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Algieri v. Jones

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

January 9, 2019

BRYAN JONES, et. al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a state pre-trial detainee appearing pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Having reviewed the sufficiency of the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 1915(e)(2)(B), the undersigned recommends Plaintiff's action be dismissed.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a state pre-trial detainee currently incarcerated in Garfield County Detention Facility (“GCDF”), initiated this action on September 28, 2018. Doc. No. 1 (“Comp”). In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts two Eighth Amendment claims. First, he alleges he has received inadequate medical care because one of his eyeballs was scratched and the nurse refused to see him and/or he was not provided anything to clean his contacts. Id. at 6-7. Second, Plaintiff complains that he has not been provided regular access to cleaning supplies. Id. at 7-8. Plaintiff names as Defendants the GCDF, the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, as well as Pam and Mary, both of whom he indicates are medical personnel at GCDF. Id. at 4, 7.

         II. Screening of Prisoner Complaints

         A federal district court must review complaints filed by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). After conducting an initial review, the court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it presenting claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). In conducting this review, the reviewing court must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe them, and any reasonable inferences to be drawn from the allegations, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217 (10th Cir. 2007). Although a pro se litigant's pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), “[t]he burden is on the plaintiff to frame a ‘complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' that he or she is entitled to relief.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247-48 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). The allegations in a complaint must present “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Further, a claim is frivolous “where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact” or is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325, 327 (1989).

         III. GCDF & Garfield County Sheriff's Office

         Plaintiff asserts both Eighth Amendment claims against GCDF and the Garfield County Sheriff's Office. Comp. at 6, 7. However, neither a county jail nor a sheriff's office, as subdivisions of the county in which they are located, has a separate legal identity under Oklahoma law. Thus, the GCDF and the Garfield Sheriff's Office cannot be sued in this Court and any claims against them should be dismissed with prejudice. Lindsey v. Thomson, No. 06-7114, 2007 WL 2693970, at *3 (10th Cir. Sept. 10, 2007) (affirming dismissal of § 1983 claims against police departments and county sheriff's department because they are entities with no apparent legal existence); White v. Utah, No. 00-4109, 2001 WL 201980, at *1 (10th Cir. March 1, 2001) (affirming dismissal of county jail; although applicable state law provided that county may sue or be sued, no state law supported directing a cause of action directly against a county's subdivisions, including its jails); Aston v. Cunningham, No. 99-4156, 2000 WL 796086, at *4 n.3 (10th Cir. June 21, 2000) (affirming dismissal of county jail as defendant in prisoner's § 1983 action on basis that “a detention facility is not a person or legally created entity capable of being sued”); Reid v. Hamby, No. 95-7142, 1997 WL 537909, at * 6 (10th Cir. Sept. 2, 1997) (holding that “an Oklahoma ‘sheriff's department' is not a proper entity for purposes of a § 1983 suit”).

         IV. Eighth Amendment Claims

         1. Inadequate medical care

         To state a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim of denial of medical care, “a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).[1] The objective component requires the deprivation be sufficiently serious; and the subjective component requires the officials act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Miller v. Glanz, 948 F.2d 1562, 1569 (10th Cir. 1991); Martinez v. Garden, 430 F.3d 1302, 1304 (10th Cir. 2005). To satisfy the objective component, the inmate must show the presence of a “serious medical need[], ” that is, a “serious illness or injury.” Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104, 105; Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). For this analysis, the relevant question is “whether the alleged harm . . . is sufficiently serious, ” not “whether the symptoms displayed to the prison employee are sufficiently serious.” Mata v. Saiz, 427 F.3d 745, 753 (10th Cir. 2005). To satisfy the subjective component, the inmate must show that the prison official was both “aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm” existed, and he drew that inference. Martinez, 430 F.3d at 1305 (citing Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 1204 (10th Cir. 1996) (quotations omitted)).

         Here, construing Plaintiff's Complaint liberally, his allegations do not support a finding that he had a serious medical need for purposes of the Eighth Amendment's objective component. Plaintiff indicates that he scratched his eyeball and that an unidentified individual refused his request for a means to clean his contact lenses. Comp. at 7. Discomfort from a scratched eye and an inability to clean contact lenses are not so grave as to cross the de minimis threshold of a serious medical condition. See Mata, 427 F.3d at 753 (noting that the objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim is met only when the underlying condition and/or harm caused by the same is sufficiently serious); see also, cf., Canell v. Multnomah Cty., 141 F.Supp.2d 1046, 1057 (D. Or. 2001) (noting that severe eye injuries or legal blindness may constitute a serious medical need). Thus, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim based on an alleged denial of medical care related to a scratched eye and contact lens cleaner should be dismissed.

         2. Cleaning Supplies

         In his second claim, Plaintiff complains that he has not been allowed the opportunity to clean his cell more than one time in four weeks, putting him at risk of illness and infection. Comp. at 8. Plaintiff does not ...

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