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Thomas v. Fulton Cnty. Det. Ctr.

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

July 16, 2015

JAMES RICHARD THOMAS Plaintiff
v.
FULTON CNTY. DET. CTR. et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff James Richard Thomas, currently an inmate at the Roederer Correctional Complex, initiated this pro se action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky (EDKY). He sued jails and jail personnel in Kenton, Webster, Fulton, and Carroll Counties. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Subsequently, the EDKY found that this Court was the proper venue for Plaintiff's claims concerning his incarceration in Webster and Fulton Counties, severed those claims, and transferred the two cases to this Court.[1]

Thereafter, this Court ordered Plaintiff to re-file his action on this Court's form for filing a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. The Court's Order directed that the complaint filed on this Court's form would supersede the original complaint and amended complaint. Plaintiff complied with this Court's Order and filed his complaint on this Court's approved form (DN 18).

This matter is before the Court for initial review of the complaint (DN 18) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 60 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss this action.

I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

Plaintiff identifies the following Defendants in this action: (1) Fulton County Detention Center (FCDC); (2) Ricky Parnell, the Jailer at FCDC; and (3) FCDC "Medical Department Staff." Each Defendant is sued in his individual and official capacities. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages and injunctive relief. As to injunctive relief, Plaintiff requests "modification of sentence presently serving in order to receive the proper medical attention."

Plaintiff states that beginning on or around February 2013, he "acquired a medical condition which consist of severe neck and shoulder pain." He states that just prior to being transferred to the FCDC, he was incarcerated at the Webster County Detention Center (WCDC) where he was examined by a doctor and x-rays of his neck were taken. He states that he was never treated at the WCDC, but transferred to the FCDC where he "started the process over again." Plaintiff states that "[t]o this date, I have still been denied any medical treatment for my neck condition." He states that he has been incarcerated in the FCDC on two occasions, and that when arriving at the FCDC he "submitted a medical request form for immediate medical attention." He asserts that instead of ever receiving treatment, he is transferred to a different institution to circumvent receiving any medical treatment. Plaintiff contends that his "civil rights are being violated by denying myself Due Process' and Medical Attention.'"

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, 90 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 district 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

A. Official-Capacity Claims

Plaintiff sues the FCDC and the other individual Defendants in their official capacities as employees of Fulton County. "Official-capacity suits... generally represent [] another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'" Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). Suing Defendants in their official capacities is the equivalent of suing their employer, Fulton County. See Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir. 2008) (stating that civil rights suit against county clerk of courts in his official capacity was equivalent of suing clerk's employer, the county); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994) (advising that since the county police department is not an entity which may be sued, the county is the proper party); Bradford v. Hammond, No. Civ.A.3:05CVP459-H, 2005 WL 2739154, at *2 (W.D. Ky. Oct. 21, 2005) (construing a claim against Louisville Metro Corrections as one brought against Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government); Smallwood v. Jefferson Cnty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990) (concluding that a suit against the Jefferson County Government, the Jefferson County Fiscal Court, and the Jefferson County Judge Executive is actually a suit against Jefferson County itself).

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');"> 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will first address the second issue, i.e., whether the municipality is responsible for the alleged constitutional violation.


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