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McDougald v. Erdos

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

May 25, 2018

RON ERDOS, et al., Defendants.

          Barrett, J.


          Stephanie K. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, a prisoner at the Southern Correctional Facility (SOCF) and frequent litigant in this Court, [1] filed this §1983 action against various SOCF officials and employees, including Defendants Warden Ron Erdos, Nurse Teresa Hill, C/O Ms. Williams, Nurse Janis Reiter, Lt. Humphrey, Deputy Warden William Cool, and John Doe Defendants. Although Plaintiff litigates about many things, in this case he complains chiefly about a mandatory blood draw to which he was subjected on July 3, 2017, which he believes was in violation of Ohio prison policy and a number of his constitutional rights. The undersigned takes judicial notice of the similarity of the instant allegations with the allegations presented in one of Plaintiff's prior recent cases, McDougald v. Stone, et al., No. 1:17-cv-72, which involved Plaintiff's complaints about a prior involuntary blood draw on January 4, 2017. In No. 1:17-cv-72, this Court granted the motion of the institutional defendants to dismiss all claims against them for failure to state a claim. See id., Docs. 20, 26.[2]

         The complaint in the instant case alleges that on July 3, 2017, Plaintiff was awoken by a John Doe correctional officer and told he was required to submit to a mandatory blood draw. Plaintiff requested a refusal of medical treatment form, but the John Doe officer instead summoned Lt. Humphrey. The John Doe officer and Lt. Humphrey asked Plaintiff to cuff up. Plaintiff continued to ask for a medical refusal form. Lt. Humphrey allegedly responded that he would “be back for my nigger ass and he stated he is gonna teach me a lesson for filing lawsuits against his staff and I was informed that the Warden and Deputy Warden of Operations will cover up for there [sic] actions.” (Doc. 18, Amended Complaint at 4). Lt Humphrey then left and returned between 9 and 10:15 am with C/O Williams and 5-6 suppression team members and another John Doe officer. (Id.). After Plaintiff again cuffed up, he alleges that he was grabbed by the unspecified persons and “my arms and wrist along with my fingers was bent excessively” while he was “forcefully escorted to medical infirmary” by Humphrey, Williams, and the suppression team members. (Id.)

         Once he arrived at the infirmary, Nurse Teresa Hill was summoned and Plaintiff was placed in a chair while a needle was “jammed in the top of my arm, ” and when no blood could be obtained, Nurse Hill “jammed the needle in my hand causing pain.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that while he was being escorted back to his cell, his wrist and fingers were again “bent excessively causing me pain and I requested medical treatment and I was told by Nurse Reiter that I would not be treated due to filing a lawsuit against her….” Nevertheless, Plaintiff submitted a sick call slip and was seen by medical on July 5, 2017. (Id. at 2). He alleges that (non-party) Nurse James documented “swollen wrists” and “lacerations on his wrist due to the tight handcuffs, ” and provided him with “ice and pain meds, and a[n] x-ray was ordered.” (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges a “use of force report” was submitted to the Deputy Warden (Defendant William Cool), who found that no further action was required. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to undergo a similar allegedly unlawful blood draw on January 4, 2017, at which time the attending nurse also “jammed” a needle into his arm. He alleges that on that occasion, additional SOCF officials bent his wrist, arms in an awkward position, causing “serious pain, ” and left him on the floor “in agonizing pain in a medical cage” without medical treatment. (Id. at 5). Days later, Plaintiff alleges that Warden Cool reviewed a Use of Force report regarding the incident, but recommended to Warden Erdos that no further action be required.

         Plaintiff alleges that Warden Erdos and Defendant Cool, by reviewing the use of force reports on both January 4, 2017 and July 5, 2017 and concluding that no further action was required, are liable for “creating a policy or custom under which excessive force was allowed.” (Id. at 6). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, bringing claims against all Defendants in their individual capacities and against Defendants Erdos and Cool in their official capacities. (Doc. 18 at 5-6). In lieu of filing an Answer, all Defendants herein have now moved to dismiss this second “blood draw” case for failure to state a claim. For many of the same reasons discussed in the R&R filed in No. 1:17-cv-72, Defendants' motion to dismiss this case should be granted.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         Defendants' motion to dismiss has been filed under Rule 12(b)(6), prior to the commencement of any discovery. In considering the motion, the Court must “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accept the well-pled factual allegations as true, and determine whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. Illinois Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 336 (6th Cir. 2007). Based upon liberal pleading standards under Rule 8 and the standard of review, it is far more common for cases to be disposed of on motions for summary judgment, following a period of discovery, than on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss. Nevertheless, where a defendant has filed a well-supported and meritorious motion to dismiss that clearly illustrates that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim, the motion will be granted. Having considered Defendants' well-supported motion in this case, together with Plaintiff's response and Defendants' reply, the undersigned concludes that the motion should be granted.

         The undersigned will begin by discussing the issue of whether the Plaintiff's allegations state any constitutional claims, before addressing other defenses.

         B. Grounds Asserted in Defendants' Motion

         1. Eighth Amendment Excessive Force Claims

         Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Humphrey, Williams, and Hill violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from excessive force during the July blood draw, both because of what Plaintiff alleges was an “unlawful” blood draw, and during the escort to and from the infirmary. In order to make out a claim of excessive force that violates the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must allege conduct that would satisfy both an objective and a subjective component of such a claim. “The objective component requires the pain inflicted to be ‘sufficiently serious, '” while “[t]he subjective component focuses on the state of mind of the prison officials.” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 296 (1991) and Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6 (1992)). Here, Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to state a claim of excessive force under the Eighth Amendment, because grabbing Plaintiff's arm and drawing his blood by force was not objectively unreasonable, and none of the allegations suggest that it was done “maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Id., 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. at 6 (internal quotation marks omitted)).

         a. No. Eighth Amendment Violation For Blood Draw

         Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he was informed by the Defendants that he did not have the option of refusing the blood test, because it was “mandatory.” Objectively, Plaintiff's allegations do not support a conclusion that the pain he experienced from the blood draw itself was “sufficiently serious” or that the amount of force was used more than necessary to secure his compliance with the blood draw, and to hold him in place while the nurse completed the task of drawing his blood. This Court reached the same conclusion in No. 1:17-cv-72. See also Boreland v. Superintendent Vaughn, 1993 WL 62707 at *6 (E.D. Penn. March 3, 1993)(holding that forced blood draw of inmate who claimed that needle caused severe pain, dizziness, weakness throughout his body, painful swelling in his hand, and left a scar, did not constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment, because the “use of a needle to draw blood is hardly the cruel and unusual punishment contemplated by the Eighth Amendment”); Goncalves v. Beshear, 2010 WL 2178516 at *8 (W.D. Ky. May 26, 2010) (pretrial detainee failed to show injury or violation of Eighth Amendment in having blood drawn to test for sexually transmitted diseases); Leavitt v. Wickham, 2013 WL 1753009 at *2 (D. Nev. April 23, 2013)(noting that “blood draws are a routine fact of modern life and inmates ‘have been lawfully subject to much more severe intrusions of their corporeal privacy than a sterile blood draw conducted by a trained medical professional, '” quoting United States v. Kincade, 379 F.3d 813, 837 (9th Cir. 2004) and citing Hamliton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 896-897 (9th Cir. 2011)).

         Plaintiff's allegations also fail to demonstrate any subjective intent to cause him harm during the blood draw, to the extent he alleges that the nurse “jammed” the needle into his arm, and when she could not obtain a sufficient blood sample, “jammed” the needle into his hand instead. See e.g., Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 897 (9th Cir. 2011)(holding that claim that use of physical force to extract blood sample violates the Eighth Amendment fails as a matter of law where plaintiff failed to allege more than that he was handcuffed and restrained to effect the blood test, and did not allege pain beyond what would be expected from the needle stick); Sanders v. Coman, 864 F.Supp. 496, 499-501 (E.D. N.C. 1994)(no Eighth Amendment violation where prison officials used reasonable force to collect DNA samples from unwilling prisoners); Nawrocki v. Linder, 2008 WL 4533681 at *2-4 (W.D. Wis. March 7, 2008) (dismissing on initial screening Eighth Amendment claim based upon painful blood draw that allegedly caused seizure, because the fact that defendant told plaintiff she knew that it hurt to have a needle placed in his arm is not evidence that she intended to cause him to experience pain unnecessarily, and plaintiff could not show that defendant intended him to suffer serious injury, that she knew that serious injury was highly likely to result).

         b. No. Eighth Amendment Violation During Escort

         Although the blood draw itself does not state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff also alleges that some Defendants[3] used excessive force during the escort to and from his housing unit and the infirmary when his arms, wrist and fingers were bent “excessively causing me pain and I requested medical treatment and I was told by nurse Reiter that I would not be treated due to me filing a lawsuit against her….” (Doc. 18 at 4). In addition to the momentary pain that Plaintiff alleges he experienced due to his arms, wrist and fingers being “bent” during his escort, Plaintiff alleges that the excessively tight handcuffs resulted in “swollen” wrists and “lacerations.” Despite that additional allegation of injury, Plaintiff's allegations of excessive force during his escort still fail to state any claim under the Eighth Amendment.

         It is true that the improper use of handcuffs can state an Eighth Amendment claim, and that such cases are often resolved on summary judgment. However, in order to state a claim, the plaintiff must allege both physical injury and - importantly - that he informed the Defendants that the handcuffs were too tight and they deliberately ignored his complaints. In his amended complaint, Plaintiff primarily complains about his arms, wrists, and fingers being “bent excessively” while he was being forcibly escorted against his will to the infirmary for the blood draw. The only alleged injury resulted from the handcuffs. However, he does not allege that he informed any Defendant that the handcuffs were excessively tight, or that they refused to loosen his handcuffs. Absent that allegation of a subjective intent to harm with excessively tight handcuffs, Plaintiff's complaint is insufficient as a matter of law to state a claim.

         In addition, although the swelling and lacerations from the handcuffs constitute a greater injury than Plaintiff alleged in No. 1:17-cv-72, [4] his allegations still fail to allege more than a de minimis injury, falling short of the objective component required under the Eighth Amendment. See Jones Bey v. Johnson,248 Fed.Appx. 675, 677 (6th Cir. 2007) (pain and swollen wrists resulting from tight handcuffs and striking a food slot are de minimis injuries under the Eighth Amendment). Although it is unnecessary for an inmate to show any “significant” injury to prove the objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim, the extent of the injury remains a factor to be considered in determining whether the assertion of force was objectively ...

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