United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MICHAEL SHAUF, guardian of the person and estate of Daniel Lee Boling, II, an incapacitated adult, Plaintiff,
RICHARD WILSON, et al., Defendants.
L. RUSSELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendant Michael Plume's Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Doc. 61. The facts
and relevant legal standards are well-documented for
Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment failure-to-protect claims
against the remaining Lawton Correctional Facility
(“LCF”) Defendants, and the Court hereby
incorporates the background and standards sections of the
Court's March 2, 2018, order dismissing Defendants Rios
and Pitman. Doc. 30, at 1-6. To briefly recap, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants are responsible for classifying a
violent inmate, Randy Mounce, as
“medium-security” and celling him with Daniel
Boling, who Mounce beat into an indefinite coma. See
Second Amended Complaint, Doc. 44. To hold Defendants
responsible for Boling's injury under the Eighth
Amendment, Plaintiff must satisfy three Section 1983
elements: (1) objective harm, (2) culpable state of mind
equating to “deliberate indifference to a substantial
risk of serious harm, ” and (3) personal involvement,
or an “affirmative link” between the prison
official's conduct and the violation. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994) (internal quotations
omitted); Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police
Dep't, 717 F.3d 760, 767 (10th Cir. 2013).
amended his complaint to add an Eighth Amendment
failure-to-protect claim against Defendant Michael Plume,
LCF's Unit Manager who screened Mounce upon arrival at
LCF and designated him as “Random
Eligible/Unrestricted” on the cell assessment form.
Doc. 44, at 2, 4-5. The Court finds that Plaintiff fails to
allege a plausible Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant
Plume because he does not meet the “deliberate
indifference” prong. For the same reasons, the Court
also reconsiders its prior order and dismisses Defendant
Carol Barrett from this suit.
Plume could not have deliberately ignored a
“substantial risk of serious harm” if he did not
think that by designating Mounce as “Random
Eligible/Unrestricted, ” the risk to Mounce's
cellmates was substantial or the harm would be serious.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828; Doc. 44, at 2. The Eighth
Amendment deliberate indifference standard is equivalent to
recklessness-“the official must both be aware of facts
from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial
risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836-37.
“There exists no precise definition of those types of
conditions of confinement that violate the first prong of the
Farmer test by ‘posing a substantial risk of
serious harm.'” Grimsley v. MacKay, 93
F.3d 676, 681 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting id. at 834).
“[A]n official's failure to alleviate a significant
risk that he should have perceived but did not, while no
cause for commendation, cannot under our cases be condemned
as the infliction of punishment.” Farmer, 511
U.S. at 838.
determine Defendant Plume's deliberate indifference, the
Court begins by peeling back the “labels and
conclusions” and “formulaic recitation of the
elements” in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
and by “viewing the well-pleaded factual allegations in
the complaint as true and in the light most favorable
to” Plaintiff, the non-moving party.MacArthur v.
San Juan County, 497 F.3d 1057, 1064 (10th Cir. 2007)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 547 (2007)). Plaintiff's alleges that when Defendant
Plume conducted Mounce's LCF intake screening on December
19, 2014, he knew that Mounce (1) battered two inmates in
1998, (2) threatened an inmate in 2004, (3) stabbed an inmate
“S” in September 2009, and (4) tested positive
for methamphetamine upon arrival at LCF in December 2014.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547; see Doc. 44, at
3-4, 7. Notably, the “transfer packet that accompanied
Mounce to LCF”-the one Plume apparently relied on in
labeling Mounce “Random
Eligible/Unrestricted”-“did not contain
information about [Mounce's] January, 2013
stabbing” of another inmate. Doc. 44, at 4-5. Nor could
Plume have known about any of Mounce's subsequent violent
incidents at LCF that occurred after Plume screened Mounce.
Mounce's most recent violent misconduct was over five
years prior to his transfer to LCF and exposure to Defendant
Plume, Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that Defendant
Plume was “both . . . aware of facts from which [an]
inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious
harm exists” and “dr[e]w th[at] inference.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Pleading an inmate's
positive drug test and remote history of violence makes the
risk of violence “conceivable, ” not
“plausible.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
After all, “[p]risons, by definition, are places of
involuntary confinement of persons who have a demonstrated
proclivity for antisocial criminal, and often violent,
conduct.” Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526
(1984). Inmates will always pose some risk to each
other. Nonetheless, Plaintiff must plausibly allege that
Plume actually knew the risk was substantial in this
case. For example, Plaintiff met this standard against
Defendants Williams and Wilson by alleging that they knew
about Mounce's 2013 stabbing or violent misconduct at
LCF, but regarding Defendant Plume, Plaintiff failed to
“nudge [his] claim across the line from conceivable
to plausible.'” Robbins v. Okla. ex rel.
Dep't of Human Servs., 519 F.3d 1242, 1247 (10th
Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570);
see Doc. 30, at 13-21, 23-24; Doc. 44, at 2-3, 5-9.
responds mainly with two meritless arguments to defeat
dismissal: that Defendant Plume's
“misclassification directly led to Mounce being housed
with Boling” and that dismissal on the basis of failure
to plead deliberate indifference impermissibly
“requires evidence relating to the actor's state of
mind” before discovery has occurred. Doc. 63, at 7-9
& n.1. The first argument is beside the point-there may
be an “affirmative link” between Plume's
conduct and the Eighth Amendment violation, but that has no
bearing on the deliberate-indifference prong. In other words,
Plume may have bungled Mounce's intake screening and
caused, even knowingly, Mounce to be housed with potential
victim-cellmates. But unless Plume actually “dr[e]w the
inference” that doing so posed a “substantial
risk of serious harm, ” his personal involvement is
insufficient. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
second argument distorts the Twombly and
Iqbal standard for Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal. The
Court is not asking Plaintiff to know Defendant's state
of mind before deposing him. Plaintiff instead must allege
facts that make Defendant's deliberately indifferent
state of mind “plausible” before
“unlock[ing] the doors of discovery.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556; Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Admittedly, this is no
easy task at this stage for somebody in Plaintiff's
position, but it is a necessary one. Conclusory allegations
about Defendant Plume's state-of-mind, paired with
Plume's knowledge about Mounce's violent conduct over
five years prior, does not make it plausible that Plume was
“deliberate[ly] indifferen[t] to a substantial risk of
serious harm.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828;
see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 686 (“[T]he Federal
Rules do not require courts to credit a complaint's
conclusory statements without reference to its factual
context.”). Sensitive not to use Section 1983 liability
to hold prison officials responsible for merely negligent
misclassifications of inmates, the Court dismisses
Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant
Plume. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835
(“[D]eliberate indifference entails something more than
same reasons, the Court also reconsiders its prior order
denying Defendant Carol Barrett's motion to dismiss.
See Doc. 30, at 24-25. Plaintiff's allegations
against Barrett and Plume are nearly indistinguishable, save
for the fact that during Mounce's transfer to LCF,
Barrett filled out Mounce's “Custody Assessment
Scale form, ” whereas Plume “conducted the intake
screening and cell assessment form.” Doc. 44, at 2.
Excluding Plaintiff's conclusory allegations, he alleges
that both Barrett and Plume (1) had limited knowledge about
Mounce's misconduct history (a recent positive drug test
and violent acts from over five years prior) and (2)
mischaracterized Mounce's security risk in an LCF
transfer form, which (3) caused Mounce to be housed in
general population (and eventually with Boling). Doc. 44, at
2, 4-5, 7.
court originally found Barrett's deliberate indifference
plausible because “specific facts are not
necessary” to show deliberate indifference. Doc. 30, at
24-25 (quoting Lane v. Simon, 495 F.3d 1182, 1186
(10th Cir. 2007); see Id. at 24 (quoting Doc. 3, at
5) (“Barrett ‘recklessly omitted several relevant
facts' on the form that ‘would have increased'
Mounce's security level.”). That conclusion was
wrong. No. matter what facts Barrett omitted and how
personally involved she was with Mounce's placement,
Plaintiff does not allege that Barrett possessed enough facts
about Mounce's dangerousness to appreciate a
“substantial risk of serious harm.”
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 828. Thus, Plaintiff fails to
state a plausible claim for relief against Defendant Barrett.
Plume's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 61) is GRANTED. The Court
also amends its March 2, 2018, order (Doc. 30) to dismiss
Plaintiffs claim against ...