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Martin v. Murray

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

April 11, 2018

MITCHELL JOSEPH MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CHAD MURRAY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, (Doc. No. 1). Also pending are Plaintiff's Letter and Motion requesting the assistance of counsel, (Doc. Nos. 3, 6).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Mitchell Martin, who is currently incarcerated at the Sanford County Correctional Center, has filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with regards to the events surrounding his arrest on July 19, 2017. He names as Defendants Rutherford County Police Department Detective Chad Murray, Rutherford City Police Department, Rutherford County Jail Administration, Medical Staff, and Rutherford County Detention Facility Nurse Rachel Ruppe.

         Construing the Complaint liberally and accepting the allegations as true, Plaintiff was arrested after a fist fight on July 19, 2017, during which he broke his left hand. Detective Murray and other police officers were made aware of Plaintiff's broken hand but they refused to offer any medical assistance at the time of arrest. “RRPD Officials” refused to transport Plaintiff for health treatment and instead took him to the detention facility where he was again deprived of medical treatment by “Jail Facility Medical Staff.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5-6). Plaintiff made between 15 and 20 verbal and written requests for treatment on July 19 until he was transported to the “NC DAC Prisons.” (Doc. No. 1 at 6). NC DAC “Medical Staff” have documented that medical treatment should have been provided which would have prevented permanent damage to Plaintiff's hand. (Doc. No. 1 at 6). Defendants' failure to render any medical assistance resulted in Plaintiff's inability to use his hand.

         Plaintiff seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages, and injunctive relief, i.e., “no retaliation from Rutherford County Sheriff Dept. by police force or police harassment at all.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it is subject to dismissal on the grounds that it is “(i) 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In its frivolity review, a 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). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim “unless ‘after accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim entitling him to relief.'” Veney v. Wyche, 293 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         A pro se complaint must be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009) (“Liberal construction of the pleadings is particularly appropriate where … there is a pro se complaint raising civil rights issues.”). 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). A pro se complaint must still contain sufficient facts “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (the Twombly plausibility standard applies to all federal civil complaints including those filed under § 1983). This “plausibility standard requires a plaintiff to demonstrate more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). He must articulate facts that, when accepted as true, demonstrate he has stated a claim entitling him to relief. Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         (1) Parties

         “Section 1983 imposes liability on state actors who cause the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution.” Loftus v. Bobzien, 848 F.3d 278, 284 (4thCir. 2017) (quoting Doe v. Rosa, 795 F.3d 429, 436 (4th Cir. 2015)). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant, acting under the color of law, violated his federal constitutional or statutory rights and thereby caused injury. Crosby v. City of Gastonia, 635 F.3d 634, 639 (4th Cir. 2011).

         Plaintiff names as Defendants the Rutherford City Police Department, Rutherford County Jail Administration, Medical Staff, and Rutherford County Detention Facility Nurse Rachel Ruppe. However, Plaintiff makes no factual allegations whatsoever with regards to these Defendants. Therefore, the claims against them are too vague and conclusory to proceed at this time. See generally Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a short and plain statement of the claim); Simpson v. Welch, 900 F.2d 33, 35 (4th Cir. 1990) (conclusory allegations, unsupported by specific allegations of material fact are not sufficient); Dickson v. Microsoft Corp., 309 F.3d 193, 201-02 (4th Cir. 2002) (A pleader must allege facts, directly or indirectly, that support each element of the claim).

         To the extent Plaintiff refers to individuals in the body of the Complaint who are not named as defendants in the case caption, these claims cannot proceed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a) (“[i]n the complaint the title of the action shall include the names of all the parties.”); see Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551 (7th Cir. 2005) (“to make someone a party the plaintiff must specify him in the caption and arrange for service of process.”); see, e.g., Londeree v. Crutchfield Corp., 68 F.Supp.2d ...


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