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Reed v. Haney

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

March 20, 2014

GREG REED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STEVE HANEY, Warden, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

The plaintiffs in this case bring allegations against ten individually-named defendants for a variety of constitutional claims under ยง 1983, along with several state-law torts. The defendants in this case move to dismiss forty-one of the plaintiffs on the grounds that they have failed to state a claim for relief against any of the named defendants. (DE 34). For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the defendants' motion.

* * *

This is a civil rights case originally brought by fifty-two individuals currently or formerly incarcerated at Northpoint Training Center. The allegations revolve around a riot at the Northpoint Training Center in August of 2009 and its subsequent aftermath. According to the complaint, "a small group of inmates engaged in rioting behavior, " including "loot[ing] and burn[ing] down a portion of the factility. (DE 40, at 9). The defendants in this case-various employees of the Northpoint Training Center-allegedly retaliated against the inmates without distinguishing between those who were and were not involved with the riot. (DE 40, at 9).

The complaint itself contains general factual allegations along with facts that are specific to each plaintiff's case. Generally, the complaint alleges that the defendants "proceeded to abuse and torture the inmates with no distinction between those that were and were not engaged in the riot." (DE 40, at 9). Each plaintiff, however, suffered a distinct form of alleged abuse. Many of the plaintiffs were forced to lie face down on the outdoor baseball field for periods ranging from 24 to 48 hours. These plaintiffs were allegedly denied food, water, shelter from the elements, or the opportunity to use the bathroom. Several of the plaintiffs claim to have been forced to lie in their own urine and feces for several hours, and some were denied an opportunity to shower.

Another group of plaintiffs allege that the defendants created false charges and wrongly convicted the plaintiffs of various offenses relating to the riot. These plaintiffs claim the defendants denied them the opportunity to present evidence that would exonerate them from the charges, and their convictions for the rioting-of which they were not part- violate the Eighth Amendment. Several members of this group also fall within the first. That is, many of the plaintiffs claim both to have been abused on the baseball field and to have been falsely charged and convicted of riot-related offenses. Thus, although many of the plaintiffs' claims may be grouped together, the groups are neither mutually exclusive nor coextensive.

Finally, some plaintiffs make claims distinct from the two major groups of allegations. Robert Watts claims he was forced to remain in his cell while part of the prison burned during the riot, which placed him in immediate danger and caused him to breath toxic fumes and smoke. Toney Henry claims he was subjected to harassment and sleep deprivation by the defendants.

Significantly, the majority of plaintiffs do not allege that any of the named defendants committed specific acts that were unlawful. Rather, the complaint repeatedly refers to "unidentified Defendants" as having committed the various constitutional violations. Despite this, the plaintiffs allege that their claims are brought against "Each Individual Defendant, " except for the battery claim and the claim brought only against Warden Steve Haney. The plaintiffs claim that "[a]t all relevant times, the individual Defendants participated or acquiesced to the mistreatment of the Plaintiffs described below in their individual capacities." (DE 40, at 8). In other words, the plaintiffs do not contend that each named defendant committed particular unlawful acts. Instead, the allegations appear to place blame on all of the defendants collectively for either participating or allowing the unlawful acts, and reserves matching each individual defendant to particular acts for discovery. The plaintiffs explain that they cannot point to particular defendants as having taken specific actions because the nature of the abuse made it impossible to determine who the perpetrators were.

The defendants move for dismissal of the claims brought by forty-one plaintiffs on the grounds that these plaintiffs' factual allegations are insufficient to support a claim for relief. The crux of the defendants' argument is that the plaintiffs fail to allege that any of the named defendants in this case took the unlawful acts complained of, and in many cases the claims are bare allegations of legal conclusions. In their response and sur-reply, the forty-one plaintiffs concede that five of them cannot satisfy the pleading standards and should be dismissed. (DE 44, at 1). These plaintiffs, Anthony Edwards, Justin Moore, Eric Watts, Ricky Lee, and Matthew Johnson, are therefore dismissed.

ANALYSIS

As a general matter, the plaintiffs cannot prevail against a motion to dismiss without bringing specific allegations against the named defendants. "Although the complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, ' Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.'" Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. v. Napolitano, 648 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). "As the Supreme Court explained in Iqbal: A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id. Moreover, "it is well settled that a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. "A claim is plausible on its face if the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Id. Plausibility "asks for more than a sheer possibility that the defendant acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

In this regard, it is insufficient for the plaintiffs to allege only that "[a]t all times relevant, the individual Defendants participated or acquiesced to the mistreatment of the Plaintiffs described below in their individual capacities" (DE 40, at 8) without making "further factual enhancement." Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, 648 F.3d at 369. If the plaintiffs wish to bring suit against named defendants, they must allege that each individual defendant took unlawful action. See Ghandi v. Police Dep't of City of Detroit, 747 F.2d 338, 352 (6th Cir. 1984) ("As a general rule, mere presence at the scene of a search, without a showing of direct responsibility for the action, will not subject the officer to liability."). Stating only that unknown defendants committed particular unlawful acts will not sustain a claim against the individually named defendants in this case, and this flaw in the complaint will not be saved by a conclusory, naked assertion that all named defendants "participated or acquiesced to the mistreatment." With these principles in mind, the Court will examine the defendants' motion with respect to each plaintiff.

A. First Group of Plaintiffs

The defendants first move for dismissal of the claims brought by the following plaintiffs: Aaron Fisk, Anthony Anderson, Mark Anderson, Stacy Newell, John Pound, Greg Reed, Bobby Hoskins, Shawn Wilson, Ryan McCorkle, Dustin Brumley, Joseph Pitman, Timothy Riley, Clifton Boards, Tyrone Chandler, Nathan Standard, Jared Derkson, and Miguel Battle. These plaintiffs all allege that they were forced to lie face-down on the baseball field for at least twenty-four hours without food, water, or an opportunity to use the bathroom. Some of the plaintiffs make further allegations regarding abuse, such as being slammed into the wall, choked or being placed into the "hole" without reason. With the exception of Greg Reed, however, none of these plaintiffs name a single defendant in this case as the alleged perpetrator of the unlawful ...


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