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Fox v. Mayfield Graves Co.

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah Division

March 27, 2015

JOSHUA T. FOX, Plaintiff,
v.
MAYFIELD GRAVES CO. DETENTION CTR. et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Joshua T. Fox, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint (DNs 1 and 5) 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.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff sues the "Mayfield Graves County Detention Center" (GCDC); Keefe Commissary Network Sales (Keefe); the Barcelona Nut Company; and, in her individual and official capacities, nurse Janet Fox at GCDC. Plaintiff alleges that he became sick after eating maggot infested trail mix he bought from the prison commissary on November 7, 2014. He alleges that the GCDC violated the Fourteenth Amendment because the "food protection law" states that he has a right to food that is adequate for individual consumption. He alleges that Defendants Keefe and Barcelona Nut Company violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He also appears to be alleging that Defendant Keefe was in violation of consumer protection law and product liability law. With regard to the Barcelona Nut Company, Plaintiff also alleges that it violated his equal protection right to have food that is adequate for an individual's consumption and that it breached its duty to warn consumers of a danger or defect in product and "also under the strick product liability law.'"

Plaintiff states that he saw the nurse two days after eating the trail mix and told her that he had been vomiting and had diarrhea since eating the maggots. Defendant Fox told him that maggots were good for him; that they are eaten in other countries; that the pains and diarrhea would pass; and that she would give him some "pep tabs." He states that he then wrote a grievance about being denied treatment, but received no response. Plaintiff states that he began having bad dreams and could not sleep or "eat food that reminded [him] of maggots with my stomach in cramps." He states that he wrote Defendant Fox who replied that she did not treat "sleep" and that he would have to talk with "mental health." He states that "mental health" told him that he was having anxiety attacks and that he needed medication before it got worse. He states that he wrote the Jailer and Defendant Fox with no reply.

After Plaintiff wrote Defendant Fox again, she "took [Plaintiff's] blood" and then said she was going to place him in segregation and place him on a broth diet. Plaintiff states, "I told her that sounds like a punishment and I refuse." He was told by Defendant Fox that he could not refuse because the jailer was already making space for him. Plaintiff states that he went to speak to the Jailer, who told him that in order not to go into segregation he would have to write that he is not sick.

According to the complaint, Plaintiff saw the doctor on November 20, 2014, and the doctor said he would give him something for his stomach. Plaintiff states that "not even a hour later the jailers came and told me to pack my things and transferred me to Crittenden Co. Detention Cet. Where they treated me for both my stomach and anxiety currently taking Dicyclomine for my intestents and hydroxyzine for my anxiety helping me sleep and eat better." As relief, he asks for unspecified monetary and punitive damages.

II. ANALYSIS

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).

Claim related to Keefe and Barcelona Nut Company

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (1996). In order for a private party's conduct to be under color of state law, it must be "fairly attributable to the State." Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982); Street, 102 F.3d at 814. There must be "a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action of [the defendant] so that the action of the latter may be fairly treated as that of the State itself." Skelton v. Pri-Cor, Inc., 963 F.2d 100, 102 (6th Cir. 1991) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Plaintiff has not presented any allegations by which Keefe's or Barcelona Nut Company's conduct could be fairly attributed to the State. Plaintiff, therefore, fails to state a claim against these Defendants under § 1983.

Claim against GCDC related to maggot-infested food

It is well established that prison officials "must provide humane conditions of confinement; prison officials must ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and must take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Nevertheless, various federal courts, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in which this Court sits, have suggested that a single incident of food contamination or food poinsoning is insufficient to establish a conditions-of-confinement claim. Smith v. Younger, No. 98-5482, 1999 WL 623355, at *2 (6th Cir. Aug. 9, 1999) (holding that the presence of a worm in the plaintiff's food failed to state a conditions-of-confinement claim); Green v. Atkinson, 623 F.3d 278, 281 (5th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) ("A single incident of food poisoning or finding a foreign object in food does not constitute a violation of the constitutional rights of the prisoner affected."); Tucker v. Metts, No. 2:10-1316, 2011 WL 1085031, at *4 (D.S.C. Feb. 17, 2011) ("[T]he law is clear that a single incidence of unintended food poisoning is not a constitutional violation.").

Thus, even had GCDC been responsible for preparing or otherwise contaminating the maggot-infested food, Plaintiff would not have stated a constitutional claim against GCDC ...


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