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Massey v. Goins

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

November 14, 2019

FNU GOINS, et al., Defendants.


          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District 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, 12].

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Quamaine Lee Massey, a North Carolina state court inmate currently incarcerated at Tabor Correctional Institution in Tabor City, North Carolina, filed this action on March 13, 2019, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff names as Defendants FNU Goins, identified as a sergeant at Alexander Correctional Institution (“Alexander”) and FNU Johnson, identified as a correctional officer at Alexander. Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment “by using blameworthy state of mind by giving false [unintelligible] statements.” [Doc. 1 at 5].

         Specifically, Plaintiff claims that on January 20, 2019, Plaintiff was given a non-violent disciplinary infraction. Defendant Goins came to Plaintiff's cell and told Plaintiff “to cuff up for no reason.” Goins put handcuffs on Plaintiff “super tight around [his] wrists” and broke Plaintiff's pinky finger in the process. Defendant Goins then took Plaintiff to the shower and made Plaintiff strip naked, while Defendant Johnson and “other officers” took Plaintiff's property. [Doc. 1 at 5].

         Plaintiff further alleges that, on January 22, 2015, Defendant Goins put Plaintiff on a Nutraloaf[1] diet for eight days for the same infraction. Plaintiff claims that, while on the Nutraloaf diet, he “starve[d] for 8 days for no reason.” [Id. at 5, 6].

         For relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages or “5 years off [his] sentence.” [Doc. 1 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 an Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants for what Plaintiff calls “using a blameworthy state of mind…” [Doc. 1 at 5]. Given Plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference, the Court will construe his claim as one based on the use of excessive force as to the alleged acts on January 20, 2019. In examining an excessive force claim, 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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