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Forbes v. Wall

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

October 7, 2014

DARCY FORBES, Plaintiff,
ASHBEL T. WALL, et al., Defendants.


MARY M. LISI, District Judge.

Plaintiff Darcy Forbes, pro se, an inmate at the Adult Correctional Institutions ("ACI"), has filed a Complaint (Doc. #1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related statutes, an Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Fees and Affidavit (Doc. #2) ("Application"), and a Motion for Appointment of Counsel (Doc. #3) ("Motion for Counsel"). The Court is required to screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1916A.


I. Screening

In connection with proceedings in forma pauperis, Section 1915(e)(2), 28 U.S.C., directs the Court to dismiss a case at any time if the Court determines that the action is, inter alia, frivolous or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Similarly, Section 1915A, 28 U.S.C., directs courts to screen complaints filed by prisoners against a governmental entity, officer or employee and dismiss such claims for identical reasons. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

Chase v. Chafee, No. CA 11-586ML , 2011 WL 6826504, at *1 (D.R.I. Dec. 9, 2011). The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A is the same as the legal standard used for ruling on a 12(b)(6) motion. Id. at *2.

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id .; see also Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset , 640 F.3d 1, 13 (1st Cir. 2013)("The relevant inquiry focuses on the reasonableness of the inference of liability that the plaintiff is asking the court to draw from the facts alleged in the complaint."). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation marks omitted."). However, "[w]here 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 . (internal quotation marks omitted.). "In order to show an entitlement to relief, a complaint must contain enough factual material to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true....'" Ocasio-Hernández , 640 F.3d at 12 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555).

"In making this determination, the Court must accept plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, although the Court need not credit bald assertions, unverifiable conclusions or irrational factual allegations." Chase , 2011 WL 6826504, at *2 (citing Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678). Moreover, the Court must review pleadings of a pro se plaintiff liberally. Estelle v. Gamble , 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).

II. Complaint

In his Complaint Plaintiff names as Defendants sixteen officials and officers at the ACI, including Ashbel T. Wall, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections ("RIDOC"). Plaintiff raises four claims in his Complaint: 1) failure to protect; 2) negligent failure to protect; 3) failure to classify him to protective custody; and 4) retaliation. As a result, Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered serious emotional injuries. He seeks a declaratory judgment as well as compensatory and punitive damages against each Defendant.

A. Failure to Protect

Plaintiff claims that the failure of Director Wall, Deputy Warden Leach, Lieutenants Macomber, Galligan, and Sayles, and Investigators Begones, Perry, and Figarido "to act on their knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm to Plaintiff violated his Eighth amendment right to be free from Deliberate Indifference to his safety." Complaint § 44. The facts supporting Plaintiff's allegations, which the Court accepts as true, are as follows.

On January 17, 2014, Plaintiff was moved from the Intake Service Center to the High Security Center ("HSC"), A-Module, on B-Status. Id . ¶¶ 20-21. That same day, Plaintiff wrote a request slip to an unnamed "assigned Lieutenant', " about problems concerning his life and safety due to threats he was receiving from other inmates in A- and B-Modules. Id . ¶ 22. He asked to be placed in protective custody. Id . On January 18th, the very next day, Lieutenant Sayles ordered that Plaintiff be moved to D-Module, which Plaintiff describes as "a Mental Health block for Mentally Ill. Inmates." Id . ¶ 23. He remained in D-Module from January 18, 2014 through March 25, 2014, on B-status. Id . ¶¶ 24-25. Plaintiff alleges that while there, he was treated like a "Disciplined Inmate." Id . ¶ 25. During the entire time he was housed in D-Module Plaintiff wrote multiple request slips concerning the same issues regarding his safety and again asking to be placed in protective custody. Id . ¶ 26. He told the Defendants named in this count that other inmates were making death threats against him, that he was going to be assaulted, and that threats were also made against his wife and children. Id . ¶ 27. Plaintiff alleges that he was told "we don't know what to do with you, " "you can't go nowhere, " and "you'll be Okay in D-Module." Id . ¶ 28.

On February 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a level One grievance about being housed in a mental health block and not being placed in protective custody. Id . ¶ 31. He alleges that Lieutenant Sayles refused to send Plaintiff a level II grievance form to file on the same issues mentioned above. Id . ¶ 32. On March 25, 2014, Plaintiff was moved to F-Module "by unknown Defendants" and placed on C-Status.[1] Id . ¶ 33. He does not state why this was done.[2]

A prison official's "deliberate indifference" to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v. Brennan , 511 U.S. 825, 828 (1994). As part of their duty to provide humane conditions, prison officials must "take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of inmates, " id. at 832 (quoting Hudson v. Palmer , 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)), including protecting prisoners from violence at the hands of other prisoners, id. at 833; see also Calderón-Ortiz v, Laboy-Alvarado, 300 F.3d 60, 64 (1st Cir. 2002)("Prison officials must take reasonable measures to guarantee inmates' safety from attacks by other inmates."). Farmer held that "a prison official may be held liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying humane conditions of confinement only if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." 511 U.S. at 847; see also id. at 844-45. Thus, prison officials violate the constitutional conditions of confinement only if an inmate meets two requirements. Calderón-Ortiz, 300 F.3d at 64. First, the deprivation alleged must be "objectively, sufficiently serious." Id . (quoting Farmer , 511 U.S. at 834). In a failure to protect case, the plaintiff must show that the conditions of incarceration pose a substantial risk of serious harm. Id . Second, the plaintiff must show that: (1) the defendant knew of (2) a substantial risk (3) of serious harm and (4) disregarded that risk. Id.

Not every injury suffered by a prisoner at the hands of another inmate gives rise to an Eighth Amendment claim, however. Giroux v. Somerset Cnty. , 178 F.3d 28, 32 (1st Cir. 1999); see also Farmer, 511 S.Ct. at 845 ("prison officials who act reasonably cannot be found liable under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment clause"); Burrell v. Hampshire Cnty. , 307 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2002)("Any inquiry into the reasonableness of the prison officials' actions incorporates due regard for prison officials' unenviable task of keeping dangerous men in safe custody under humane conditions.'") (quoting Farmer , 511 U.S. at 845). Here, accepting Plaintiff's allegations that he was at risk of serious harm and that Defendants knew of the threats to his safety, it cannot be said that they disregarded any risk thereto. As Plaintiff states, Lieutenant Sayles did, in fact, move Plaintiff out of A-Module to D-Module, the day after Plaintiff made his first request to be placed in protective custody ...

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