United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
(Doc. No. 1). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e);
1915A. On May 18, 2017, the Court entered an order waiving
the initial filing fee and directing monthly payments to be
made from Plaintiff's prison account. (Doc. No. 8). Thus,
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
Plaintiff Shawn Germaine Fraley is a prisoner of the State of
North Carolina, currently incarcerated at Lanesboro
Correctional Institution, in Polkton, North Carolina.
Plaintiff filed this action on April 28, 2017, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, naming the following individuals as
Defendants: (1) John Doe, identified as an officer at
Alexander Correctional Institution at all relevant times; (2)
FNU Johnson, identified as a lieutenant at Alexander at all
relevant times; and (3) FNU Goins, identified as a sergeant
at Alexander at all relevant times.
alleges in the Complaint that on December 22, 2016, while he
was incarcerated at Alexander, Defendant officer John Doe
assaulted Plaintiff near the dining hall. Plaintiff alleges
that the remaining Defendants observed the excessive force by
Defendant John Doe, but they did nothing to intervene to stop
the assault. (Doc. No. 1 at 3-4). Plaintiff alleges that the
incident was caught on video camera. Plaintiff alleges that
he suffered from “physical injur[ies]” as a
result of the alleged assault, including “severe
pain” in his “left foot area.”
(Id. at 4). Plaintiff purports to allege an Eighth
Amendment claim for excessive force against Defendant John
Doe and an Eighth Amendment claim against the remaining
Defendants for failure to intervene. As relief, Plaintiff
seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must
review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to
dismissal on the grounds that it is “frivolous or
malicious [or] fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Furthermore,
under § 1915A the Court must conduct an initial review
and identify and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint, if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief.
frivolity review, this Court must determine whether the
Complaint raises an indisputably meritless legal theory or is
founded upon clearly baseless factual contentions, such as
fantastic or delusional scenarios. Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). Furthermore, a
pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the liberal
construction requirement will not permit a district court to
ignore a clear failure to allege facts in his Complaint which
set forth a claim that is cognizable under federal law.
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387
(4th Cir. 1990).
as to Plaintiff's excessive force claim against Defendant
John Doe, the Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of
“cruel and unusual punishments, ” U.S. Const.
amend. VIII, and protects prisoners from the
“unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ”
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986). To
establish an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate must satisfy
both an objective component-that the harm inflicted was
sufficiently serious-and a subjective component-that the
prison official acted with a sufficiently culpable state of
mind. Williams v. Benjamin, 77 F.3d 756, 761 (4th
Cir. 1996). In adjudicating an excessive force claim, the
Court must consider such factors as the need for the use of
force, the relationship between that need and the amount of
force used, the extent of the injury inflicted, and,
ultimately, whether the force was “applied in a good
faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or
maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing
harm.” Albers, 475 U.S. at 320-21.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court has reiterated that
“[a]n inmate who is gratuitously beaten by guards does
not lose his ability to pursue an excessive force claim
merely because he has the good fortune to escape without
serious injury.” Wilkins v. Gaddy, 130 S.Ct.
1175, 1178-79 (2010). In Wilkins v. Gaddy, the
Supreme Court observed:
This is not to say that the “absence of serious
injury” is irrelevant to the Eighth Amendment inquiry.
“[T]he extent of injury suffered by an inmate is one
factor that may suggest ‘whether the use of force could
plausibly have been thought necessary' in a particular
situation.” The extent of injury may also provide some
indication of the amount of force applied. As we stated in
Hudson, not “every malevolent touch by a
prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action.”
“The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of ‘cruel
and unusual' punishments necessarily excludes from
constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force,
provided that the use of force is not of a sort repugnant to
the conscience of mankind.” An inmate who complains of
a “push or shove” that causes no discernible
injury almost certainly fails to state a valid excessive
force claim. Injury and force, however, are only imperfectly
correlated, and it is the latter that ultimately counts.
Id. at 1178-79 (citations omitted).
as to Plaintiff's claims against the remaining Defendants
based on failure to intervene to stop the alleged excessive
force by Defendant John Doe, law enforcement officials may be
held liable in Section 1983 actions in which the officials
“fail or refuse to intervene when a constitutional
violation such as an unprovoked beating takes place in
[their] presence.” Ensley v. Soper, 142 F.3d
1402, 1407 (11th Cir. 1998); see also Yang v.
Hardin, 37 F.3d 282, 285 (7th Cir. 1994). To succeed on
a theory of what is sometimes called “bystander
liability, ” a plaintiff must show that the defendant
police officer: (1) knows that a fellow officer is violating
an individual's constitutional rights; (2) has a
reasonable opportunity to prevent the harm; and (3) chooses
not to act. Randall v. Prince George's Cnty.,
302 F.3d 188, 204 (4th Cir. 2002).
Court finds that, taking as true Plaintiff's allegations,
and construing all inferences in his favor, Plaintiff's
claims against Defendants survive ...