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Mohammed v. Beaver

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

May 3, 2019

KENNETH BEAVER, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of pro se Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, (Doc. No. 15), and on Defendants' Motions for Extension of Time to Answer, (Doc. Nos. 16, 18). Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 5).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff filed a civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, addressing incidents that allegedly occurred at the Alexander Correctional Institution where he still resides. The original Complaint passed initial review on claims of unlawful conditions of confinement against Defendants Beaver and Townsend and on claims of retaliation against Defendants Fox, Harris, and Snuffer. See (Doc. Nos. 1, 7).

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: Alexander C.I. Administrator Kenneth Beaver, Unit Manager Rondal Townsend, Medical Supervisor Pamela Chapman, Chronic Care Nurse Renee Harris, Nursing Supervisor C. Fox, Sergeant Goins, Correctional Officer Brent Snuffer, NCDPS Medical Director Dora Plummer, NCDPS Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter, and NCDPS Secretary Erik Hooks.

         Liberally construing the Amended Complaint and accepting the allegations as true, Plaintiff had surgery at Duke Regional Hospital on February 13, 2018, to repair vertebrae in his neck. According to the surgeon, it takes at least six months for the titanium brace, screws, and bone graph to become attached. Plaintiff returned to Alexander C.I. on March 29, 2018.

         Plaintiff's neck brace was confiscated less than 24 hours after returning to Alexander C.I. Defendant Goins persuaded a nurse to take the brace by falsely stating it had been discontinued by the resident physician in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaint that Goins had mistreated another inmate. Defendant Goins also instructed Defendant Snuffer to confiscate Plaintiff's religious headgear, and he has repeatedly harassed Plaintiff. Plaintiff addressed this issue to Defendants Townsend, Beaver, Lassiter, Hooks and Plummer but they provided no relief.

         After several complaints of severe neck pain, Plaintiff was given an x-ray which showed that the hardware in his neck is loose. Obstacles were placed in Plaintiff's way that were implemented to prevent him from going to see the surgeon despite his persistent requests. When he went to see his doctor, he was restrained painfully with a black box and waist chain with his arms stacked which caused great discomfort, prevented him from using an inhaler and urinal, and caused pain in his shoulder and neck. This continued even after the doctor wrote an order to preclude such restraints. Defendants Fox and Chapman were aware of that order which was written on May 29, 2018 and failed to take any action in retaliation for making complaints about his medical care. Plaintiff sought relief from Beaver to no avail.

         To date, treatment has not been provided for this serious medical need and Plaintiff is suffering unnecessary pain even though Defendants Fox and Chapman are fully aware of the severity of his medical needs. Plaintiff informed supervisory staff Defendants Beaver, Hooks, Lassiter, and Plummer of his serious medical needs but they did not provide any assistance.

         Defendants Townsend and Beaver refused to honor a medical order for a handicap cell when Plaintiff returned from surgery in retaliation for Plaintiff's complaints of staff misconduct. Plaintiff was placed in a small non-handicap cell that had no outlet to plug in his breathing machine and lacking adequate space to turn around his wheelchair. He was unable to maneuver in the cell well and fell on two occasions, hurting his wrist. He was also denied an orderly which he had been previously assigned in retaliation for his complaints. Officer Snuffer also retaliated against Plaintiff for making complaints against him and his co-workers. Plaintiff was subjected to unreasonable searches by Snuffer that served no institutional interest, were malicious and harassing, and lacked any prison needs or penological justification. Defendant Snuffer vandalized Plaintiff's cell, confiscated his personal property, and placed Plaintiff's Quran in the toilet and on the floor. Plaintiff raised this issue with Defendants Townsend and Beaver but they did not stop Snuffer's searches.

         On December 21, 2017, Plaintiff was summoned to the treatment room and was kept there for an extended time while Nurse Harris had two officers search Plaintiff's assigned cell, and pens were confiscated. Plaintiff believes this was in retaliation for Plaintiff having addressed their failure to provide overhead headphones even though Plaintiff had valid orders.

         Information about Plaintiff's medical duty status was erased and changed to be untrue. After Plaintiff complained in a grievance on May 9, 2018, more changes were made. Plaintiff believes the changes were made by Defendants Harris and Fox in retaliation for writing grievances about his medical complaints. Two days later, on May 11, Plaintiff's cell was vandalized and property was confiscated. Plaintiff addressed this issue to Defendants Beaver, Hooks, and Plummer but they failed to provide any assistance.

         Plaintiff has reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder and back but the surgery was unsuccessful due to a dead nerve on the left side of his neck, which has caused limited use of the left arm. An MRI revealed a tear in the shoulder and steroid injections were not helpful. On December 15, 2017, Plaintiff saw and orthopedic doctor but he wanted to wait until after neck surgery to determine the best course of treatment. Plaintiff was not taken for the follow-up visit with the orthopedic doctor even though medical provider James Johnson put in for a follow-up on May 29, 2018. Defendants Chapman and Fox are responsible for scheduling such appointments and they failed to do so even though they are fully aware of the need for treatment and it is obvious. This is causing continuous pain and suffering which is sometimes severe.

         Plaintiff suffers from severe migraine headaches from a head injury. He gets partial treatment with injections at the ECU. A medication was also prescribed for the headaches but he has not received a single dose of it even though the prescription has been valid for a year. Another medication was prescribed for nausea caused by the headaches but it has not been issued since he returned from surgery on March 29, 2018. Defendants Chapman and Fox failed to ensure that the prescribed medication is administered. Defendants Chapman, Fox, Beaver, and Townsend are aware that Plaintiff is forced to stay in full restraints for about 12 hours when he is transported for the migraine injections yet failed to provide any relief such as transferring Plaintiff closer to ECU.

         Plaintiff is forced to endure unnecessary pain and suffering due to the deliberate deprivation of adequate medical care. Defendants Chapman, Fox, Beaver, Plummer, and Hooks knew of this deprivation but failed to take steps to provide relief.

         Plaintiff has been denied equal protection insofar as he has a valid order for over-head headphones to accommodate his hearing aids. Defendants Fox, Harris and Chapman have denied them which prevents him from enjoying television like other inmates. He also claims equal protection violations for denial of a handicap cell, equipment like wheelchair and cane, and an orderly.

         Plaintiff complains that he has been denied access to mail in that mail is held for between four and six days, including legal mail. Plaintiff repeatedly sought relief from Defendant Beaver to no avail.

         Whenever Plaintiff leaves Alexander C.I. for appointments all his personal items are taken in the receiving department including his religious headgear and prison ID card. This happened when Plaintiff went to Central Prison for six weeks in early 2018. Plaintiff requested his property several times but Alexander staff failed to bring it to him at Central Prison even though transportation staff goes to Central Prison daily. Plaintiff claims that the confiscation of his religious headgear denies him the free practice of his faith and also makes him cold because he is bald. He claims that Defendant Beaver is responsible.

         Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, replacement of personal property, and any other relief that is adequate, just and proper.


         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 ...

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