United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.
The above-captioned civil rights Complaint was filed on March 21, 2014, together with motions to Proceed in Forma Pauperis and for Appointment of Counsel. ECF Nos. 2 and 3. Plaintiff filed a supplemental Complaint on May 2, 2014, with additional motions to Proceed in Forma Pauperis and for Appointment of Counsel. ECF Nos. 4-6. The supplemental Complaint raises the same claims raised in the original pleading. ECF No. 4. Plaintiff's motions to Proceed in Forma Paupers shall be granted and his motions for Appointment of Counsel shall be denied. For the reasons that follow, the Complaint must be dismissed.
The thirty-six page Complaint concerns three unrelated claims. The first concerns an allegation that Plaintiff, an inmate incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), slipped and fell in a shower injuring his right arm, right hip, back and neck, because there was soap on the floor and the prison had not provided floor mats to prevent falls. ECF No. 1 at p. 3. The incident occurred on February 27, 2010. Plaintiff states he filed a lawsuit on March 9, 2011, concerning this matter in the District Court for Baltimore City, which was later transferred to the District Court for Allegany County, where it was dismissed on October 7, 2011. ECF No.
1 at p. 8.
The second claim concerns Plaintiff's allegation that on April 27, 2011, he was improperly assigned to an upper bunk in a cell designed for one person. ECF No. 1 at p. 9. Plaintiff asserts that he has "documented back injuries" and that he lacks the physical condition required to jump up and down off the top bunk without being "at high risk for injury." Id. Despite communicating these issues to correctional officers, Plaintiff's assignment was not changed. Id. at p. 10. Plaintiff states he fell from the bunk on April 29, 2011, injuring his hip and arm, but that he was not provided medical care for the injuries for nine days. Id. He states that on September 7, 2011, he filed a lawsuit concerning this claim in the District Court for Baltimore City where it was dismissed on October 18, 2012. Id. at p. 15.
The third claim is a generalized allegation that Plaintiff has not received proper medical care "over the past several years" and that he has been denied adequate access to the prison grievance procedure. ECF No. 1 at p. 17. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that on July 12, 2011, Physician's Assistant Greg Flury refused to see Plaintiff about "certain medications and his back brace." Id. He alleges Flury told him he would be scheduled to be seen by someone else and that, in the meantime, Flury cancelled his prescriptions for fragrance-free lotion and muscle rub. Id. He states that he had to wait 17 days before the prescriptions were reinstated by Dr. Colin Ottey and that he suffered physical and mental pain as a result of being deprived of his medications. Id. at p. 18. Plaintiff further claims that he has not received adequate diagnoses or medical care for his back pain, kidney issues, acid reflux, sleep apnea, nerve damage in his left hand, and frequent skin rashes "over the past several years." Id. at p. 19. He provides several examples of delays in receiving medical care, but does not state how those delays have caused him harm.
Standard of Review
Under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) a case "shall be dismissed at any time if the court determines thatB (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appealB (i)is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." Additionally, under 28 U.S.C. §1915A, this court must screen prisoner complaints and dismiss any complaint that is frivolous, malicious or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In deciding whether a complaint is frivolous "[t]he district court need not look beyond the complaint's allegations.... It must, however, hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally." White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-723 (4th Cir. 1989).
Liberal construction of self-represented pleadings does not, however, oblige this court to ferret through a Complaint searching for viable claims. Under Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8,  Plaintiff must provide enough detail to illuminate the nature of the claim and allow Defendants to respond. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Although district courts have a duty to construe self-represented pleadings liberally, Plaintiff must nevertheless allege facts that state a cause of action. See Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (duty to construe liberally does not require courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented). If the Complaint "places an unjustifiable burden on defendants to determine the nature of the claim against them and to speculate on what their defenses might be" and imposes a burden on the court to sort out the factual basis of any claims fairly raised, dismissal under Rule 8 is appropriate. Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122 (D.Md.1981); see also Spencer v. Hedges, 838 F.2d 1210 (Table) (4th Cir. 1988). This court may dismiss a complaint that is "so confused, ambiguous, vague or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988).
"Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action, but in several respects relevant here federal law looks to the law of the State in which the cause of action arose. This is so for the length of the statute of limitations: It is that which the State provides for personal-injury torts." Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007), citing Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-250, (1989); Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 279-280, (1985). In Maryland the applicable statute of limitations is three years from the date of the occurrence. See Md. Cts & Jud. Proc. Code Ann.' 5-101. "Statutes of limitations, like the one contained in [Md. Cts & Jud. Proc. Code Ann.] § 5-101, are intended simultaneously to provide adequate time for diligent plaintiffs to file suit, ' to grant repose to defendants when plaintiffs have tarried for an unreasonable period of time, ' and to serve societal purposes, ' including judicial economy." Doe v. Maskell, 342 Md. 684, 689, 679 A.2d 1087, 1089 (1996), quoting Pennwalt Corp. v. Nasios, 314 Md. 433, 437, 550 A.2d 1155, 1158 (1988). Plaintiff's first claim concerning a fall in the shower is time-barred and must be dismissed.
Plaintiff's second claim concerning a fall from his bunk, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Conditions which "deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities" may amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981). However, conditions which are merely restrictive or even harsh, "are part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society." Id.
In order to establish the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, a prisoner must prove two elements - that the deprivation of [a] basic human need was objectively sufficiently serious, ' and that subjectively the officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.'
Shakka v. Smith,
71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995) (emphasis in original; citation omitted). "These requirements spring from the text of the amendment itself; absent intentionality, a condition imposed on an inmate cannot properly be called "punishment, " and absent severity, such punishment cannot be called "cruel and unusual." Iko v. Shreve, ...