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Kornagay v. Diedeman

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

October 28, 2019



          MARCIA MORALES HOWARD, United Slates District Judge

         I. Status

         Plaintiff Robert D. Kornagay, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on July 12, 2017, by filing a pro se Civil Rights Complaint (Doc. 1). Kornagay, with the benefit of counsel, filed an Amended Complaint (AC; Doc. 44) on February 20, 2019. In the AC, Kornagay asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Thomas Diedeman, Jeremy Wilburn, and Inspector Peter Lindboe. He states that Defendants Diedeman and Wilburn violated his Eighth Amendment right when they failed to protect him from inmate assaults on February 4, 2017, at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI). Additionally, he asserts that Defendants Diedeman, Wilburn, and Lindboe conspired to deprive him of his federal constitutional rights. As relief, Kornagay seeks compensatory, punitive and nominal damages as well as reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Lindboe's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Motion; Doc. 65). He submitted exhibits in support of the Motion. See Def. Exs., Docs. 65-1 through 65-2.[1] The Court advised Kornagay 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. 5). Kornagay filed a response in opposition to the Motion. See Response to Defendant Lindboe's Motion to Dismiss (Response; Doc. 66). Thus, Defendant's Motion is ripe for review.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations[2]

         Kornagay asserts that Diedeman and Wilburn failed to protect him when they (1) exposed him to inmates Avants and Daniels' attacks without any effort to help or call for backup; (2) permitted Avants and Daniels to “freely” enter and exit the wing during the attack; (3) “groomed” Avants to do “illicit favors” for officers, and permitted him to “move freely” and enter the officers' station; (4) failed to do “cell checks or counts” for at least a two-hour period, thus “signaling” to inmates that they could do as they pleased; and (5) “popped” open cell doors at sites where Kornagay tried to hide, thus repeatedly exposing him to his “armed attackers.” AC at 7. As to the underlying facts, Kornagay states that inmates Avants and Daniels, who were armed with homemade knives, attacked him on February 4, 2017. See id. at 2. He maintains that Defendants Diedeman and Wilburn “watched and cheered” the fight from the officers' station, and neither called for back-up assistance nor ordered the assailants to disarm and surrender. See id. at 2-3.

         Next, Kornagay asserts that Defendants Diedeman, Wilburn, and Lindboe conspired when they agreed to (1) aid each other in committing and concealing wrongful acts; (2) coordinate and facilitate the attacks on Kornagay; (3) destroy evidence of Diedeman's extortion efforts; (4) not intervene in officers and inmates' harmful acts towards him; (5) delay the disclosure of pertinent facts to investigators; and (6) hide, destroy, and alter evidence. Id. at 7-8. According to Kornagay, Sergeant Lunsford reviewed the dormitory's surveillance video on February 4th and observed Kornagay, Avants, and Daniels in a physical altercation. See id. at 4. He avers that the incident was reported to the Office of the Inspector General and assigned to Defendant Lindboe on February 6th. See id. Kornagay states that he called the TIPS line on February 27th and asked for review of the video recording. See id. at 3. He asserts that the case was “upgraded” to a criminal investigation on March 2, 2017. See id. at 4. According to Kornagay, Lindboe described in his “report” what had transpired among the inmates and reported that “due to size limitations the video could not be loaded into IGIIS but []a copy will be maintained in the case file with another copy sent to the Regional Evidence Control Area.” Id. at 4-5. He avers that Lindboe noted there were administrative violations, such as lack of security checks and counts. See id. at 5. Kornagay maintains that when Inspector Jason Vann took over Lindboe's investigation on August 14, 2017, the video recording had disappeared. See id. He asserts that Lindboe destroyed the video recording and conspired with Diedeman and Avants to cover up Diedeman's extortion and failure to protect. See id.

         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.” 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)[3](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).

         IV. Summary of the Arguments

         In the Motion, Defendant Lindboe requests dismissal of Kornagay's claims against him because Kornagay 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. See Motion at 2-7. In his Response, Kornagay asserts that he “fully exhausted” his administrative remedies prior to filing the lawsuit. Response at 4.

         V. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         A. PLRA Exhaustion

         The PLRA requires an inmate wishing to challenge prison conditions to first exhaust all available administrative remedies before filing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). Nevertheless, a prisoner such as Kornagay is not required to plead exhaustion. See Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 216 (2007). Instead, the United States Supreme Court has recognized “failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense under the PLRA[.]” Id. Notably, exhaustion of available administrative remedies is “a precondition to an adjudication on the merits” and is mandatory under the PLRA. Bryantv. Rich, 530 F.3d 1368, 1374 ...

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