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Anderson v. Lawless

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

December 21, 2017

SHERIFF JEFF LAWLESS, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff, a state inmate under the supervision of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections, brings this prisoner civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1-3.) Plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. All judicial officers who render services in this action shall do so as if the costs had been prepaid. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). This matter is before the Court sua sponte for an initial screen of Plaintiff's Complaint as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A to identify cognizable claims and to recommend dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint, or any portion of it, 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The Undersigned finds that at this early, initial screening stage Plaintiff's claims alleging violation of the First and Eighth Amendments against Defendants Spoljarik, Hatfield, and Akers arguably state claims for relief that can be granted and, therefore, RECOMMENDS that those claims continue against Defendants Spoljarik, Hatfield, and Akers in their individual capacities. The Undersigned finds that the Complaint fails to state claims on which relief can be granted with respect to all other defendants and claims. For the reasons that follow, it is RECOMMENDED that the Court DISMISS all of Plaintiff's other claims for failure to assert any claim on which relief may be granted.


         According to the Complaint, at the time of the events in question, Plaintiff was a state prisoner assigned to the Corrections and Reception Center (“CRC”) in Orient, Ohio, but temporarily in the custody of the Lawrence County, Ohio, Sheriff's Department and housed in the Lawrence County Jail (“LCJ”). Plaintiff states that on December 6, 2016, he was using the LCJ phone when he and Defendant Hatfield became embroiled in a shouting match. (ECF No. 1-3 at 9.) Plaintiff further states Defendant Hatfield, Spoljarik, and Akers forced Plaintiff to the ground, where they proceeded to “hit the plaintiff several times in his torso area, head, legs, and neck.” (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Akers “stamped on the plaintiff's right [hand] while doing so (which resulted in a fracture to the plaintiff's right hand).” (Id.) Plaintiff claims that, while taking Plaintiff to a restraining chair, Defendant Spoljarik intentionally caused Plaintiff to fall to the ground. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Spoljarik intentionally shackled Plaintiff improperly in order to cause additional pain and then Plaintiffs Spoljarik, Hatfield, and Akers denied him medical treatment. (Id. at 10-11.) Plaintiff also states that, after being placed in a restraining chair, Defendant Spoljarik intentionally caused the chair to “slam to the floor, ” inflicting unnecessary pain and fear. (Id. at 10.) According to Plaintiff, Defendants then placed him into the LCJ holding tank for approximately four hours. (Id. at 11.)

         Plaintiff states that, at approximately midnight, he received sick call access and a grievance form. (Id. at 11.) According to Plaintiff, shortly thereafter, Defendant Spoljarik slammed a door into Plaintiff's head when he asked for his medication. (Id.) Plaintiff states that, shortly thereafter, Defendant Spoljarik and Defendant Pruitt again placed Defendant in the restraining chair, this time in the LCJ booking area. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that Deputy Spoljarik, in retaliation for Plaintiff's request to file a grievance, again caused the chair to slam into the ground, causing unnecessary pain and fear. (Id.) Plaintiff states that Defendants then put him back into the LCJ holding tank for another four hours, when several deputies appeared to clean his wounds. (Id. at 12.) According to Plaintiff, one of the deputies told him that he needed to have x-rays of his arm. (Id.)

         Plaintiff states that, as a result of Defendants' actions, he

received a fracture on his right hand and swelling arms and wrist, leg, swollen fingers, knots on the plaintiff's head front and back, face, his chin, jaw, neck, bruising to the plaintiff's torso area, lacerations on the plaintiff's head, back of left forearm, scraping of a prior wound on the plaintiff's right ear. Plaintiff also has nerve damage in his neck and left hand.

(Id.) Plaintiff also states that, after he returned to state custody at CRC, he received care for lacerations, a fractured right hand, and nerve damage in his neck and left hand. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff further states that, after eleven months, he “still has not received an M.R.I. or test to check the nerve activity in his left hand and neck and remains in pain.” (Id. at 14.) Plaintiff further states that “his wrist, neck, hands are stiff and do not operate properly.” (Id. 14.) Plaintiff fears that, because of the ongoing lack of medical care, he “could lose total use of his left hand.” (Id.)

         In addition to these complaints, Plaintiff also claims that he was denied treatment for his pre-existing PTSD, his pancreatitis, and for various other conditions requiring prescription “stomach pills, cholesterol pills, and pain pills, ” all of which Defendants denied treatment. (Id.) Plaintiff also claims that Lawrence County prisoner transport vehicles caused him panic attacks and vivid nightmares due to aggravation of his PTSD. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, use of Defendants' vehicle, an ambulance reconfigured with “wooden 2x4s, plywood, drywall screws, chicken wire for vent cover, no windows nor light in the cargo area, and exhaust fumes coming through the chicken wire vents that were cut out of the plywood, ” to transport prisoners constitutes actionable indifference to Plaintiff's physical and mental health. (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants Spoljarik, Hatfield, and Akers actively conspired to cover up the alleged unnecessary use of force. (Id. at 10-11.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Hatfield shut off access to phones throughout LCJ so that other prisoners could not report what had happened. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff also states that Defendant Spoljarik, while alone with Plaintiff in the LCJ holding tank, said “loud enough for someone in the booking area to hear ‘he refused medical, '” even though Plaintiff affirmatively requested medical attention. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff further states that Defendant Hatfield and Spljarik took pictures of his wounds, which Defendants did not produce in response to his February 1, 2017, public records request. (Id. at 11, 13.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants intentionally withheld medical information and incident reports from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff also claims that Defendants charged him with various offenses related to the events in question and, during an internal investigation, Defendant Winters intentionally omitted interviewing or taking statements from any of the other prisoners who witnessed some or all of the events in question. (Id.)

         Plaintiff states that on February 1, 2017, the law firm Gerhardstein & Branch, LPA, filed a public records request on his behalf. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff further states that he received records of his denied grievance, which he had never received because Defendants mailed it to the wrong address. (Id.) Plaintiff also states that Defendants' response to the records request was incomplete because it did not contain any of the photos or video taken on December 6-7, 2016. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, he filed an appeal of his grievance denial with Defendant Inspector Scott Flicky, which Defendant Flicky subsequently denied. (Id. at 14.)

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to Defendants' use of restraining devices and transport vehicles. (Id. at 17.) Plaintiff also seeks $200, 000.00 in compensatory damages jointly and separately against each Defendant and $20, 000.00 in punitive damages against each Defendant. (Id.)


         Congress enacted 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the federal in forma pauperis statute, seeking to “lower judicial access barriers to the indigent.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992). In doing so, however, “Congress recognized that ‘a litigant whose filing fees and court costs are assumed by the public, unlike a paying litigant, lacks an economic incentive to refrain from filing frivolous, malicious, or repetitive lawsuits.'” Id. at 31 (quoting Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989)). To address this concern, Congress included subsection (e)[1] as part of the statute, which provides in pertinent part:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that--
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(B) the action or ...

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