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Logan v. Hall

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

November 18, 2019

WILLIAM HALL, et al., Defendants.



         I. Status

         Plaintiff James Alexander Logan, an inmate of the Florida penal system, initiated this action on November 15, 2018, by filing a pro se Civil Rights Complaint (Complaint; Doc. 1) with exhibits (Doc. 1-1).[1] In the Complaint, Logan asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants William Hall, Michael Epperly, Hoss Shook, Patrick Williams, Charles Allen, Christopher Cole, Colin Williams, John M. Palmer, Troy Brady, and Francis D. Ong, M.D. He alleges that Defendants Shook, P. Williams, Allen, Cole, and C. Williams violated his Eighth Amendment right when they used excessive force against him during a May 13, 2016 cell extraction that Defendant Palmer authorized. He asserts that Defendants Hall and Epperly failed to intervene to stop the cell extraction, and Defendant Brady falsified documents to cover up the wrongdoing. Logan also alleges that Defendant Ong was deliberately indifferent to his post-use-of-force medical needs, specifically a hand injury. As relief, he requests monetary and injunctive relief.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Ong's Motion to Dismiss (Motion; Doc. 45). The Court advised Logan 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). Logan filed a response in opposition to the Motion. See Response in Opposition (Response; Doc. 50). Thus, Defendant's Motion is ripe for review.

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations[2]

         Logan asserts that a cell extraction team assaulted him on May 13, 2016, which resulted in hand and head injuries. See Complaint at 7, 12. According to Logan, Defendant Ong's May 14th “inadequate surgery” caused disfigurement of Logan's left hand. Id. at 17. He explains Ong's alleged deliberate indifference as follows:

I contend even after my left hand pinkie got broken at FSP [(Florida State Prison)] from the extraction on May 13, 2016, I was still able to bend my left hand an[d] make a close[d] fist. I contend since [D]octor Ong did his surgery on my left hand an[d] now I cannot make a fist nor bend my left hand nor pinkie finger and I told [D]octor Ong on 8-31-16 at RMC [(Reception and Medical Center)] that my nerves are damaged in my left hand due to his inadequate[] surgery which left me with a lifetime injury. I contend that [D]octor Ong violated [the] 8th [Amendment of the] U.S. Constitution with deliberate[] indifference due to the fact his action greatly injur[ed] me by disfigurement[.] [M]y left hand and pinkie finger which got my hand not able to bend nor make a close[d] fist nor my pinkie can bend due to his inadequate[] surgery dated 5-14-16[.] I need to see another new hand specialist to fix my hand an[d] nerves.

Id. at 13 (parentheticals omitted).

         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).

         A court considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Rule(s)), is generally limited to the facts contained in the operative complaint and any attached exhibits, including documents referred to in the complaint that are central to the plaintiff's claims. See Wilchombe v. TeeVee Toons, Inc., 555 F.3d 949, 959 (11th Cir. 2009). Nevertheless, when reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a document outside the four corners of the complaint may still be considered if it is central to the plaintiff's claims and is undisputed in terms of authenticity.” Maxcess, Inc. v. Lucent Techs., Inc., 433 F.3d 1337, 1340 n.3 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1135 (11th Cir. 2002)); Day v. Taylor, 400 F.3d 1272, 1275-76 (11th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted).

         IV. Summary of the Arguments

         In the Motion, Defendant Ong requests dismissal of Logan's medical malpractice claim because he failed to comply with Florida's pre-suit requirements under Florida Statutes section 766. See Motion at 5-8. Next, Defendant argues that Logan fails to state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against him, see id. at 8-13, and he is entitled to qualified immunity, see id. at 13-16. He also asserts that Logan is “unquestionably a three-strikes offender, ” id. at 17, and urges the Court to dismiss the action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) because Logan has had three prior qualifying dismissals and does not meet the imminent danger exception to dismissal, see id. at 16-17. In his Response, Logan asserts that he is not subject to Florida's pre-suit requirements. See Response at 2. Next, he maintains that he states a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Ong, and that Ong is not entitled to qualified immunity. See id. at 2-4. He also asserts that he is not a three-strikes litigant. In support of his position, he asks that the Court take judicial notice of James Alexander Logan v. Lieutenant Felicia Chestnut, et al., No. 3:08-cv-993-J-12JRK, Order (Doc. 101), filed April 13, 2011. See id. at 5.

         V. Judicial Notice

         At any stage of a proceeding, a court may take judicial notice of “a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it: (1) is generally known within the trial court's territorial jurisdiction; or (2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b). The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has cautioned that judicial notice should be employed sparingly because it “bypasses the safeguards which are involved with the usual process of proving facts by competent evidence.” Shahar v. Bowers, 120 F.3d 211, 214 (11th Cir. 1997). “[T]he kinds of things about which courts ordinarily take judicial notice are (1) scientific facts: for instance, when does the sun rise or set; (2) matters of geography: for instance, what are the boundaries of a state; or (3) matters of political history: for instance, who was president in 1958.” Id.

         In a habeas corpus case in which the district court addressed the issue of timeliness, the Eleventh Circuit held that the dates that the district court noticed from the online state-court dockets constituted “judicially noticed facts under Rule 201.” Paez v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 931 F.3d 1304, 1307 (11th Cir. 2019). Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit has determined that a court may take judicial notice of public records when ruling on a motion to dismiss. See Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, Fla., 713 F.3d 1066, 1077 at n.9 (11th Cir. 2013) (taking judicial notice of state court documents for purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss in a § 1983 case). Generally, the Eleventh Circuit has distinguished between taking judicial notice of the fact that court records or court rulings exist and taking judicial notice of the truth of the matters stated within those court records or court filings. See Grayson v. Warden, Comm'r, Ala. DOC, 869 F.3d 1204, 1225 (11th Cir. 2017). Thus, judicial notice of related court cases can only be taken either to recognize the judicial act that the order represents or the subject matter of the litigation. See Thomas v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 644 Fed.Appx. 887, 888 (11th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (taking “judicial notice of another court's order for the limited purpose of recognizing the ‘judicial act'” that the order represented) (citation omitted); McDowell Bey v. Vega, 588 Fed.Appx. 923, 926-27 (11th Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (finding that district court properly took judicial notice of entries appearing on state court's docket sheet). Consistent with this authority, the Court takes judicial notice of James Alexander Logan v. Lieutenant Felicia Chestnut, et al., No. 3:08-cv-993-J-JRK (consent to proceed before the Magistrate Judge).

         VI. Discussion

         A. Florida's Pre-Suit Requirements for a Medical ...

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