizing kicking attack against Reid . . . .

Id. He asserts that the Defendants made "adverse decisions" when they refused to protect him from the physical violence and threats on the part of the convicted murderers and gang members housed in B dormitory. Id. at 18.

         Reid, who is wheelchair-bound, asserts that on April 18, 2011, inmate Hawk, who was sitting in a wheelchair, kicked Reid's legs. See id. at 6-7. According to Reid, Hawk was purposely blocking the exit from the B dormitory television room, so Reid asked Hawk twice to let him pass. See id. at 7. Reid states that when Hawk neither responded nor moved, he "tapped on the handle" of Hawk's wheelchair and repeated his request to pass. Id. He avers that Hawk then spun to face Reid, called Reid "a bitch, " and launched into kicking Reid's legs several times. Id. Reid maintains that Hawk's unprovoked "kicking attack" caused "serious physical injuries" to his legs, hips, lower back, and neck, worsened his pre-existing spinal and neck injuries, and resulted in pain lasting more than nine weeks. Id. at 8, 9. Reid complains that corrections officers handcuffed and escorted him to confinement without addressing his injuries, but took no corrective action against Hawk. Id. at 8.

         According to Reid, a few days later, he requested permanent housing in Y dormitory, an isolated protective management dormitory at CCI. See id. at 9. He states that the ICT (Defendants Polk, Parrish, and Owens) interviewed him about the circumstances giving rise to his encounter with Hawk and inquired as to why he wanted protection and Y dormitory housing. See id. at 9-10. Reid explained that he needed Y dormitory housing because gang members and convicted murderers in B dormitory knew he had committed a sexual crime against a young child, and therefore, his life was in danger. See id. at 10. Reid avers that he informed the ICT that he believed Hawk would eventually kill him because Hawk had "the total support" of the gang members, convicted murderers, and open population B dormitory security staff who called Reid a "baby raper" and "chomo."[3] Id. at 10-11. Reid states that Defendant Parrish told him staff denied his request for protection and would return him back to open population because the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) had transferred Hawk. See id. at 11.

         On April 18, 2011, Reid submitted a grievance to CCI security staff complaining about Hawk. See id. at 16; P. Ex. 1. He stated in pertinent part:

On 4-18-11 at B dorm wing 2 and in the day room I was dangerously and violently physically attac[k]ed by a psychopathic Negro inmate who sleeps in bunk B-2157s. He's an abled [sic] body inmate who is still allowed a wheelchair. Said inmate attacked me with such physical strength and force as to completely paralyze me or murder me. He kicked (see attachment 2 of 2) my legs and my wheelchair several times, physically injurying [sic] me with leg injuries and neck injuries (i.e. he snapped my neck, my head came forward with such force it caused my neck to jerk as my wheelchair flew backward while said inmate was kicking me (while I was seated in my wheelchair) and my wheelchair[.] This happen[ed] after I returned from lunch. This inmate['s] intent to inflict upon me either of the said known pervasive risk of harm (complete paralyzation or an unconstitutional death) that [is] well known to the Department and to Columbia's medical department; this said inmate has no regards for any human life and has threatened to use the iron removable leg rest of his wheelchair the next time he assaults me and I fear that said assault is imminent.
I'm a fall risk, assault risk wheelchair bound terminally ill inmate who is pervasively known by the Department and its medical department to be a member of an identifiable group of inmates (i.e. weak, vulnerable, powerless inmates who were convicted of sexually abusing a young child) who are frequently targeted by dangerous and violently aggressive prison staff and other inmates who are murderers, gang members, drug dealers, kidnappers, homosexuals with malice aforethought state of minds . . . .
I'm respectfully requesting security to take know[n] reasonable step[s] to protect me and immediately reduce said imminent assault upon me by said inmate who sleeps in bunk B-2157s and that said inmate [is] punished for the assault he has already committed upon me on 4-18-11. . . .

P. Ex. 1 at 1-2 (selected parentheses omitted). The FDOC denied the grievance on April 30, 2011, and stated: "you have been placed into administrative confinement status pending [a] protection investigation." Id. at 1. On May 25, 2011, [4] Reid submitted a request for administrative remedy or appeal to the Warden, stating in pertinent part:

The Department, through various Warden[s] has observe[d] a custom of gross negligence and deliberate indifference to my safety needs since 3/19/08 till [sic] the date of the filing of this formal grievance (i.e. I've made more than 10 request[s] for protection from dangerously violent psychotic gang members and murderers which I reported and requested of various security staffs and wardens and said has resulted in my being house[d] in B-Dorm among said inmates who are a known pervasive risk of serious harm (i.e. complete paral[y]zation or death) constantly and it has resulted in my being dangerously physically assault[ed] by such a[n] inmate, again, on 4/18/11 . . . .

P. Ex. 2 at 1. On June 7, 2011, Defendant Willis responded in pertinent part:

Your request for administrative remedy or appeal has been received and reviewed. It appears that your last request for protection was denied, as well as your appeal to Tallahassee. If you are in fear for your safety you may inform any staff member. There will be no mon[e]tary reimbursement. Based on the foregoing, your request for administrative remedy is denied.

Id. at 2. On June 17, 2011, Reid submitted a request for administrative remedy or appeal to the FDOC Secretary. See FAC at 17; P. Ex. 3. He asserted that the security staff informed "known dangerous murderers, drug dealers, and gang members" that he was convicted of a sexual offense involving a child to create "a known constant pervasive risk of serious harm" and housed him in the same dormitory with the "informed inmates." P. Ex. 3. On June 23, 2011, Reid submitted an informal grievance to the Assistant Warden and complained about Hawk ("a convicted murderer") attacking him in B dormitory. P. Ex. 4 at 1. The classification department denied the grievance on June 27th, and stated in pertinent part:

You are currently serving a life sentence and at the institutional level [we] cannot process your request. You may request a good adjustment transfer if you would like to be close to your family.

Id. Notably, Reid does not assert that he had any contact or interaction with Hawk following the April 18, 2011 incident.

         With respect to the second alleged incident, Reid avers that, on April 25, 2011, inmate Otis Williams woke him, demanded that Reid roll over, and told Reid that he "was making noise." FAC at 12. According to Reid, Williams warned Reid that he would not wake him the next time, but instead would "flip" Reid and his bunk and beat Reid with his cane. Id. Reid states that he feared Williams would kill him if he stayed in B dormitory, and therefore reported the incident to a security officer that same day. See id. at 12-13. He asserts that, on April 30, 2011, the ICT conducted an interview, at which Reid described Williams' threat, maintained that Williams was "motivated" to kill him because of his sexual battery conviction, and explained that numerous gang members, convicted murderers, and corrections officers were "aiming to cause [his] instant death." Id. at 13. According to Reid, Defendants refused to protect him, and returned him to B dormitory, just a few bunks over from Williams. See id. Reid does not assert that Williams has harmed him in any way.

         Reid complained about Williams' alleged threat by using the prison's administrative grievance procedure. On June 13, 2011, he submitted a request for administrative remedy or appeal to the Warden. See P. Ex. 5. In the grievance, he requested protection from inmate Williams and the "victimization" in B dormitory. Id. On June 20th, the FDOC responded in pertinent part:

Your request for administrative remedy or appeal has been received and reviewed. You were previously placed into protection status due to your allegations against inmate Williams, but you were denied PM [(protective management)] status because a threat could not be confirmed and it was felt . . . that you just wanted single cell housing. You have not demonstrated additional threats towards you, only that you fear a dangerous situation could present itself due to the types of inmates that you are housed with. If you again fear for your safety[, ] speak to a staff member with your concerns. At this time you have not demonstrated that you have been victimized. Based on the foregoing, your request for administrative remedy is denied.

Id. at 5; see FAC at 20.

         On June 25, 2011, Reid submitted a request for administrative remedy or appeal to the FDOC Secretary and asserted that inmates (Henderson in 2007, and Hawk and Williams in 2011), corrections officers, and medical staff have assaulted him since 1994. See P. Ex. 6. On July 5, 2011, he submitted a request for administrative remedy or appeal to the Warden and complained that "the class of dangerous inmates" (convicted murderers and gang members) victimized him, and therefore, rehabilitation was unlikely. P. Ex. 7. On July 21st, the FDOC stated in pertinent part:

         Your request for administrative remedy has been received, reviewed and evaluated.

Log # 1107-201-091 In one long run-on sentence you seem to be making an inane argument to either be transferred to another institution or to be released from the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections. Your formal grievance is denied.

Id. at 7. On August 1, 2011, he submitted a request for administrative remedy or appeal to the FDOC Secretary. See P. Ex. 8. In the grievance, he complained about the convicted murderers and gang members and requested that the FDOC remove the "barriers" that could prevent his successful return to society and accordingly not incarcerate him in any prison or correctional institution. Id. at 2.

         With regard to the third alleged attack, Reid asserts that inmate Cheatham, a convicted murderer, kicked Reid's right leg and threatened him on May 31, 2012. See FAC at 14. Reid refers to his exhibits, in which he recited the alleged facts relating to Cheatham's assault and complained about the convicted murderers and gang members in B dormitory. See id. (citing P. Exs. 10; 11; 12; 13); see also P. Ex. 9. In his June 12, 2012 grievance to the Warden, Reid complained about the FDOC's failure to develop an adequate system of due process for his safety needs. See P. Ex. 11.

         On June 21st, Defendant Polk responded, in pertinent part:

Your request for administrative remedy has been received, reviewed ...

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