United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
CHARLES A. STAMPELOS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
se Plaintiff filed an amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. ECF No. 40. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant
Fewell falsified a disciplinary report against him in
retaliation for a grievance Plaintiff wrote against her.
Id. As relief, Plaintiff sought nominal damages, but
he expressly stated that the amount should be “more
than a dollar, ” and suggested the “small sum of
nine hundred dollars.” Id. at 14. Plaintiff
also requested that he be awarded “a higher amount of
money, ” and stated that his belief that “thirty
five hundred [dollars] is a fair amount.” Id.
filed a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 43, arguing that
Plaintiff's request for relief must be limited to nominal
damages because Plaintiff did not suffer physical injury.
Id. at 4-6. Defendant requests that Plaintiff be
limited to “nominal damages of $1.00” should
Plaintiff be successful, and that his request for nine
hundred dollars be dismissed. Id. at 6.
has responded to the motion to dismiss and contends that he
has suffered “actual injury” due to
Defendant's retaliatory actions. ECF No. 46. He claims
that because of Defendant's retaliation, his efforts to
pursue a habeas petition were “frustrated and
impeded.” Id. at 2. Plaintiff further argues
that “nine hundred dollars is a small sum of
money.” Id. at 3.
is correct that Plaintiff's relief, should he be
successful, must be limited to nominal damages because of the
bar imposed by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). That statute
provides: “No Federal civil action may be brought by a
prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional
facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in
custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(e). The statute is applicable in this
case as Plaintiff is an incarcerated prisoner who seeks
monetary damages, but has not suffered a physical injury.
Having alleged that he suffered “actual injury, ”
provides a basis for this case, but it does not provide a
basis for compensatory damages. See Harris v.
Garner, 216 F.3d 970, 972 (11th Cir. 2000); Hughes
v. Lott, 350 F.3d 1157, 1162 (11th Cir. 2003). Without
physical injury, Plaintiff's relief is unquestionably
limited to “nominal damages.” The only issue is
what constitutes “nominal” damages?
fairly recent case, the Eleventh Circuit expressed that an
award of “nominal damages” was “a trivial
sum awarded for symbolic, rather than compensatory,
purposes.” Flanigan's Enterprises, Inc. of
Georgia v. City of Sandy Springs, Georgia, 868 F.3d
1248, 1268 (11th Cir. 2017), cert. denied sub nom.
Davenport v. City of Sandy Springs, Ga., 138 S.Ct. 1326
(2018). The amount may vary, from one dollar to one hundred
dollars. Compare Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 116,
113 S.Ct. 566, 576, 121 L.Ed.2d 494 (1992) (O'Connor, J.,
concurring) (stating that plaintiff “obtained an
enforceable judgment for one dollar in nominal damages. One
dollar is not exactly a bonanza, but it constitutes relief on
the merits.”), with KH Outdoor, LLC v. City of
Trussville, 465 F.3d 1256, 1262 (11th Cir. 2006)
(affirming an “award of nominal damages in the amount
of $100”). What is clear is that such an award must be
of a trivial or nominal amount.
trivial to one person may not be trivial to another. Yet,
considering Plaintiff's status as an in forma pauperis
litigant who had a zero balance in his inmate bank account
when this case was filed, see ECF No. 9, the amount
of nominal damages cannot be between nine hundred and
thirty-five hundred dollars. Such an amount would be a
significant award. At this point in the litigation, the Court
need not determine the precise amount Plaintiff should be
awarded should he prevail in this litigation. It is
enough to conclude that Plaintiff is only entitled to an
award of nominal damages which may not exceed one hundred
respectfully RECOMMENDED that
Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's request of
a monetary award of nine hundred dollars or more, ECF No. 43,
be GRANTED, and Plaintiff must necessarily
be limited to “nominal damages” pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(e). ...