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Cohee v. Coupe

United States District Court, D. Delaware

June 16, 2015

DANIEL B. COHEE, Plaintiff,

Daniel B. Cohee, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, Wilmington, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.


RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Daniel B. Cohee, an inmate at the Howard R. Young Correctional Facility in Wilmington, Delaware, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 6). The Court proceeds to review and screen the complaint (D.I. 2) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A(a).

Plaintiff raises six claims. Claim one alleges that Defendants Delaware Department of Correction Commissioner Robert Coupe and HYRCI Warden Steven Wesley implemented a new policy on October 22, 2014 for inmates housed in the disciplinary housing unit ( i.e., the hole) that denies inmates, including Plaintiff, access to all personal and legal incoming and outgoing mail, to and from their family, friends, and religious ministries.[1] (D.I. 2, ¶¶ 14-15).

Claims two and six raise conditions of confinement claims. Claim two alleges that, on October 22, 2014, Wesley deprived Plaintiff of the use of a mattress for fourteen hours per day, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. ( Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff alleges the denial of the mattress caused him severe shoulder, hip, neck, and lower back pain. Claim six alleges that on October 22, 2014, Wesley created a policy that deprived Plaintiff of all cleaning supplies and hygiene products, which forced him to live in unsanitary conditions for twenty-three days, from October 22, 2014 until November 14, 2014. ( Id. at ¶ 33).

Claim three alleges that, during his entire incarceration, while under the care of Defendant Correct Care Solutions, [2] Plaintiff has been denied treatment and surgery for his right shoulder. ( Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff alleges that he was told by prison medical staff that an MRI and x-ray of his right shoulder were normal, but he believes he was lied to because an outside physician told him that he required surgery on the right shoulder. Plaintiff was denied the surgery while housed at the HRYCI in 2010, the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in 2011, and, again in 2014[3] at the HRYCI. ( Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff alleges that the HRYCI medical staff is currently "being negligent to his shoulder injury." ( Id. at ¶ 18).

Plaintiff has submitted sick call slips and grievances since October 24, 2014, seeking medical care and complaining of negligence. As of December 3, 2014, medical and/or mental health had yet to see Plaintiff. Investigation of his grievances revealed that for three days, Plaintiff was administered Motrin but nothing stronger. ( Id. at ¶¶ 19, 20). Plaintiff alleges that CCS medical staff is deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, that his shoulder has been neglected since April 11, 2010, and that on October 24, 2014, his shoulder worsened due to the mattress issue. Plaintiff alleges that he needs stronger medication and surgery on his shoulder. ( Id. at ¶ 22). Plaintiff alleges that the CCS staff had plenty of opportunities to solve his medical issues. ( Id. at ¶ 25).

Claim four alleges that on October 4, 2014, Plaintiff asked to see mental health, submitted sick calls slips, and asked to be placed on medication. ( Id. at 22). Plaintiff explains that he was "forced off" Wellbutrin in July 2014 and was not provided a similar substitute medication by medical staff. Plaintiff has not seen by anyone from mental health from October 4, 2014 to the date of the Complaint, December 3, 2014. Plaintiff has been diagnosed as bi-polar and manic depressive. He was hospitalized for a suicide attempt in 2010, "is supposed to be on medication, " and is "feeling mentally unstable." ( Id. ) The mental health staff conducts daily cell checks, and, daily, Plaintiff has told Defendant Tamira that he needs to see a psychiatrist but is told the psychiatrist is busy. ( Id. at ¶ 23). Defendant Michelle M (a psychiatrist or a nurse practitioner), came onto Plaintiff's pod to see other inmates. Plaintiff alleges that when he asked Michelle if he could see her, she responded that she was busy and walked off. Plaintiff alleges that he has suicidal thoughts but did not tell staff, because he did not want to go on psychiatric close observation status in the suicide watch room. Plaintiff alleges Tamira and Michelle were negligent in neglecting his mental health needs. Plaintiff alleges that he should again be prescribed Wellbutrin or a similar medication, and that the staff of Defendant Connections had plenty of opportunities to solve his mental health problems. ( Id. at ¶¶ 24-25).

Plaintiff wrote to Coupe on two occasions regarding his medical and mental health treatment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants two John Doe nurses, Michelle, Tamira, Wesley, Coupe, CCS, and Connections were deliberately indifferent to his mental health and medical needs in violation of his constitutional rights. ( Id. ).

Claim five alleges that when Plaintiff was transferred to the hole on October 4, 2014, he was denied access to his religious book and was advised that he could only have a Bible or the Qur'an. ( Id. at ¶ 26). Plaintiff is neither a Christian nor a Muslim, but is a Thelemite.[4] Several of Plaintiff's religious books were stolen from his personal property when he was transferred to the hole. Plaintiff wrote to Wesley regarding the issue on October 15, 2014, but no action was taken. ( Id. at ¶ 27.) Plaintiff spoke to Defendant Lieutenant Gibson on October 22, 2014, who explained to Plaintiff that only a Bible or the Qur'an was allowed in the hole and refused to allow Plaintiff to have access to his religious book. ( Id. at ¶ 28). Plaintiff wrote to Coupe on November 16, 2014 regarding the issue. ( Id. at ¶ 29). On November 26, 2014, Plaintiff was given access to his book by Sgt. Clark. ( Id. at ¶ 32). Plaintiff alleges that even though he was given access to the book, this does not excuse the fact that he was denied his right to worship for fifty-eight days. ( Id. ). Plaintiff alleges that Coupe, Wesley, and Gibson violated his constitutional right to exercise his religious beliefs. ( Id. at ¶¶ 30-32).

Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) if "the action is frivolous or 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." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94.

An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989).

The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of §§ 1915 and 1915A, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend his ...

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