United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
Plaintiff Matthew James Griffin (“Plaintiff”) is
currently a New Mexico state inmate of the Penitentiary of
New Mexico located in Sante Fe, New Mexico. Plaintiff filed
this action on March 20, 2019, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. [Doc. 1]. On June 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed his Second
Amended Complaint. [Doc. 13]. Plaintiff claims that
Defendants violated his right to be free from cruel and
unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff also
states a state law claim for assault and battery and a claim
under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act, N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 143-291, et seq. In his Complaint, Plaintiff
names the following as Defendants in this matter: (1) Eric A.
Hooks, identified as the Secretary of the N.C. Department of
Public Safety (NCDPS); (2) W. David Guice, identified as the
Chief Deputy, Secretary of the NCDPS; (3) Kenneth E.
Lassiter, identified as the Director of Prisons for the
NCDPS; (4) Eric T. Dye, identified as the Assistant
Superintendent at the Alexander Correctional Institution
(“Alexander”); (5) Kenneth A Beaver, identified
as the Superintendent of Alexander; (6) Finesse G. Couch,
identified as an Executive Director of the NCDPS; (7)
Elizabeth D. Wallace, identified an investigator/examiner of
the NCDPS; (8) FNU Hamilton, identified as a Captain at
Alexander; (9) FNU Clifton, identified as a Correctional
Lieutenant at Alexander; (10) FNU Quinn, identified as a
Correctional Sergeant at Alexander; (11) FNU Clawson,
identified as a Correctional Officer at Alexander; (12) Does
#2 and 3, identified as other unidentified officers who
physically assaulted Plaintiff; (13) Does #4 through 10,
identified as supervisors who allowed Plaintiff to be
assaulted; (14) Does #11 through 40, identified as other
individuals further described in Paragraph 55 of
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.
allegations are extensive and can be summarized as follows:
is a handicapped prisoner of the State of New Mexico. [Doc.
13 at ¶ 45]. He has a diagnosed serious visual
impairment. [Id.]. On December 21, 2015, Plaintiff
was transferred to Alexander from his place of incarceration
in New Mexico under the terms of the Interstate Corrections
Company (ICC). [Doc. 13 at ¶ 29]. Defendants Hooks,
Guice, Lassiter, Beaver and Dye are employees of the North
Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) who, before,
during and after March 21, 2017 had final policymaking
authority within the NCDPS Division of Prisons and/or
Alexander. [Id. at ¶ 35]. On March 21, 2017,
Defendant Dye was the acting Superintendent of Alexander.
[Id. at ¶ 37]. Prior to filing the Complaint,
Defendant Dye was succeeded in office by Defendant Beaver.
the last ten years, hundreds of prisoners of the State of
North Carolina have complained that they were unlawfully
attacked and beaten by employees or officers of the NCDPS
while they were confided in a state prison or state
correctional institution operated by the NCDPS while in
physical restraints and/or in an area of their respective
correctional institutions lacking retrievable video
surveillance images. [Id. at ¶ 40].
January 1, 2008 to the present and continuing here from,
Defendants Hooks, Guice, Lassiter, Beaver, Dye, and their
predecessors have failed to adopt, promulgate, implement or
maintain proper, meaningful or effective policies and
procedures (1) to review and investigate allegations of
excessive force or unlawful use of force within the NCDPS and
Alexander and (2) to capture, record, retrieve or review
video surveillance imagery through the correctional
institutions of the NCDPS Division of Prisons and at
Alexander. [Id. at ¶¶ 41-42]. Further,
Defendants Hooks, Guice, Lassiter, Beaver, Dye, and Does #11
through #40 “failed to maintain complete or accurate
records to track the use of justified or unjustified physical
force used by their subordinates.” [Id. at
43]. The failure to track the use of force within the NCDPS
prisons and correctional institutions “caused and
encouraged subordinate NCDPS correctional officers and
employees, including Defendants Caldwell, Quinn, Clawson, and
Does #2 through #10, “to commit acts of misconduct and
use excessive force with impunity.” [Id. at
morning of March 21, 2017, Plaintiff was housed within the
close custody general population of Alexander at Unit Blue
North, JA Wing. [Id. at ¶ 44]. Plaintiff had a
Call Out Pass to attend a mental health appointment.
Plaintiff was escorted out of JA Wing by a medical orderly to
attend the appointment. [Id. at ¶ 45]. After
exiting the JA Wing, and while in the Blue North Rotunda,
Plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with a
correctional officer. [Id. at ¶ 46]. Other
correctional officers responded to the incident and Plaintiff
was pepper sprayed, tackled to the ground, and handcuffs and
leg shackles were applied. [Id.]. Plaintiff was then
escorted, while in full restraints, by and under the control
of over a dozen correctional officers and supervisors from
the Blue North Rotunda to the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU).
[Id. at ¶ 49]. Upon entering the RHU, Plaintiff
was taken to the RHU D-Wing by Defendants Quin, Caldwell,
Clawson, and Does #2 through #10. [Id. at ¶
50]. There are two wall-mounted video surveillance cameras
within D-Wing of the RHU. The interior of the D-Wing lower
tier shower is not within the view of the cameras, creating a
“blind spot” in camera coverage, which is known
to all staff and RHU prisoners. [Id. at ¶ 54].
inside D-Wing of the RHU, Plaintiff, still in full
restraints, was placed in the D-Wing lower tier shower, at
which time Defendant Quinn said, “do it quick.”
[Id. at ¶ 51]. Defendants Caldwell, Clawson,
and Does #2 and #3 attacked Plaintiff and beat him in the
presence of Defendant Quinn and one or more of Does #4
through #10. [Id.]. Defendants Caldwell, Clawson,
and Does #2 and #3 punched, kicked, hit and struck Plaintiff
multiple times. [Id. at ¶ 52].
claims his injuries include bruising and inflammation of his
backside, extremities, and his neck, head, and face;
laceration to the inside of his left cheek; and a traumatic
brain injury/concussion. [Id. at ¶ 52].
Plaintiff seeks monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief.
[Id. at 15].
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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.
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).
asserts five claims in his Complaint: (1) excessive force in
violation of the Eighth Amendment against Defendants
Caldwell, Clawson, and Does # 2 and #3; (2)
“supervisory liability for failure to intervene in
violation of the Eighth Amendment” against Defendants
Quinn and Does #4 through #10; (3) “violation of the
Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment” against Defendants Hooks, Guice, Lassiter,
Dye, Beaver, Couch, Wallace, Hamilton, Clifton, Quinn,
Caldwell, Clawson, and Does #2 through #40; (4) liability
under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act against Defendant
NCDPS for negligent ...