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Anderson v. Vaughn

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green

May 25, 2017

THOMAS ANDERSON PLAINTIFF
v.
ERIC VAUGHN (JAILER) et al . DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge United States District Court.

         This is a civil rights action brought by a convicted prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Court has granted Plaintiff Thomas Anderson leave to proceed in forma pauperis. 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, 594 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the action will be dismissed in part, but Plaintiff will be allowed to amend his complaint.

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff brings this action against three Defendants in their official and individual capacities: Simpson County Detention Center (SCDC) Jailer Eric Vaughn; SCDC Deputy Jailer Brent DeWeese; and SCDC Major Tim Phillips.

         At the time Plaintiff filed his complaint, he was incarcerated at SCDC.[1] In his complaint, he states that his incarceration at SCDC began on March 5, 2017. Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered from seizures for almost four years and has been diagnosed with “bipolar disorder and depression.” He states that while housed at SCDC he completed several medical requests “to get help for [his] seizures and [his] mental health.” He indicates that, despite these requests, he did not receive medical attention for either condition. He then writes: “I've been having bad mental problems, and it's continually getting worse. I have had several seizures since I've been, and yet nothings being done to treat me medically.” He continues: “I have filed grievance after grievance and no relief yet.” He concludes his complaint by stating: “This facility is denying me medical and mental health treatment.” As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief in the form of a transfer to a medical facility.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the instant action under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, 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 § 1915A(b)(1), (2); McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d at 604. 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)). “[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, while liberal, this standard of review does require more than the bare assertion of legal conclusions. See 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 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

         “Section 1983 creates no substantive rights, but merely provides remedies for deprivations of rights established elsewhere.” Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep't of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 351 (6th Cir. 2001). Two elements are required to state a claim under § 1983. Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635 (1980). “[A] plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “Absent either element, a section 1983 claim will not lie.” Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 1991).

         The Eighth Amendment protects convicted prisoners from the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII. An Eighth Amendment claim requires a plaintiff to prove two distinct components - one objective and one subjective. First, the alleged deprivation must be, objectively, “sufficiently serious, ” i.e., the “official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Farmer, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1970) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Second, the official must have been “deliberately indifferent” to the inmate's health or safety. Id.

         A. Official-Capacity Claims

         “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, 166 (1985) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 n.55 (1978)). Thus, Plaintiff's official-capacity claims against Defendants are actually against Simpson County. See, e.g., Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 440 (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); Griffin v. S. Health Partners, Inc., No. 1:12CV-P174-M, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17770, at *13-14 (W.D. Ky. Feb. 11, 2013).

         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 or private corporation is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The municipality is only liable when an official policy or custom of the corporation causes the alleged deprivation of federal rights. See Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 818 (6th Cir. 1996) (“Monell involved a municipal corporation, but every circuit to consider the issue has extended the holding to private corporations as well.”). Municipalities cannot can be held liable under ...


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