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Scott v. Hammons

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

December 21, 2016

LARRY W. SCOTT, JR., Plaintiff,
MARY HAMMONS, et al., Defendants.



         Larry W. Scott, Jr. is a prisoner formerly confined at the Knox County Detention Center (“KCDC”) in Barbourville, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Scott has filed a civil rights complaint pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [R. 1.] The Court has granted his motion to proceed in forma pauperis by prior Order. [R. 13.]

         The Court must conduct a preliminary review of Scott's complaint because he has been granted permission to pay the filing fee in installments and because he asserts claims against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim that 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. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When testing the sufficiency of Scott's complaint, the Court affords it a forgiving construction, accepting as true all non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construing its legal claims in the plaintiff's favor. Davis v. Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir. 2012).

         To provide a background to place the allegations of Scott's complaint in context, on September 23, 2011, a grand jury in Knox County, Kentucky issued an indictment charging Scott with failing to comply with sex offender registration requirements in violation of Ky. Rev. Stat. 17.510(11) and with being a persistent felony offender in violation of Ky. Rev. Stat. 532.080(3). In December 2011, the charges were dismissed without prejudice for want of prosecution although a warrant for Scott's arrest remained outstanding. The warrant was executed on September 5, 2015, and the case was returned to the active docket. Scott was arraigned on the state charges and the prosecution resumed; however, the case was dismissed on April 11, 2016. Commonwealth v. Scott, No. 11-CR-00175 (Knox Cir. Ct. 2011). [See R. 1-1 at 1-2.]

         In his complaint, Scott indicates that on September 5, 2015, he was arrested at a hospital in Barbourville, Kentucky while awaiting treatment for a “venereal discharge.” Scott alleges that he was never provided with treatment for this condition, or for “delerium tremors, ” at any time after his arrest. [R. 1 at 5-7.] However, Scott does not attribute that failure to any named defendant.

         Scott further claims that Officer Steve Owens and an unnamed officer of the United States Marshals Service (“USMS”) conspired to falsify evidence with the intent to deprive him of his freedom, when they submitted documents which indicated that Scott violated Ky. Rev. Stat. 17.510(11) by failing to comply with Kentucky's sex offender registration requirements. [R. 1-1 at 3-6.] Scott states that the defendants could have ascertained his current address by checking a website maintained by South Carolina authorities or by contacting Kentucky's Department of Probation and Parole, and that he complied at all times with South Carolina and Kentucky sex offender registration requirements. [R. 1 at 9-13.]

         Scott separately contends that at his arraignment on September 25, 2015, he advised Judge G. Lay of the Knox Circuit Court and Commonwealth's Attorney Jackie Steele that in August 2011 his whereabouts were known to South Carolina authorities, the Social Security Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that he had been attacked at KCDC. Scott alleges that Judge Lay and prosecutor Steele continued to prosecute him on the 2011 charges and disregarded his comments. [R. 1 at 15-21, 25.]

         Scott further states that on September 17, 2015, he was “attacked from behind” at KCDC by Officer Steven Mills, and was then not provided medical care for his injuries. [R. 1 at 23.] Scott also alleges that he was transferred to the Clay County Detention Center on September 25, 2015, where he was promptly attacked by several inmates at the jail, and he suffered severe injuries as a result. Scott asserts that the light fixtures in the area were “faulty, ” and that guards at the jail could and should have seen the attack and heard him yell for help through surveillance cameras, but that no one came to his aid. Scott contends that the Clay County Detention Center and Jailer are legally responsible for his injuries [R. 1 at 27-37], but he named neither of them as defendants in this action.

         Scott alleges that after he was treated at the University of Kentucky hospital for his injuries, he was transferred back to KCDC, but once there his medications were immediately discontinued and he was not transported to follow-up appointments at the hospital. [R. 1 at 37-39.] He further states that after he fell down the steps in the recreation area on October 16, 2015, no medical treatment was provided beyond a brief examination of his ankle. Scott states that he was placed in a medical cell, where he was given one mattress to sleep on the floor. Scott alleges that he developed multiple knots in his back and high blood pressure, but that Nurse Dunn told him that it was because he was sleeping on the floor. [R. 1 at 41-45.]

         Scott named as defendants in this action Mary Hammons, Linda Smallwood, Commonwealth Attorney Jackie Steele, Officer Steven Mills, Knox County Circuit Court Judge G. Lay, Nurse Dunn, United States Marshal Greg Bobblitt, and Officer Steve Owen. [R. 1 at 1.] Scott seeks substantial compensatory damages from each of the named defendants. [R. 1 at 54.]

         As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that Scott's numerous claims arise from different events occurring at different times and places and as a result of conduct by different defendants. It is therefore plain that the claims Scott asserts against the various defendants are not properly joined in a single action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a)(2)(A), (B). Nonetheless, because Scott is proceeding pro se and because such claims could, if dismissed or severed from this action pursuant to Rule 21, be barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the Court will permit these claims to proceed together in this action.

         First, the Court must summarily dismiss Mary Hammons and Linda Smallwood as defendants in this action. While Scott named them as defendants in the caption of his complaint, he makes neither any reference to nor allegations against either of them in the body of the complaint. While the Court accepts as true all ‘well-pleaded facts' in the complaint, D'Ambrosio v. Marino, 747 F.3d 378, 383 (6th Cir. 2014), it must still contain allegations against a defendant with respect to every material element necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory. Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. Youth Alive, Inc., 732 F.3d 645, 649 (6th Cir. 2013). Where a complaint fails to allege facts sufficient to state a facially-plausible claim, it must undoubtedly be dismissed. Republic Bank & Trust Co. v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc., 683 F.3d 239, 247 (6th Cir. 2012). The Court will therefore dismiss these defendants from this action.

         Second, the claims against Officer Steve Owens and United States Marshal Greg Bobblitt must be dismissed. Although Scott does not expressly identify Bobblitt in his complaint as the U.S. Marshal who assisted Officer Mills in filing allegedly “falsified” documents regarding his compliance with Kentucky's sex offender registration requirements [R. 1 at 9], at least an attachment to Scott's complaint so suggests. [See R. 1-1 at 5.]

         Scott's assertion that these documents were “falsified” is predicated upon his belief that the officers could and should have determined that he was in compliance with the sex offender registration requirements by checking with other law enforcement agencies. [R. 1 at 11-17.] This claim fails as a matter of law because it complains in essence not that the officers actually falsified documents, but that the officers were negligent in the performance of their duties, thus causing the documents to contain incorrect information. But a citizen's federal civil rights cannot be violated by accident: the Constitution forbids certain actions by government officials if taken intentionally, whereas negligent or even grossly negligent conduct by government officials will not violate constitutional rights. Cf. County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 849 (1998) (“liability for negligently inflicted harm is categorically beneath the threshold of constitutional due process.”); Range v. Douglas, 763 F.3d 573, 590 (6th Cir. 2014) (“Merely negligent tortious conduct ...

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