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Thomas v. Kenton County Detention Center Medical Staff

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

June 25, 2015

JAMES RICHARD THOMAS, a/k/a JIMMIE D. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
KENTON COUNTY DETENTION CENTER MEDICAL STAFF, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN, District Judge.

James Richard Thomas, is an inmate presently confined in the Roederer Correctional Complex ("RCC") in LaGrange, Kentucky. Proceeding pro se, in September of 2014, while Thomas was confined in the Kenton County Detention Center ("KCDC"), he filed a complaint, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging he had been denied medical care and treatment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. [R. 1]. Thomas named as defendants the KCDC Medical Staff; Terry Carl, Jailer, KCDC; Kentucky Department of Corrections ("KDOC"); Webster County Detention Center ("WCDC") and its Jailer, Terry Elder; and Fulton County Detention Center ("FCDC") and its Jailer, Ricky Parnell.[1] Id. In October of 2014, Thomas amended his complaint, naming the Carroll County Detention Center ("CCDC"); CCDC Medical Staff; and Michael W. Humphrey, Jailer, CCDC, as additional defendants herein. [R. 7].

Thomas seeks compensatory damages and injunctive relief, viz., transfer to a KDOC medical facility "in order to be examined by a medical physician and proper staff." [R. 1, p. 8].

Based on alleged events that have occurred subsequent to the filing of the original and amended complaints, Thomas has filed another motion for leave to file an amended complaint, naming three additional defendants to this action: (1) Roederer Correctional Complex ("RCC"), (2) Ravonne Sims, Warden, RCC, and (3) Medical Department of RCC. [R. 14]. Thomas's amended complaint appears to be incorporated within his motion to amend. Id. Thomas states that he has exhausted the administrative remedies available to him.

Thomas previously amended his complaint, as a matter of right, pursuant Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) (1). Additional amendments to a complaint are permitted "only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) (2). This rule further provides that the "court should freely give leave when justice so requires." Id. The decision as to whether justice requires the amendment is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330 (1971); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).

In this case, Thomas's complaint has yet to be served to any of the defendants, as his complaint is subject to the screening required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. Thus, at this juncture, neither the originally-named defendants nor the three proposed new defendants will be prejudiced by any amendment to the complaint. Upon consideration, and in the interests of judicial economy, Thomas's current motion to amend the complaint [R. 14] will be granted, and the three additional defendants named in his motion to amend will be added to this action and will be incorporated with the required screening.

The Court screens civil rights complaints pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 607-08 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). This is a pro se complaint and, as such, it is held to less stringent standards than those drafted by attorneys. See Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). The allegations in a pro se complaint must be taken as true and construed in favor of the plaintiff. See Malone v. Colyer, 710 F.2d 258, 260 (6th Cir. 1983). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), a district court has authority to dismiss a case at any time if it determines either that the action is frivolous or malicious, or if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

For the reasons detailed below, Thomas's claims against all of the defendants for monetary damages will be dismissed because he has failed to establish a violation of the Eighth Amendment. His claim for injunctive relief will be denied as moot, as he has already received the relief sought, viz., transfer from a local jail to a KDOC facility.

PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

Thomas claims that in February of 2013, while he was confined in the KCDC, he began experiencing pain in his neck and/or upper back and that he has repeatedly requested medical treatment for this condition. More particularly, Thomas claims that he was denied medical attention by the KCDC on or around August 11, 2014 [R. 1, p. 3], and that he has requested medical attention from the KDOC "since July 16, 2013, until August 24, 2014." Id. In short, Thomas claims that regardless of where he has been confined, be it at KCDC, CCDC, or RCC, he has received no treatment for his painful neck condition, all in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. For these reasons, Thomas claims that the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

DISCUSSION

A. Constitutional violation

To state a claim under § 1983, the plaintiff must allege and show: (1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) that the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981) (overruled in part by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986)); Flagg Bros. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-56 (1978); Black v. Barberton Citizens Hosp., 134 F.3d 1265, 1267 (6th Cir.1998). Both parts of this two-part test must be satisfied to support a claim under § 1983. See Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir.1991).

B. Capacity

Thomas does not specify whether he is suing the defendants in their official capacity as government employees or in their individual capacity. When a plaintiff does not allege the capacity in which he is suing the defendants, it is construed that they are being sued in their official capacity. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 593-94 (6th Cir. 1989). If the plaintiff seeks only monetary relief, the defendants are not subject to suit for money damages in their official capacity because government officials sued for damages in their official capacities are absolutely immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. Will v. Mich. Dep't. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71 (1989); Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 169 (1985).

A state, its agencies[2], and state officials sued in their official capacities for money damages are not "persons" subject to suit under § 1983. Will, supra ; Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). Furthermore, official-capacity claims for damages against state officials and all claims (damages and equitable relief) against the KDOC, a state entity, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. Will, 491 U.S. at 71; Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. at 169 ("This [Eleventh Amendment] bar remains in effect when State officials are sued for damages in their official capacity."); Daleure v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 119 F.Supp.2d 683, 687 (W.D. Ky. 2000) ("The Eleventh Amendment protects the Kentucky state government and the Kentucky Department of Corrections from suit.").

Accordingly, all § 1983 claims for damages and injunctive relief against the KDOC will be dismissed, and all official-capacity § 1983 claims for damages against the other defendants will be dismissed. As to Thomas's claim for injunctive relief, viz., transfer from a local jail to a KDOC medical facility "in order to be examined by a medical physician and proper staff" [R. 1, p. 8], that claim is ...


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