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Ballard v. Keller

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

January 6, 2015

JABAR BALLARD, Plaintiff,
v.
ALVIN KELLER, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

TERRENCE W. BOYLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Jabar Ballard, is an inmate in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Correction. Now before the court is a motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by defendants. Mot. for J. on the Pleadings, D.E. 37. Ballard timely filed a response to defendants' motion, and the matter is ripe for determination. Response, D.E. 40.

Background

Plaintiff alleges that on June 28, 2010, he was transported from Tabor Correctional Institution ("TCI") to the Brunswick County Jail. Compl., D.E. 1, p. 4. Prior to transport, he states he requested that his blood pressure medicine be processed and sent with him, yet he was transferred without his blood pressure medication. Id . Plaintiff states that the lack of medication, led to him "passing out" in the Brunswick County Jail on or about July 2, 2010. Id . According to plaintiff, he requested the medication, but was denied his medication by defendant Elks and Jones. Id . As to defendant Kenworthy, plaintiff claims that Kenworthy was, at the time, administrator ofTCI and responsible as the supervisor of Elks and Jones. Id. at p. 5. Plaintiff contends that prison policy states prisoners shall be transferred with the proper medication. Id .; Response, Ex. B. Plaintiff further claims that defendant Keller was Secretary of, the Department of Correction and therefore also responsible for his "well-being" and "care." Id.

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

a. Standard

The Rule 12(c) "Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings" adheres to the same standards as a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Burcach Broadcasting Co. of Delaware v. Elkins Radio Corp., 278 F.3d 401, 405-406 (4th Cir. 2002). A Rule 12(c) motion should be granted "if, after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiffs complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiffs favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support ofhis claim entitling him to relief." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-244 (4th Cir. 1999).

b. Failure to Exhaust

Defendants argue the matter should be dismissed for failure to properly exhaust. The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA") states that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. §] 1983... or any other Federal law, by a prisoner... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84-85 (2006). The PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all prisoner "suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). The PLRA requires a "prisoner" to exhaust administrative remedies regardless of the relief offered through administrative procedures. See Booth v. Chumer, 532 U.S. 731, 741 (2001). "[E]xhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and... unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court." Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211 (2007). Additionally, failure to exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense that a defendant must plead and prove. See Anderson v. XYZ Corr. Health Servs., Inc., 407 F.3d 674, 681 (4th Cir. 2005).

Grievances must be sufficient in detail to "alert[] the prison to the nature of the wrong for which redress is sought." Strong v. David, 297 F.3d 646, 650 (7th Cir. 2002);[1] see, e.g., Moore v. Bennette, 517 F.3d 717, 726 (4th Cir. 2008). However, "[i]n order to exhaust their remedies, prisoners need not file multiple, successive grievances raising the same issue (such as prison conditions or policies) if the objectionable condition is continuing." Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 650 (7th Cir. 2013) (collecting cases). The court finds that the grievances did properly put defendants on notice of a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical condition when defendants failed to follow the policy regarding medication and transfer. While defendants contend that plaintiff failed to put a date on the grievance or describe the type of medical condition, the court finds this unsupported. Plaintiff states in the grievance that his request to take vital blood pressure medication to Brunswick County Jail was denied resulting in illness. Compl., Attch. Grievance. The grievance put defendants on notice of the claim now before this court. Failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense and defendants have failed to meet their burden. The defense fails.

c. Failure to State a Claim

"To state a claim under [section] 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Philips v. Pitt Cnty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009). Additionally, a section 1983 plaintiff must allege the personal involvement of a defendant. See, e.g., Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978); Wright v. Collins, 766 F.2d 841, 850 (4th Cir. 1985).

To establish a claim for medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant "acted with deliberate indifference' (subjective) to [his] serious medical needs' (objective)." Iko v. Shreve, 535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). Deliberate indifference requires that an official actually know of and disregard an objectively serious condition, medical need, or risk of harm. lko, 535 F.3d at 241. Plaintiff must demonstrate that the care provided was "so grossly incompetent, inadequate, or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental fairness." Miltier v. Beom, 896 F.2d 848, 851 (4th Cir. 1990); Hicks v. James, 255 F.App'x 744, 749 (4th Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (unpublished). Only when an action meets both the objective and subjective elements will it offend the "evolving standards of decency" in such a way as to violate the constitutional prohibition against "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-106; Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 835-836 (1994).

Disagreement with medical staff over the course of treatment is not sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim. See, e.g., De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 635 (4th Cir. 2003); Russell v. Sheffer, 528 F.2d 318, 319 (4th Cir. 1975) (per curiam). Mere negligence or malpractice in diagnosis or treatment does not state a constitutional claim. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06; Grayson v. Peed, 195 F.3d 692, 695 (4th Cir. 1999). Moreover, prison officials' failure to follow internal prison policies are not actionable under § 1983 unless the alleged breach of policy rises to the level ...


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