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Judd v. Watkins

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

May 3, 2019

BILLY WATKINS, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 10).[1] Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, (Doc. No. 9). Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel, (Doc. No. 11).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 while a pretrial detainee at the Buncombe County Detention Facility (“BCDF”). He names as Defendants: Deputy Billy Watkins, Officer John Doe, Heathcare Provider Jane Doe, and Buncombe County.

         Construing the Amended Complaint liberally and accepting the allegations as true, Plaintiff attempted to commit suicide in his cell at BCDF on November 11 or 12, 2016.

         During the intake medical assessment at BCDF, inmates are asked to sign a form stating that they are aware that self-injurious behavior could make them liable for all costs that result from those actions. This practice is deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm to inmates inclined to attempt suicide and “may have been the proximate cause of the multiple constitutional violations that nearly cost [Plaintiff] his life” if officers are under the impression that an inmate's signature on the forms absolves them from liability on Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment claims. (Doc. No. 10 at 14). This also suggests that “all inmates known to be inclined to suicide are being deliberately placed in imminent danger.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff has attempted suicide at BCDF more than once before the November incident, and all of the attempts took place under identical circumstances. Deputy Watkins did nothing to prevent the attempt or intervene in Plaintiff's attempt to commit suicide. Officer John Doe issued Plaintiff sheets and blankets and assigned him to a cell with tie-off points despite knowing Plaintiff's history of suicide attempts. No. precautions were taken against the known risk of suicide attempts. John and Jane Doe “recklessly disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm.” (Doc. No. 10 at 6).

         Plaintiff was found unconscious, not breathing, and with a faint pulse. His condition required immediate life-saving measures and emergency transport to Mission Hospital where he was kept on life support for nearly two weeks. Plaintiff suffered traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, and a damaged esophagus. Plaintiff is still suffering from short-term memory loss, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and chronic headaches. Plaintiff is in need of “comprehensive neurological analysis and treatments” and “comprehensive evaluation and possibly long term treatment.” (Doc. No. 10 at 6).

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages.


         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.


         (1) Deliberat ...

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