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Cooke v. Department of Corrections for State of Maryland

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 6, 2017

ERIC SEBASTIAN COOKE Plaintiff
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS FOR THE STATE OF MARYLAND Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Eric Cooke filed a supplemental complaint (ECF 5) in the above-entitled case following my Order (ECF 4) granting him 28 days to correct noted deficiencies in the original complaint (ECF 1). Cooke's original complaint did not name a proper party as a defendant and failed to provide enough detail about the claims raised for proper screening of the complaint. See ECF 4.

         In the supplemental complaint Cooke names as defendants “Division of Corrections (MRDCC - BCCC), Warden Tina Stump, ‘et al'/ Wexford Medical Staff.” ECF 5 at 1. The Clerk will be directed to add the named defendants to the docket. Cooke's pending motions to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF 2 and ECF 6) shall be granted. But, for the reasons set forth below, the complaint, as supplemented, must be dismissed.

         I. Factual Background

         Cooke's claim, as clarified in his supplemental complaint, is that unnamed medical staff at Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center (“MRDCC”) and Baltimore City Correctional Center (“BCCC”) directed him to “drink plenty of fluids” to treat symptoms of constipation. ECF 5 at 3. He states he followed the directive from August 14 through September 4 at BCCC, and from September 4 through October 13 at MRDCC.[1] Cooke asserts he was also prescribed laxatives, which required his consumption of 64 ounces of water a day. Id. at 3 - 4. But, he later found out that the water at both institutions is contaminated. Id. He claims he did not begin feeling better until he was transferred to the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility (“DRCF”) in Jessup, Maryland. Id. at 4. Cooke alleges he still gets headaches and suffers other unspecified abnormalities, which he attributes to consumption of the tainted water at MRDCC and BCCC. Id.

         Cooke asserts he filed an administrative complaint with Warden Stump “about the cruel and unusual punishment of the Wexford Medical staff [and] also about being subjected to contaminated water.” ECF 5 at 4. Further, he claims that Stump is responsible for conditions at both MRDCC and BCCC. Id. He adds that he was “not given [his] due process” because he did not receive a parole hearing from the Maryland Parole Commission, despite becoming eligible for parole consideration in May 2016. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         This Court is obliged by 28 U.S.C. §1915(a)(1) to 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, 722-23 (4th Cir. 1989); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

         Under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), a case shall be dismissed at any time if the court determines that (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal (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.

         Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 8 provides that a complaint must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. See Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the “simplified pleading standard” of Rule 8(a)). The purpose of the rule is to provide the defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and the “grounds” for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 n. 3 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).

         A plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, --- U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam). But, the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). To satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a) (2), the complaint must set forth “enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action, “even if ... [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and ... recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. In other words, the complaint must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570; see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 684; Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011).

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) governs a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In construing a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), this court must accept all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); see E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011); (citations omitted); see also Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 402 (2011); Monroe v. City of Charlottesville, 579 F.3d 380, 385-86 (4th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 559 U.S. 991 (2010). However, a complaint that provides no more than “labels and conclusions, ” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, the court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986); Monroe, 579 F.3d at 385-86.

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion will be granted if the “well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted). “A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer” that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without A Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir.2011), cert. denied, --- U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 1960 (2012). “‘Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory.' ” Hartmann v. Calif. Dept. of Corr. & Rehab., 707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted); accord Commonwealth Prop. Advocates, LLC v. Mortg. Elec. Reg. Sys., Inc., 680 F.3d 1194, 1201-02 (10th Cir.2011) (“Dismissal is appropriate if the law simply affords no relief.”).

         III. ...


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