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Jackson v. Griffith

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

August 12, 2019

TROY JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER GRIFFITH AND SGT. SEAN JOHNSON, Defendants.

          ORDER

          MARCIA MORALES HOWARD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Status

         Plaintiff Troy Jackson, an inmate in the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), initiated this action on October 24, 2014, by filing a Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jackson is proceeding on an Amended Complaint (Amended Complaint; Doc. 12) with exhibits filed on September 4, 2015. In the Amended Complaint, Jackson names as defendants Officer Griffith[1] and Sgt. Sean Johnson (collectively Defendants). Jackson asserts that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. As relief, Jackson seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         On January 19, 2017, Johnson filed a Motion to Dismiss (Motion; Doc. 37), with exhibits (Def. Ex.). In the Motion, Johnson argued that the Amended Complaint should be dismissed because Jackson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. The Court advised Jackson of the provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, notified him that the granting of a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment would represent a final adjudication of this case which may foreclose subsequent litigation on the matter, and gave him an opportunity to respond to the Motion. See Order of Special Appointment; Directing Service of Process upon Defendants; Notice to Plaintiff (Doc. 19.). On March 21, 2017, Jackson filed his response to Johnson's Motion. See Plaintiff's Reply to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Johnson Response; Doc. 53). Griffith then filed a Motion to Adopt Defendant Johnson's Previously Filed Motion to Dismiss (Motion to Adopt; Doc. 56) on April 5, 2017. Jackson did not oppose Griffith's request; instead, he filed a response to the Motion to Adopt in which he presented arguments substantially similar to those he made in opposing Johnson's Motion seeking dismissal on the basis of his alleged failure to exhaust the Johnson Response. See Plaintiff's Reply to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Griffith Response; Doc. 59). As Jackson did not oppose Griffith's request to adopt Johnson's Motion, the Court will GRANT Griffith's motion to adopt in this limited circumstance.[2] In light of the substantial similarity between Jackson's responses to the Motion, the Court will refer to both responses collectively as the Response. Defendants' Motion is ripe for review.

         II. Jackson's Allegations

         In his verified Amended Complaint, [3] Jackson states that:

On March 17, 2014 Plaintiff Troy Jackson, along with Inmate Kenneth Dupree #569262 (hereinafter Dupree), were housed in F-Dormitory, cell F1-103, at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI). At approximately 2330 hrs Plaintiff began suffering a severe asthma attack. Dupree, upon witnessing Plaintiff[‘]s struggle to draw a breath, began kicking and pounding on the cell door in what turned out to be a vain attempt to gain the attention of the Defendants, Officer Griffin, [sic] and Sgt. Johnson in the F Dorm officer's station. Dupree has submitted a sworn affidavit asserting his failure to alert the Defendants (Griffin [sic] and Johnson) and the fact that the Plaintiff (Jackson) was suffering an extreme asthma attack. Inmate Xavier Roberts, housed in cell F1-102 at the time of the incident is also a witness. . . .
From approximately 2330 hrs on March 17, 2014 until 0155 hrs on March 18, 2014, Plaintiff Jackson stood at the window of F1-103 struggling to breathe when he noticed Defendant Griffin [sic] standing outside in front of F Dorm smoking a cigarette. Plaintiff then informed Griffin [sic] that he was having a severe asthma attack and declared a medical emergency.
Defendant Griffin [sic] verified Plaintiff's statement by asking: “you said you're having an asthma attack?” Plaintiff replied “yes.”
Following that verification, Griffin [sic] proceeded to return to the F-Dorm officer's station where he remained, along with Defendant Johnson, effectively ignoring Plaintiff, until 0430 hrs when the cell lights were turned on and the cell doors opened in preparation for the morning meal. Griffin's [sic] refusal to act was also witnessed by Dupree and Roberts.
Defendant Griffin [sic] intentionally refused to act on a declared/known medical emergency violating Plaintiff's right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as with deliberate indifference to the emergency situation at hand.
Upon the cell doors being opened, Plaintiff exited his cell and repeated his request to declare a medical emergency to Defendant Griffin [sic] who then turned to Defendant Johnson, the F Dorm supervisor, and spoke to him.
Following the brief exchange, Sgt. Johnson told Plaintiff: “Just because you're having an asthma attack doesn't mean I have to take you to medical or call medical! /Go back inside and go to medical when they call chow!” (Breakfast).
Defendant Johnson intentionally denied Plaintiff access to emergency medical care, violating Plaintiff's rights, and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, deliberate indifference was shown by Sgt. Johnson's intentional delay/denial of emergency medical care.
At this time, Plaintiff's potentially life-threatening medical emergency had been improperly delayed for approximately five (5) hours and ten (10) minutes, constituting deliberate indifference.
At 0442 hrs Defendant Griffin [sic] told Plaintiff: “When we call chow for the insulin (diabetic) inmates, you can go to medical then.” Defendant Griffin [sic] effectively continued to delay Plaintiff the necessary emergency medical care he desperately needed.
Approximately eighteen (18) minutes later, Plaintiff finally made it to the medical department where he collapsed on a bench in the lobby area and had to be physically assisted to the triage examination room by an officer for the initial medical evaluation.
Upon being examined by the triage nurse, she reported in detail of Plaintiff's “respiratory distress level” (severe), also noting that the Plaintiff's left and right upper and lower chest lobes were tight. The gravity of such a condition prompted a phone call to off-duty physician, Dr. Marcello at around 0505 hrs. Dr. Marcello prescribed the following treatment: he directed the nurse to administer an injection of prednisone; place Jackson on oxygen; give him an I.V.; and to administer breathing treatments every three (3) hours. Plaintiff was subsequently admitted to the infirmary where he remained for approximately thirty-three (33) hours. . . .
Both Defendants knew of Plaintiff's medical condition and did not respond to it in a professional, proper, or reasonable manner. Both Defendants, Griffin [sic] and Johnson, failed to provide the needed access to medical care within a critical period of time, the indifference of which resulted in damages that otherwise would not have occurred had they acted on Plaintiff's initial declaration of a medical emergency and need for emergency treatment in lieu of the over-five-hour delay.

Amended Complaint at 5-8.

         III. 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. See 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 Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705 (11th Cir. 2010). 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 Atlantic 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 pleaded factual content 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).

         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." See 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). And, while "[p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed," Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998), "'this leniency does not give the court a license to serve as de facto counsel for a party or to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action.'" Alford v. Consol. Gov't of Columbus, Ga., 438 Fed.Appx. 837, 839 (11th Cir. 2011)[4] (quoting GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cty. of Escambia, Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998) (internal citation omitted), overruled in part on other grounds as recognized in Randall, 610 F.3d at 706).

         V. Summary of the Arguments

         In the Motion, Defendants request dismissal of Jackson's claims against them because Jackson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), before filing the instant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit. Motion at 1-3. According to Defendants:

Here, perusal of all grievances filed by Plaintiff from March 1, 2014 through July 16, 2014 at the institutional level, and perusal of all grievance appeals filed by Plaintiff which were received at Central Office from March 1, 2014 through July 1, 2014, reveals that Plaintiff did not properly exhaust administrative remedies prior to bringing the instant lawsuit. Plaintiff filed two grievances from March 1, 2014 through July 16, 2014 at the institutional level generally concerning the matters at issue in this case.: log # 1404-201-143 and #1407-201-076. Log # 1404-201-143 was denied. [L]og #1407-201-076 response ...

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