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Dawson v. Rios

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

September 30, 2019

RICHARD DAWSON JR., Plaintiff,
v.
HECTOR RIOS et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN, United States District Judge.

         Now before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Hector Rios and Jon Engle (collectively, “Defendants”), in their individual and official capacities (Doc. No. 32). Plaintiff Richard Dawson Jr., a state prisoner appearing pro se, has responded in opposition (Doc. No. 40), and Defendants have replied (Doc. No. 41). Based on the parties’ arguments and the governing law, Defendants’ Motion is granted.

         Summary of the Pleadings

         Plaintiff’s claims arise from events alleged to have occurred in September 2016 while he was incarcerated at the Lawton Correctional Facility (“LCF”) in Lawton, Oklahoma. Plaintiff alleges that, on the morning of September 18, 2016, a correctional officer named Ademola Aderagba threw “hazardous chemicals . . . in his eyes.” See Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 7, 12. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff told another officer, Lt. James, that he “needed to go to medical because [his] eyes [were] burning.” Id. at 10. Lt. James “refused [to procure] medical emergency treatment” for Plaintiff and instead “put [Plaintiff] on property restriction.” Id. at 7, 10; see also Id . at 12.

         Later that day, another officer, Sgt. Wolf, called a nurse to inquire about Plaintiff’s eye injury. Id. at 10. The nurse told Sgt. Wolf that Plaintiff “needed to go to medical.” Id. Sgt. Wolf relayed this message to Defendant Engle, who responded that Plaintiff “couldn’t go to medical because [he] was on property restriction.” Id. The following day, Plaintiff was evaluated “on housing” by a nurse, who found “no indication that [Plaintiff] needed to see the eye doctor.” Compl. Ex. 3 (Doc. No. 1-3) at 8, 9. On September 29, 2016, Plaintiff submitted a Request for Health Services form, reporting that he was “still hav[ing] problem[s] with [his] vision” and requesting to see an eye doctor. Id. at 8. That request was summarily denied based on the nurse’s September 19, 2016 assessment. See id.

         On September 26, 2016, Plaintiff completed a Request to Staff form, reporting that “on 9-18-16 at 5:20am c/o Ader[a]gba threw some kind of chemicals in [his] eyes” and that he was subsequently “refused medical treatment.”[1] Id. at 5. Defendant Rios responded to the request on September 28, 2016, indicating that he would “have the appropriate staff look into [Plaintiff’s] complaint.” Id.

         Plaintiff remained on “property restriction” for a period of seven days, during which time he was “placed in a cold cell, ” was “denied clothing, bed[d]ing items[, ] [and] hygi[e]ne, ” was “made to eat cheese out of a box, ” and was “denied and refused medical treatment.” Compl. at 10, 12. This treatment, according to Plaintiff, was “due to Plaintiff being a[n] African American/Black prisoner.” Id. at 12; see also Id . at 7.

         Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on December 6, 2017, asserting claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

         Analysis

         In the motion under review, Defendants Engle and Rios seek dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims against them pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2]

         I. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that “a pleading . . . contain a ‘short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). While “detailed factual allegations” are not required, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must set forth enough facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with’ a defendant’s liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         II. Plaintiff’s Official-Capacity Claims

         Defendants Rios and Engle are employees of LCF, a private prison.[3] Private prison employees “are not state actors, ” and, as such, “they do not have an ‘official capacity’ as that term is used under the Eleventh Amendment.” Jones v. Barry, 33 Fed.App’x 967, 972 n.5 (10th Cir. 2002). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s official-capacity claims are subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Smith v. Lawton Corr. Facility, ...


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