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Scott v. Perez-Lugo

United States District Court, Middle District of Florida
Nov 21, 2023
3:23-cv-615-MMH-JBT (M.D. Fla. Nov. 21, 2023)




DAONTAE T. SCOTT, Plaintiff, v. E. PEREZ-LUGO, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff Daontae T. Scott, an inmate of the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), initiated this action on May 18, 2023, by filing a pro se Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights (Doc. 1) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court afforded Scott two opportunities to amend his Complaint, see Orders (Docs. 6, 9), and he now proceeds on a Second Amended Complaint (SAC; Doc. 10). In the SAC, Scott names as Defendants: (1) “Centurion Staff Health Service Administration”; (2) Aubrey Padgett; (3) Assistant Warden Christina Crew; (4) Dr. E. Perez Lugo; and (5) Medical Director R. Bassa. SAC at 1, 3-4. According to Scott, Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical need after he broke his right hand at Columbia Correctional Institution. Id. at 6. Scott alleges that he did not receive an x-ray of his hand for two months, and a bone specialist should have treated him. Id. at 6, 8. He asserts that his right hand “became ‘deform[ed]' due to the lack of treatment.” Id. at 6. As relief, Scott requests monetary damages. Id. at 8.

The Court cautioned Scott that failure to comply with its Order directing him to amend could result in dismissal of the case without further notice. Doc. 9 at 4.

The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires the Court to dismiss this case at any time if the Court determines that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B); 1915A. “A claim is frivolous if it is without arguable merit either in law or fact.” Bilal v. Driver, 251 F.3d 1346, 1349 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing Battle v. Cent. State Hosp., 898 F.2d 126, 129 (11th Cir. 1990)). A complaint filed in forma pauperis which fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is not automatically frivolous. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) dismissals should only be ordered when the legal theories are “indisputably meritless,” id. at 327, or when the claims rely on factual allegations which are “clearly baseless.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). “Frivolous claims include claims ‘describing fantastic or delusional scenarios, claims with which federal district judges are all too familiar.'” Bilal, 251 F.3d at 1349 (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328). Additionally, a claim may be dismissed as frivolous when it appears that a plaintiff has little or no chance of success. Id. As to whether a complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted,” the language of the PLRA mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and therefore courts apply the same standard in both contexts. Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Alba v. Montford, 517 F.3d 1249, 1252 (11th Cir. 2008).

Scott proceeds as a pauper. See Order (Doc. 5).

“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) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) the defendant deprived him of a right secured under the United States Constitution or federal law, and (2) such deprivation occurred under color of state law. Salvato v. Miley, 790 F.3d 1286, 1295 (11th Cir. 2015); Bingham v. Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1175 (11th Cir. 2011) (per curiam); Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 737 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). Moreover, under Eleventh Circuit precedent, to prevail in a § 1983 action, a plaintiff must show “an affirmative causal connection between the official's acts or omissions and the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Zatler v. Wainwright, 802 F.2d 397, 401 (11th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted); Porter v. White, 483 F.3d 1294, 1306 n.10 (11th Cir. 2007).

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. (8)(a)(2). In addition, all reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 705 (11th Cir. 2010). Nonetheless, the plaintiff still must meet some minimal pleading requirements. Jackson v. BellSouth Telecomms., 372 F.3d 1250, 1262-63 (11th Cir. 2004). Indeed, while “[s]pecific facts are not necessary[,]” the complaint should “‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Further, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While not required to include detailed factual allegations, a complaint must allege “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id.

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[.]” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotations omitted); see also Jackson, 372 F.3d at 1262 (explaining that “conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of facts or legal conclusions masquerading as facts will not prevent dismissal” (original alteration omitted)). Indeed, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions[,]”which simply “are not entitled to [an] assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 680. In the absence of well-pled facts suggesting a federal constitutional deprivation or violation of a federal right, a plaintiff cannot sustain a cause of action against the defendant.

In assessing the SAC, the Court must read Scott's pro se allegations in a liberal fashion. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). And, while “[p]ro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will, therefore, be liberally construed,” Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th Cir. 1998), “‘this leniency does not give the court a license to serve as de facto counsel for a party or to rewrite an otherwise deficient pleading in order to sustain an action.'” Campbell v. Air Jamaica Ltd., 760 F.3d 1165, 1168-69 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting GJR Invs., Inc. v. Cnty. of Escambia, 132 F.3d 1359, 1369 (11th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted), overruled in part on other grounds as recognized in Randall, 610 F.3d at 709)).

Here, Scott alleges that Defendants violated the Eighth Amendment when they were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need. Pursuant to the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The Eighth Amendment “imposes duties on [prison] officials, who must provide humane conditions of confinement; prison officials must ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and must ‘take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates.'” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). To establish an Eighth Amendment violation, a prisoner must satisfy both an objective and subjective inquiry regarding a prison official's conduct. Swain v. Junior, 961 F.3d 1276, 1285 (11th Cir. 2020) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834); Chandler v. Crosby, 379 F.3d 1278, 1289 (11th Cir. 2004).

As it relates to medical care, “the Supreme Court has held that prison officials violate the bar on cruel and unusual punishments when they display ‘deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners.'” Keohane v. Fla. Dep't of Corr. Sec'y, 952 F.3d 1257, 1265 (11th Cir. 2020) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)). To prevail on a deliberate indifference claim, a plaintiff must show: “(1) a serious medical need; (2) the defendants' deliberate indifference to that need; and (3) causation between that indifference and the plaintiffs injury.” Mann v. Taser Int'l, Inc., 588 F.3d 1291, 1306-07 (11th Cir. 2009).

“To show that a prison official acted with deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, a plaintiff must satisfy both an objective and a subjective inquiry.” Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003). To meet the first prong, the plaintiff must demonstrate an “objectively serious medical need”-i.e., “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention,” and, in either instance, “one that, if left unattended, poses a substantial risk of serious harm.” Id. (alteration adopted) (quotations omitted). To satisfy the second, subjective prong, the plaintiff must prove that the prison officials “acted with deliberate indifference to [his serious medical] need.” Harper v. Lawrence Cnty., 592 F.3d 1227, 1234 (11th Cir. 2010) (quotation omitted). “To establish deliberate indifference,” a plaintiff must demonstrate that the prison officials “(1) had subjective knowledge of a risk of serious harm; (2) disregarded that risk; and (3) acted with more than
gross negligence.” Id. (quotation omitted). An inmate-plaintiff bears the burden to establish both prongs. Goebert v. Lee Cnty., 510 F.3d 1312, 1326 (11th Cir. 2007).
Hoffer v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 973 F.3d 1263, 1270 (11th Cir. 2020) (footnote omitted). Importantly, for allegedly inadequate medical treatment to rise to the level of a constitutional violation, the care must be “‘so grossly incompetent, inadequate, or excessive as to shock the conscience or to be intolerable to fundamental fairness.'” Hoffer, 973 F.3d at 1271 (quoting Harris v. Thigpen, 941 F.2d 1495, 1505 (11th Cir. 1991)); see also Waldrop v. Evans, 871 F.2d 1030, 1033 (11th Cir. 1989) (“Grossly incompetent or inadequate care can constitute deliberate indifference . . . as can a doctor's decision to take an easier and less efficacious course of treatment” (internal citation omitted) or fail to respond to a known medical problem).

The Eleventh Circuit has recognized “a tension within [its] precedent regarding the minimum standard for culpability under the deliberate-indifference standard.” Hoffer v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., 973 F.3d 1263, 1270 n.2 (11th Cir. 2020). Regardless, the court stated that the “competing articulations-'gross' vs. ‘mere' negligence”-may be “a distinction without a difference” because “no matter how serious the negligence, conduct that can't fairly be characterized as reckless won't meet the Supreme Court's standard.” Id.; see also Patel v. Lanier Cnty., 969 F.3d 1173, 1188 n.10 (11th Cir. 2020).

“As applied in the prison context, the deliberate-indifference standard sets an appropriately high bar.” Swain, 961 F.3d at 1285. Indeed, the law is well settled that the Constitution is not implicated by the negligent acts of corrections officials and medical personnel. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986); Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348 (1986) (“As we held in Daniels, the protections of the Due Process Clause, whether procedural or substantive, are just not triggered by lack of due care by prison officials.”). A complaint that a physician has been negligent “in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment.” Bingham v. Thomas, 654 F.3d 1171, 1176 (11th Cir. 2011) (quotations and citation omitted). Moreover, the Eleventh Circuit has noted that “[n]othing in our case law would derive a constitutional deprivation from a prison physician's failure to subordinate his own professional judgment to that of another doctor; to the contrary, it is well established that ‘a simple difference in medical opinion' does not constitute deliberate indifference.” Bismark v. Fisher, 213 Fed.Appx. 892, 897 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Waldrop, 871 F.2d at 1033). Similarly, “the question of whether governmental actors should have employed additional diagnostic techniques or forms of treatment ‘is a classic example of a matter for medical judgment' and therefore not an appropriate basis for grounding liability under the Eighth Amendment.” Adams v. Poag, 61 F.3d 1537, 1545 (11th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).

Liberally read, Scott's SAC fails to present allegations sufficient to support a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation against Defendants. His claims are conclusory in nature and devoid of facts that would allow the Court to draw a reasonable inference that Defendants violated Scott's constitutional rights. Indeed, he pleads no facts connecting any of the Defendants to the alleged constitutional violations. For example, Scott alleges that he did not receive an x-ray of his hand for two months, SAC at 6, but he does not specify which Defendants failed to order the x-ray or when Defendants learned of his injury.

Notably, the Court afforded Scott an opportunity to amend, and in doing so, explained that “[t]o state a plausible claim for relief, Scott must allege facts showing how each Defendant personally participated in the alleged constitutional violation.” Doc. 9 at 2 (emphasis added). Nevertheless, Scott still fails to specify what each Defendant individually did or failed to do in delaying or denying medical care for his hand. In his SAC, Scott does not set forth a short and plain statement of his entitlement to relief such that Defendants have fair notice of the claims against them and the facts underlying those claims. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (noting that the purpose of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) is “to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests”) (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). As such, this case is due to be dismissed.

Therefore, it is now


1. This case is DISMISSED without prejudice.

2. The Clerk of Court shall enter judgment dismissing this case without prejudice, terminate any pending motions, and close the case.


Summaries of

Scott v. Perez-Lugo

United States District Court, Middle District of Florida
Nov 21, 2023
3:23-cv-615-MMH-JBT (M.D. Fla. Nov. 21, 2023)
Case details for

Scott v. Perez-Lugo

Case Details

Full title:DAONTAE T. SCOTT, Plaintiff, v. E. PEREZ-LUGO, et al., Defendants.

Court:United States District Court, Middle District of Florida

Date published: Nov 21, 2023


3:23-cv-615-MMH-JBT (M.D. Fla. Nov. 21, 2023)