Howard Lee Leach, Appellant,
Larry Norris, Director, Arkansas Department of Correction;
Marshall Dale Reed, Warden, Cummings Unit, ADC; Correctional Medical Services,
(originally sued as CMS Infirmary Staff); Dr. Young, Cummins Unit, ADC; Nelson,
RNP, Cummins Unit, ADC; John Doe, Director of Nursing, Cummings Unit, ADC,
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Submitted April 22, 2002
Decided May 15, 2002.
34 Fed. Appx. 510 (8th Cir. 2002).
Howard Lee Leach appeals the district court’s Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) dismissal of his 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 action. Upon de
novo review, see Ring’s Fist Interstate Mortgage, Inc., 984 F.2d 924, 926 (8th
Cir. 1993), we affirm in part and reverse in part.
alleged that, while housed at Cummins prison farm, he did not receive adequate
treatment for a large painful knot in his side and for breathing difficulties
from asthma. Prison staff forced him to work in the fields, where the
heat, dust, and lack of medicine aggravated his asthma, and he became sick and
weak. The infirmary refused to see him despite his sick call requests and
emergency grievances. When he missed work due to illness, he was placed in a
punitive segregation unit where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Further, Dr. Young canceled a
scheduled biopsy surgery for the knot in Leach’s side, and told Leach that he
had to learn to live with the pain. Leach suffered an asthma attack while
in punitive segregation, and when Nurse Nelson examined him, he showed her his
medical records which demonstrated respiratory problems. Nevertheless, he was forced to
return to field work. He could not complete the work, however, because of his
medical condition, and he received further punishment. Leach complained
to a state representative about his medical care and work assignment. The
representative contacted Department of correction Director Larry Norris and Warden
Dale Reed, who assured the representative that Leach was receiving proper care.
However, Norris and Reed ignored some of Leach’s grievances, and merely
forwarded others to the infirmary staff with a twenty-day period within which
We agree with
the district court that any claims against Correctional Medical Services must
fail because Leach did not allege the existence of an unconstitutional policy
or custom. See Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th
Cir. 1999). However, we
liberally construe Leach’s complaint to raise claims against the remaining
defendants. See Martin v. Sargeant, 780 F.2d 1334, 1337 (8th Cir.
1985) (pro se complaint must be liberally construed). Specifically, we believe Leach sufficiently
alleged claims against Dr. Young and Nurse Nelson for deliberate indifference
to his medical condition, see Johnson v. Lockhart , 941 F.2d 705, 707 (8th
Cir. 1991), and against Director Nelson and Warden Reed for abdication of their
policy making and oversight responsibilities, see Boyd v. Knox, 47 F.3d
966, 968 (8th Cir. 1995). We also recognize that Leach might seek to
amend his complaint after learning through discovery the names of certain
unknown staff members he mentions in his complaint. See Estate of Rosenberg v.
Crandell, 56 F.3d 35, 37 (8th Cir. 1995).
to adopt the other grounds for dismissal suggested by defendants. First, Leach
exhausted his administrative remedies because his grievances concerning the
complained-of conduct had been denied by the Warden and Assistant Director
before the district court ruled on his motion to dismiss. See Williams
v. Norris, 176 F.3d 1089, 1090 (8th Cir. 1999) (per curiam). Second,
we reserve for the district court on remand the issue whether Leach
sufficiently pleaded personal-capacity claims against defendants, see Murphy v.
Arkansas, 127 F.3d 750, 754-55 (8th Cir. 1997) (personal-capacity
pleading requirement), as we are mindful that the district court might have
granted Leach leave to amend his complaint to clarify that he was suing
defendants in their personal capacities.
Finally, we deny Leach’s motion to compel because his records
are not relevant at this stage and he may seek documents on remand through discovery.
Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.