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Gaddis v. Belk

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

June 17, 2019

FNU BELK, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney, Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff's Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Doc. 1]. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2); 1915A. The Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis. [Doc. 2, 7].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Richard Alan Gaddis, Jr., a North Carolina state court inmate currently incarcerated at Union County Jail (the “Jail”) in Monroe, North Carolina, filed this action on December 12, 2018, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants used excessive force in violation of his constitutional right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and failed to protect Plaintiff and failed to intervene in an attack on Plaintiff in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In his Complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants FNU Belk, identified as a deputy sheriff of Union County, North Carolina; and FNU Payne, identified as Detention Officer at Union County Jail. [Id. at 1-2]. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges that, on June 12, 2018, Plaintiff was attacked for the second time that day by the same inmate. Plaintiff states that Defendant Belk “just stood around and watched as [the Plaintiff] tried to hold off [his] attacker and then while [Plaintiff] was on the bottom getting beat in the back of the head” Defendant Belk tased him “in the head at point blank range.” Defendant Belk then took Plaintiff to the hospital “where he laughed and joked about [the incident] with hospital security.” Plaintiff does not state whether any force was used on the other inmate involved in the altercation. [Doc. 1 at 2-4]. As to Defendant Payne, the only allegation Plaintiff makes is that she “opened all door on disciplinary segregation inmates with keep aways on them.” [Id. at 2].

         Plaintiff claims his injuries include neck spasms, severe damage to his kneecap, problems sleeping, bad dreams, problems trusting officers, and potential nerve damage and a sprained neck. [Id. at 6]. Plaintiff seeks payment for all medical bills and medications related to his injuries when he is released from prison and damages in the amount of $6 million. [Id. at 8].


         Because 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.

         In its 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).


         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).

         Plaintiff brings various Eighth Amendment claims against Defendant Belk based on excessive force, failure to protect, and failure to intervene. First, as to the excessive force claims against Defendant Belk, 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 recently 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, 559 U.S. 34, 38 (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 ...

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