United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on initial review of
Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint, (Doc. No.
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, (Doc. No.
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: John Doe Sheriff of the Buncombe County
Sheriff's Office, Buncombe County, the State of North
Carolina, Deputy Billy Watkins, Dr. Daniel Hayes, Jane Doe
Mental Healthcare Provider, and John Doe Deputy Sheriff.
Plaintiff alleges that the incidents at issue occurred at
BCDF on November 11, 2016 at 4:00 PM and 5:30 AM, on November
13, 2016 at 10:30 AM and in March, April, May, June, and July
the Fourth Amended Complaint liberally and accepting the
allegations as true, John Doe Deputy Sheriff arrested
Plaintiff as a result of a domestic disturbance. He observed
Plaintiff's psychological distress and heard Plaintiff
threaten suicide and was deliberately indifferent by failing
to communicate the circumstances of his arrest and strong
likelihood that Plaintiff would attempt suicide to BCDF.
Hayes and Jane Doe conducted only cursory interview after
Plaintiff's arrest during intake. Despite their specific
knowledge of Plaintiff's suicidal tendencies and serious
psychological needs, including the need for anxiety and
insomnia medication, they failed to respond reasonably by
placing him on suicide watch or implementing any plan for his
supervision. As a result, Plaintiff hung himself using a
sheet and nearly died.
morning of November 11, 2016 during medical intake, Plaintiff
signed a form stating he would release BCDF from liability
for medical costs incurred as a result of self-injurious
behavior. Plaintiff does not believe the form has any
legitimate governmental purpose and that the form's
existence encouraged BCDF deputies to ignore the risk of
substantial injury that was posed by Plaintiff's known
suicidal tendencies. This municipal policy is deliberately
indifferent to the health and safety of others and may be
intended to deceive people who sign the form into believing
that they have forfeited their right to recover damages,
which infringes on their right of access to the courts.
after midnight on November 13, 2016, Plaintiff informed
Deputy Watkins of his need to be seen by medical for serious
withdrawal symptoms and chest pain. He asked if Plaintiff had
informed medical on intake and Plaintiff said he did not
know. Watkins said he was not calling medical. Plaintiff
began kicking the door, screaming obscenities, and asking for
medical attention for several hours. Plaintiff was refused
medical attention and was placed on lockdown. Plaintiff told
Watkins “it's gonna be on you when I do something
stupid and you find me dead in here.” (Doc. No. 45 at
8). Plaintiff was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's
suicide threat and failed to take any actions to protect him
and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment by
witnessing Plaintiff's distress and failed to respond
repeatedly attempted to obtain mental health treatment
throughout 2016 for anxiety, insomnia, paranoid thoughts, and
other serious mental health issues. Nurse Jane Doe knew that
Plaintiff had been prescribed medications and had suicidal
tendencies but she intentionally and recklessly disregarded a
risk of serious harm by intentionally withholding his
medications and refusing him access to a psychiatrist.
Plaintiff did not receive adequate mental healthcare in the
form of medication or counseling at any time during his
confinement in 2016. This resulted in worsening psychological
symptoms, extreme loss of vital signs requiring emergency
transport, acute respiratory failure, neurological critical
condition, damage to his neck, rib fracture, and general
distress. This resulted in a 10-day stay in the Neurotrauma
ICU, nearly three months of pain, and hypoxic brain injury.
He now has acutely impaired memory function, permanent
psychological damage, and PTSD.
County failed to provide adequate healthcare and is
deliberately indifferent to the safety of others through its
policy of understaffing mental health professionals. Nurse
Jane Doe was the only mental health counselor available from
2010 to 2016. Buncombe County also failed to exercise
necessary oversight to ensure the provision of adequate
mental healthcare where Jane Doe was refusing minimally
adequate treatment. Buncombe County failed to adequately
train and supervise its employees to communicate suicide
risks, follow suicide prevention policies, and recognize and
respond to mental health crises. Buncombe County Sheriff Van
Duncan was aware of these deliberately
indifferent policies and nevertheless failed to respond
reasonably to prevent serious harm and pain and suffering.
seeks injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive
SCREENING STANDARD OF REVIEW
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)).
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 ...