United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
February 3, 2014
TODD GRAVES, Plaintiff,
LOUISVILLE METRO DEPT. OF CORR. et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHARLES R. SIMPSON, III, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiff, Todd Graves, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed but the Court will allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint with regard to the alleged denial of medical treatment.
I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
Plaintiff, who is a pretrial detainee at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (LMDC), names as Defendants LMDC and Jailer Mark Bolton in his individual capacity. Plaintiff alleges that on April 3, 2013, while at work in LMDC he slipped on something slick on the floor, fell, and split his head open. He states he was sent to the University of Louisville Hospital to have 13 staples put in his head. He states that he was billed by the University of Louisville Hospital for $950. He asserts that LMDC has refused to pay the medical bill and has refused him treatment for the past four months for his complaints of migraine headaches and pain in his arm.
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 action, if the court determines that it 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. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and (2). 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 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. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
A. Claim against Defendant Bolton
Plaintiff sues Defendant Bolton in his individual capacity. However, nothing in the complaint links Defendant Bolton personally with the alleged constitutional violations.
The specific facts must explain how each defendant is personally responsible for the alleged injuries. Smith v. Rowe, 761 F.2d 360, 369 (7th Cir. 1985). Plaintiff's complaint fails to do so. As such, this claim must be dismissed for a failure to state a claim. See Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 481 (6th Cir. 1995) (per curiam) (stating that personal involvement by the defendant is an essential element in a § 1983 cause of action asserting a constitutional deprivation).
Nor does the mere fact that Defendant Bolton is Director make him responsible for the alleged violation. "To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). "Respondeat superior is not a proper basis for liability under § 1983." McQueen v. Beecher Cmty. Schs., 433 F.3d 460, 470 (6th Cir. 2006). "[T]he liability of supervisors [cannot] be based solely on the right to control employees, or simple awareness of employees' misconduct." Id. (internal quotations omitted). "In order for supervisory liability to attach, a plaintiff must prove that the official did more than play a passive role in the alleged violation or showed mere tacit approval of the goings on.'" Loy v. Sexton, 132 F.Appx. 624, 626 (6th Cir. 2005) (quoting Bass v. Robinson, 167 F.3d 1041, 1048 (6th Cir. 1999)). In other words, "liability under § 1983 must be based on active unconstitutional behavior." Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir. 1999). "A supervisor's awareness of allegations of unconstitutional conduct and failure to act are not a basis for liability." McCurtis v. Wood, 76 F.Appx. 632, 634 (6th Cir. 2003). Thus, Defendant Bolton's position as Director of LMDC does not automatically make him liable for the actions/inactions of his subordinates. See, e.g., Brown v. Green, No. 97-1117, 1997 WL 777979 (6th Cir. Dec. 12, 1997) ("Defendant Green, being sued in her official capacity as the Medical Director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, cannot be held liable for an alleged constitutional violation, because the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply in § 1983 lawsuits to impute liability onto supervisory personnel."); Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1238 n.1 (11th Cir. 2003) (holding that the regional director of prison medical services was not liable for actions of subordinate medical staff). Because Plaintiff's allegations against Defendant Bolton relate only to his role as Director of LMDC, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against him.
B. Claims against LMDC
Claim regarding hospital bill
"Under the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, ... pretrial detainees [like Plaintiff] have a right to adequate medical treatment that is analogous to the Eighth Amendment rights of prisoners." Watkins v. City of Battle Creek, 273 F.3d 682, 685-86 (6th Cir. 2001). There is no constitutional requirement, however, that the care be provided to the inmate free of charge. See Sickles v. Campbell Cnty., Ky., 501 F.3d 726, 730 (6th Cir. 2007). Plaintiff alleges that he was taken to the hospital where he received treatment for the injury to his head (staples). Once at the hospital, Plaintiff does not allege that his care was conditioned on his ability to pay. There has been no violation of federal constitutional law. Id. As such, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for failure to pay his hospital bill.
Claim related to denial of medical treatment
LMDC is not a "person" subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. Compare Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir.1991) (holding that a police department may not be sued under § 1983); see also 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). In this situation, it is Jefferson County that is the proper defendant in this case. 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).
When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality, like Jefferson County, a court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether the 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 liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor - or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (emphasis in original); Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994); Berry v. City of Detroit, 25 F.3d 1342, 1345 (6th Cir. 1994). "[T]he touchstone of official policy' is designed to distinguish acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability is limited to action for which the municipality is actually responsible.'" City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 138 (1988) (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986)) (emphasis in Pembaur ).
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, 436 U.S. at 691; Deaton v. Montgomery Cnty., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir. 1993). Simply stated, the plaintiff must "identify the policy, connect the policy to the city itself and show that the particular injury was incurred because of the execution of that policy." Garner v. Memphis Police Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting Coogan v. City of Wixom, 820 F.2d 170, 176 (6th Cir. 1987), overruled on other grounds, Frantz v. Vill. of Bradford, 245 F.3d 869 (6th Cir. 2001)). The policy or custom "must be the moving force of the constitutional violation' in order to establish the liability of a government body under § 1983." Searcy, 38 F.3d at 286 (quoting Polk Cnty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981) (citation omitted)); Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty., Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997) (indicating that plaintiff must demonstrate "deliberate conduct").
Plaintiff has not alleged a policy. Therefore, he has failed to state a claim against LMDC (Jefferson County) for the denial of medical treatment. However, the Court will afford Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint to name the individual(s) who is/are responsible for the alleged constitutional deprivation involving denial of medical treatment. See LaFountain v. Harry, 716 F.3d 944, 951 (6th Cir. 2013) ("[U]nder Rule 15(a) a district court can allow a plaintiff to amend his complaint even when the complaint is subject to dismissal under the PLRA.").
III. CONCLUSION AND ORDER
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's claims against Defendants and LMDC are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that within 30 days from the entry date of this Memorandum Opinion and Order, Plaintiff may amend the complaint with respect to the denial-of-medical-treatment claim. The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to place the case number and word "Amended" on a § 1983 complaint form and send it to Plaintiff for his use should he wish to amend the complaint. Should Plaintiff file no amended complaint within 30 days, the Court will enter a final Order dismissing this action.