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Sims v. Watson

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

May 9, 2019

DAVID SIMS PLAINTIFF
v.
SHERIFF JASON WATSON, CLARK COUNTY ARKANSAS, and JAIL ADMINISTRATOR DEFENDANTS

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          HON. MARK E. FORD, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action provisionally filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and (3) (2011), the Honorable Susan O. Hickey, Chief United States District Judge, referred this case to the undersigned for the purpose of making a Report and Recommendation.

         The case is before the Court for preservice screening under the provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court has the obligation to screen any complaint in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Eastern District of Arkansas on March 22, 2019. (ECF No. 2). It was transferred to this District on March 27, 2019. (ECF No. 3). On March 28, 2019, the Court entered an Order directing Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint, which he did on April 10, 2019. (ECF No. 9).

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants failed to protect him while he was incarcerated in the Clark County Jail on November 16, 2018 “and previous.” (Id. at 4). He alleges the heating system in the jail was not maintained, the ventilation was inadequate, and there were no carbon monoxide detectors. (Id. at 8). As a result, Plaintiff was exposed to the “noxious fumes” of carbon monoxide which posed an “unreasonable risk of serious harm to Plaintiff's present or future health.” (Id. at 4). He further alleges the fumes “affect[ed] his physical health and mental health.” (Id. at 5-8). Plaintiff does not describe how his health was affected.

         Plaintiff proceeds against all Defendants in their official and personal capacity. (Id. at 4). He seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Id. at 10).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under the PLRA, the Court is obligated to screen the case prior to service of process being issued. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion of it, if it contains claims that: (1) are frivolous, malicious, or fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is frivolous if “it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “In evaluating whether a pro se plaintiff has asserted sufficient facts to state a claim, we hold ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded ... to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Jackson v. Nixon, 747 F.3d 537, 541 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). Even a pro se Plaintiff must allege specific facts sufficient to support a claim. Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir. 1985).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff fails to state a plausible conditions of confinement claim. “[W]hen the State takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for his safety and general well-being.” Cty. of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833 (1998) (citation omitted). The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. Detention centers must provide pretrial detainees with “reasonably adequate sanitation, personal hygiene, and laundry privileges . . .” Beaulieu v. Ludeman, 690 F.3d 1017, 1045 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Howard v. Adkison, 887 F.2d 134, 137 (8th Cir. 1989)). The Eighth Amendment also prohibits punishments that deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. Smith v. Copeland, 87 F.3d 265, 268 (8th Cir. 1996); see also Hall v. Dalton, 34 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 1994) (“[I]n this circuit, the standards applied to Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims have been the same.”).

         A prisoner alleging an Eighth Amendment violation must prove both an objective and subjective element. Revels v. Vincenz, 382 F.3d 870, 875 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991)). “The defendant's conduct must objectively rise to the level of a constitutional violation by depriving the plaintiff of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities. The defendant's conduct must also reflect a subjective state of mind evincing deliberate indifference to the health or safety of the prisoner.” Revels, 382 F.3d at 875 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Deliberate indifference is established when the Plaintiff shows “the defendant was substantially aware of but disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Id. The standards against which a court measures prison conditions are “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976). The Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons, but neither does it permit inhumane ones. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). As is the case with all Eighth Amendment claims, a prisoner must suffer some actual injury in order to receive compensation. This injury must be greater than de minimis. Irving v. Dormire, 519 F.3d 441, 448 (8th Cir. 2008).

         Here, Plaintiff fails to state a plausible conditions of confinement claim for two reasons. First, his vague allegations are insufficient to meet the objective prong of the test. He alleges only that the heating system was not maintained, the ventilation was inadequate, and there were no carbon monoxide sensors. Plaintiff does not identify what type of system was used for heat, what maintenance was lacking on the system, or how any alleged lack of maintenance was related to carbon monoxide emissions. Nor does he identify what was problematic about the ventilation, or how he knew there were no carbon monoxide sensors. Plaintiff also fails to describe any symptoms from his alleged exposure or ...


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