United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
H. Payne United States District Judge
the Court is Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil
rights complaint (Dkt. # 1). Plaintiff is an inmate at Lawton
Correctional Facility. Dkt. 1, Complaint, at 4. He alleges
Correctional Officer Hansford slammed him against a wall and
then placed him in lockdown for no reason. Plaintiff further
alleges Kitchen Supervisor Lankford and Aramark Corporation
(Aramark) served unsanitary food. Id. at 7. For the
reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the claims
regarding lockdown and unsanitary food and grant leave to
file an amended complaint.
the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), federal courts must
engage in a preliminary screening of cases in which prisoners
seek redress from a government entity or officer.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must
identify any cognizable claim and dismiss any claim which is
frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28
U.S.C. § 1915A(b); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). To
avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint
must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, that
“raise a right to relief about the speculative
level.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. A court
must accept all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint
as true, and must construe the allegations in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. Id. at 555. However,
“when the allegations in a complaint, however true,
could not raise a [plausible] claim of entitlement to relief,
” the cause of action should be dismissed. Id.
at 558. Twombly articulated the pleading standard
for all civil actions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 684 (2009). The Court applies the same standard of
review for dismissals under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) that is employed for Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Kay v.
Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2007).
pro se plaintiff's complaint must be broadly
construed. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
The generous construction to be given the pro se
litigant's allegations “does not relieve the
plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which
a recognized legal claim could be based.” Hall v.
Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991).
Notwithstanding a pro se plaintiff's various
mistakes or misunderstandings of legal doctrines or
procedural requirements, “if a court can reasonably
read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the
plaintiff could prevail, it should do so ….”
Id. However, the Court need not accept “mere
conclusions characterizing pleaded facts.” Bryson
v. City of Edmond, 905 F.2d 1386, 1390 (10th
Cir. 1990); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(“While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitlement to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do.”) (quotations and
citations omitted)). Nor will the Court “supply
additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's
complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's
behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170,
1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).
Screening the Complaint
asserts three claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges:
(Count I) Defendant Hansford applied excessive force; (Count
II) Defendant Hansford placed Plaintiff in solitary
confinement without due process; and (Count III) Defendants
Lankford and Aramark served Plaintiff unsanitary meat. Dkt.
1, Complaint, at 3-6. In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff
seeks $25, 000 in compensatory damages; $25, 000 in nominal
damages; and $1 million in punitive damages. Id. at
6. The Court will address each Count below.
Count I: Excessive Force Claim Against Defendant
Count I, Plaintiff alleges the prison assigned Defendant
Hansford to escort him from the medical unit to the housing
pod on November 20, 2016. Dkt. 1, Complaint, at 4. As they
were walking down a hallway, Hansford allegedly twisted
Plaintiff's arm and slammed him into a wall twice.
Id. At some point two other officers approached the
area, and Plaintiff stopped to talk to them. Id.
Thereafter, the officers allegedly joined Hansford in
restraining Plaintiff. Id. He contends they twisted
his arms behind his back, marched him to his cell, swung him
forward, and shoved him inside. Id. at 5. The
movement purportedly hurt Plaintiff's neck, back, and
shoulder. Id. Plaintiff alleges he was simply
walking back to his housing pod and did “nothing for
force to be used.” Id. at 4. He believes
Hansford used force “in a malicious and sadistic
manner” to inflict harm and impose a punishment.
Id. at 4-5.
not the first time Defendant filed suit based on the above
occurrences. On November 13, 2017, he filed a Civil Rights
Complaint against different guards involved in the incident.
See Routt v. Harris, 17-CV-020 JED-JFJ. The
original Complaint described the same events but referred to
the primarily wrongdoer (Hansford) as a “male detention
officer.” Dkt. 1 in 17-CV-020, Complaint, at 5-6. A few
weeks after filing the original Complaint, Plaintiff
identified the officer as Dustin Hansford and filed a motion
to assert additional claims against him. Dkt. 5 in 17-CV-020,
Mnt to Supplement. The Court granted the motion and directed
Plaintiff to file an amended complaint by March 17, 2017.
Dkt. 6 in 17-CV-020, Order. Plaintiff failed to comply, and
the case proceeded against the existing defendants. On
January 22, 2018, when the case was ready for a dispositive
ruling, Plaintiff filed a second motion to add Hansford as a
Defendant. Dkt. 47 in 17-CV-020, Mnt for Joinder of Party. By
an Opinion and Order entered May 25, 2018, this Court denied
the second motion and dismissed the claims against the
remaining defendants. Dkt. 52 in 17-CV-020, Opinion. By a
Mandate issued April 12, 2019, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the
dismissal. Dkt. 65 in 17-CV-020, UCCA Mandate.
record, it is not entirely clear that Plaintiff can renew his
claims against Hansford in this proceeding. However,
preclusion principles must be raised as an affirmative
defense, and there is nothing on the face of the complaint
that would permit the Court to sua sponte dismiss on
that basis. See Keller Tank Servs. II, Inc. v. Comm'r
of Internal Revenue, 854 F.3d 1178, 1193 (10th Cir.
2017) (preclusion principles must be raised as an affirmative
defense); Fogle v. Pierson, 435 F.3d 1252, 1258
(10th Cir. 2006) (“A complaint may be dismissed sua
sponte under § 1915 based on an affirmative defense only
when the defense is obvious from the face of the complaint
and no further factual record is required to be
developed.”) (quotations omitted). The Court will
therefore screen the merits of Count I under 28 U.S.C. §
1915 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
succeed on his excessive force claim, the “plaintiff
must show (1) that the alleged wrongdoing was objectively
harmful enough to establish a constitutional violation; and
(2) that defendants acted with a sufficiently culpable state
of mind.” Norton v. The City Of Marietta, 432
F.3d 1145, 1154 (10th Cir. 2005). “The objective
component ... is contextual and responsive to contemporary
standards of decency. The subjective element ... turns on
whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain
or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the
very purpose of causing harm.” Smith v.
Cochran, 339 F.3d 1205, 1212 (10th Cir. 2003)
(quotations omitted). The wrongdoing here satisfies both
elements: Plaintiff alleges Hansford slammed him into a wall
multiple times with a sadistic intention to cause pain. Count
I therefore survives initial review under 28 U.S.C. §
Count II: Due Process Claim Against Defendant
II addresses Plaintiff's placement in lockdown. Dkt. 1,
Complaint, at 7. On November 20, 2016 - the same day cited
above - Defendant Hansford alleged placed Plaintiff on a
72-hour lockdown. Id. Hansford accused Plaintiff of
hindering a prison employee in the performance of his duties.
Id. Hansford allegedly failed to issue a misconduct
report or written notice, and Plaintiff was not afforded a
hearing. I ...