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Taylor v. Jones

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Pensacola Division

July 9, 2019

LARRY JAMES TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER JONES and OFFICER SWANSON, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HOPE THAI CANNON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Larry James Taylor (“Taylor”), a prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter is before the Court on Defendants Officer Jerry D. Jones and Lieutenant Michael Swanson's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF Doc. 16).[1] The motion has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2(C). Having reviewed the motion and applicable law, the undersigned recommends the motion be granted and Taylor's claims be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS[2]

         Taylor alleges he was arrested on August 21, 2016, and transported to a hospital. After he was released from the hospital, he was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail, where he was placed in medical holding for a swollen shoulder and bruised shoulder and knees. ECF Doc. 1 at 5. While in medical holding, Taylor was called for a legal visit. When the visit ended, Taylor requested that Officer Jones escort him back to medical holding because his “abraiseon [sic] and hands were bleeding again. Even [his] fingernails were bleeding.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5.

         Officer Jones told Taylor to wait, which Taylor did until he “couldn't bear the pain, ” at which point Taylor “got [Officer Jones'] attention and asked again.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Taylor does not state in the complaint what he did to get Officer Jones's attention.[3] Taylor next alleges that Officer Jones “came into the cell and grabbed [Taylor] by the collar and told [Taylor he was] going to wait until [Officer Jones] was ready.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Taylor informed Officer Jones that his shoulder hurt badly and again requested to be returned to medical holding. When Officer Jones did not do as Taylor had requested, Taylor “hit the door asking to go to medical again.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5.

         After Taylor “hit the door, ” Officer Jones “grabbed [him] by [the] (left) swollen shoulder and dragged [him] by that arm to medical holding.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Taylor claims he begged Officer Jones to grab him by his right arm and that it “hurt so bad [he] had tears in [his] eyes.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Taylor alleges Officer Jones “knew it hurt and intentionally wanted to hurt [him] by dragging that arm (left).” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. When they arrived at medical holding, Taylor avers, Officer Jones threw him into the cell and picked him up with both hands by the collar and said he would “break [his] face in.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Taylor was “very scared and didn't know what to do.” ECF Doc. 1 at 5. Taylor does not allege Officer Jones took any additional action towards him after that statement was made.

         Taylor says he “wrote” at least ten (10) grievances “soon after they released [him] from medical holding.” ECF Doc. 1 at 6. After the alleged incident, Taylor spoke to Lieutenant Swanson, who indicated he would look into the matter and that Taylor would be allowed to speak to a captain about what happened. Taylor alleges he was never allowed to speak to a captain and Lieutenant Swanson later told him to “leave the situation alone or [he] would get in trouble.” ECF Doc. 1 at 6.

         Taylor's complaint identifies the following claims: (1) assault, verbal assault and battery against Officer Jones; (2) excessive force - “dragging me and jerking me up by collar” - against Officer Jones and (3) abuse of authority by Officer Jones and Lieutenant Swanson for “not helping him.” ECF Doc. 1 at 7. As relief, Taylor seeks “medical help with [his] left shoulder and “justice.” Based on a liberal reading of the complaint, the undersigned will treat Taylor's excessive force and abuse of authority claims as seeking to state a claim for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court reads a pro se plaintiff's allegations in a liberal fashion, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), accepts all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and evaluates all reasonable inferences derived from those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hunnings v. Texaco, Inc., 29 F.3d 1480, 1484 (11th Cir. 1994). However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” See Chandler v. Sec'y of Fla. Dep't of Transp., 695 F.3d 1194, 1199 (11th Cir. 2012). Indeed, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Boyd v. Warden, Holman Correctional Facility, 856 F.3d 853, 864 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Thus, only well- pleaded factual allegations are taken as true and only reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Oladeinde v. City of Birmingham, 963 F.2d 1481, 1485 (11th Cir. 1992).

         III. DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

         Defendants have moved to dismiss Taylor's complaint on three (3) grounds. First, Defendants contend the complaint fails to meet the minimal pleading standards required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Second, Defendants argue Taylor failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Third, Defendants argue they are immune from liability. Defendants also seek dismissal of the state law claims for failure to comply with Florida's pre-suit requirements and, further, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         A. Failure to Comply with Pleading Standards

         Defendants argue Taylor's complaint should be dismissed for failure to meet minimum pleading standards, as a result of which they contend they cannot meaningfully respond to Taylor's allegations. Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a plaintiff to state his claims in “numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances, ” the undersigned is also cognizant that a pro se complaint is to be liberally construed. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(a) and (b); See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (“A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'”)).

         Although Taylor, in fact, failed to comply with the pleading standards, the undersigned finds that such failure does not prevent Defendants from meaningfully responding to the complaint. Indeed, Taylor's complaint contains a “short and plain statement of the claim, ” and any generalized or conclusory allegations contained therein go to whether Taylor has stated a cause of action, not whether he has failed to meet the pleading standards. Accordingly, the undersigned declines to recommend dismissal based on failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

         B. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Defendants argue Taylor's complaint must be dismissed because Taylor failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Specifically, Defendants argue Taylor failed to submit his grievances within seven (7) days of the alleged incident as required by the ...


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