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Anthony Griffin v. Southern Health Partners

February 8, 2013

ANTHONY GRIFFIN PLAINTIFF
v.
SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS, INC. ET AL.
DEFENDANTS



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Anthony Griffin, a pretrial detainee proceeding in forma pauperis,filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 (DN 1). He has also filed two letters which the Court construes as motions to amend the complaint (DNs 15 & 16). Construed as such, the motions (DNs 15 & 16) are GRANTED.

This matter is before the Court for initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). In its initial review, the Court will address the allegations contained in the complaint as well as the additional allegations contained in the amendments (DNs 15 & 16). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will allow four claims involving Plaintiff's incarceration in the medical detox cell from September 10-12, 2012, to proceed against Defendants Pruitt and Brown in their individual capacities: 1) retaliation; 2) conditions of confinement; 3) due process; and 4) medical treatment for Plaintiff's back pain and hip spasms allegedly resulting from Plaintiff's incarceration in the medical detox cell. Additionally, the Court will allow the state-law claim of negligent supervision to proceed against Defendant Strode. All other claims and Defendants will be dismissed from this action.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff originally brought this action against three Defendants: Southern Health Partners, Inc; Jackie Strode, Head Jailer at the Warren County Regional Jail [WCRJ]; and Jamie Pruitt, Medical Staff Coordinator at the WCRJ. In his first amendment to the complaint, he names a fourth Defendant, Barbara Brown. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Brown is a nurse at the WCRJ. In the complaint and first amendment, Plaintiff complains about events that occurred in September 2012. In his second amendment to the complaint, Plaintiff names two additional Defendants, Dustin Lee and Chad Whittaker. According to Plaintiff these two Defendants are correctional officers at the WCRJ. In the second amendment Plaintiff complains about events that occurred in January 2013.

Southern Health Partners, Inc. is sued in its official capacity. Defendants Strode and Pruitt are sued in both their official and individual capacities. Defendants Brown, Lee, and Whittaker are sued only in their individual capacities. As relief, Plaintiff asks for monetary damages, punitive damages, unspecified injunctive relief, and "other relief as it may appear that Plaintiff is entitled."

In his complaint and first amendment, Plaintiff states that on September 7, 2012, he submitted a sick call slip. He states that the medical staff did not call him about this sick call slip. However, on September 10, 2012, as a result of this sick call slip, Plaintiff states that he was put in medical observation "without no knowledge." Plaintiff contends that this "excessive confinement" was ordered by Defendants Pruitt and Brown. Plaintiff states that once he was placed in medical observation "[t]hese two Nurse's [ ] cut the water off" and failed to observe him.

According to Plaintiff the cell in which he was placed was a "Detox-cell." He states that the cell was "stinky." He states that this cell had feces and blood smeared on the floor and walls. According to Plaintiff there were bugs in the cell, and he was "bitten by mosquitos." Plaintiff states that there was a drain in the floor of the cell that contained vomit, "nat's and bugs and blood with water in it." He states that he "laid on a 3" inch concrete slab on the floor next to [this] drain." However, in the first amendment, he states that he did have a thin mat to lay on. According to Plaintiff, he "had to take a dump two times At 11:30AM And 12:00PM without wiping my behind up until C/O Ron Childers At 12:40pm or approximately about that time turned on the water and gave me toilet paper to wipe my behind and gave me a pencil and a grievance. From that time he cut the water back off and from Mon-Wed I put 3 grievances in." Plaintiff states that while in the detox cell, he "only showered one time." Further, he refused his medications and his food trays because of the unsanitary conditions, but "as the days proceeded I was force to eat and take my medicine." Plaintiff states that he was in this cell from "September 10, 12 Mon. At or Approximately about 10:30AM until Wed. At or about 2:45PM."

Plaintiff continues stating,

Once I was in this cell I alerted C/O Douglas Miles And C/O Mike Green on 1st And 2nd shift And thru the 3rd shift for the nurse to observe my bowels At or approximately about 11:30AM that I use the restroom. I told C/O Douglas about 3x's and Green about 2 or 3x's but Nurse Brown or Jamie never showed up Mon. At or about 11:30AM to observe nothing. Later on that same Day or early Tues. about 12:40AM C/O Ron Childers and Nurse Eric Willoby observe my bowels but it was to late cause all of the waste was saturated. Those 3 days they didnt observe me. These officials has put punishment on me for me filling out a sick call that was 3 or 4 days old in which they deliberately no they had deficiencies in their med. care system. Once I was I was released from Iso., they still as I got copies didnt Answer my sick calls for my back.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Pruitt and Brown "has inflicted un-Justified detention on me, by putting me in a especially degrading or abusive conditions in which also has inflicted back pain and hip spasms and a subjected substantial risk for future diseases as I lay on the floor right by a drain filled with blood and vomit filling out my grievance forms on the floor 3 days straight, 9-10-12-2012."Plaintiff contends that their failure "to provide adequate medical care for the Plaintiff violated and continue to violate the Plaintiffs right under the 8th Amend. to the U.S. Constitution." He further contends that Defendant Pruitt and Brown inflicted emotional injury on him, deprived him of liberty, "and amenity and physical abuse resulting from their denial of due process in connection with the Plaintiff's grievance's proceedings." As to Defendant Pruitt, Plaintiff further contends that he denied Plaintiff due process.

Plaintiff states that Defendant Strode had knowledge of the "inflicted pain and suffering 9-10-11-12-1012 as I filed and exhausted them grievances in which Mr. Strode knew that this constitutional act was happen and he fail to avert this or act reasonably on this situation." Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Strode's "failure to take action to curb the physical abuse of prisoner's violated the plaintiffs right under the 8th Amend. to the U.S. and constituted an assault & battery under state law." He further claims that Defendant Strode was "grossly negligent in supervising subordinates who committed the wrongful acts . . . ."*fn1

In his second amendment Plaintiff complains about another time that he was sent to the detox cell. On this occasion, January 21, 2013, Plaintiff alleges that he was at recreation playing basketball when a correctional officer ended the recreational time early because of the level of noise in the gym. Plaintiff states that he complied with the instruction. However, according to Plaintiff, while he was getting his clothes back on "the basketball rolled on the back of my leg so I Picked it up and pitched it back towards the goal." Defendants Lee and Whittakerwitnessed Plaintiff pitching the ball and "told [him] to stand against the wall in the hall they said I was going to the Detox cell for 24 hrs. for shooting the ball at our recreation time."

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Lee and Whittaker "has subjected me to conditions so harsh as to comprise punishment . . . no sanitation no shower's or soap to wash our hands as we were force to eat our food and take our medication with blood feces on the floor and vomit in a nearby drain in the floor right beside where I slepted on the floor with a thin mat and a half sheet and Half Blanket with the air is about 30 degrees Celisus cold in which this cause my back and hip too get worser."

Plaintiff contends that the actions of Defendants Lee and Whittaker constituted "excessive confinement" in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Further, he alleges that these Defendants "inflicted confinement in violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment . . . and violation of the Due Process Clause in denying me a due process in connection with the grievance proceedings of the 14th amend. to the constitution of the U.S."

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of it, if it determines that the complaint 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A; McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 604. A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The trial court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, "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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

"[A] district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true." Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). "But the district court need not accept a 'bare assertion of legal conclusions.'" Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). The court's duty "does not require [it] to conjure up unpled allegations," McDonald v. Hall, 610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979), or to create a claim for a plaintiff. Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975). To command otherwise would require the Court "to explore exhaustively all potential claims of a pro se plaintiff, [and] would also transform the district court from its legitimate advisory role to the improper role of an advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most successful strategies for a party." Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

III. ANALYSIS OF FEDERAL CLAIMS

A. Official-Capacity Claims Against Defendants Strode And Pruitt

Plaintiff sues Defendants Strode and Pruitt in their official capacities. He states that Defendant Strode is the Head Jailer at the WCRJ and Defendant Pruitt is the Medical Staff Coordinator at this same facility. Suing employees of the WCRJ in their official capacity is the equivalent of suing their employer, the WCRJ. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir. 2008). However, the WCRJ is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. Marbry v. Corr. Med. Serv., No. 99-6706, 2000 WL 1720959 at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2000) (holding that a jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983); Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991) (holding that a sheriff's department may not be sued under § 1983). In this situation, it is Warren County that is the proper defendant. Smallwood v. Jefferson Cnty. Gov't, 743 F. Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990) (construing claims brought against the Jefferson County Government, the Jefferson County Fiscal Court, and the Jefferson County Judge Executive as claims against Jefferson County itself). Further, Warren County is a "person" for purposes of § 1983. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Court will therefore construe the official-capacity claims against Defendants Strode and Pruitt as brought against Warren County.

When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality, this Court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether Plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so, whether the municipality is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will address the issues in reverse order.

A municipality cannot be held responsible for a constitutional deprivation unless there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. at 694.

There are at least four avenues a plaintiff may take to prove the existence of a municipality's illegal policy or custom. The plaintiff can look to (1) the municipality's legislative enactments or official agency policies; (2) actions taken by officials with final decision-making authority; (3) a policy of inadequate training or ...


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