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Holzworth v. Sims

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro

August 2, 2017



          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         Plaintiff James Tyler Holzworth, a pretrial detainee currently incarcerated in the Daviess County Detention Center, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (DN 1). This matter is before the Court on initial screening of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss the complaint but allow Plaintiff to amend.


         Plaintiff brings this action against the following Defendants in their official capacities: Brandon Sims, Detective at the Owensboro Police Department; Penny Butler, Case Worker at Child Protective Services; and Emily Neal, Pediatric Forensic Nurse Specialist at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He also sues Vinod Rao, a Child Abuse Pediatrician at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, but does not indicate in which capacity he sues that Defendant.

         As his statement of the case, Plaintiff alleges that on February 18, 2015, while under his watch, one of his girlfriend's children fell and hit his head. Plaintiff reports that he called his girlfriend, who told him “to watch him and put A&O ointment on it!” He claims that soon thereafter, the child “started acting weird So worried I called the emt's, who came and transported us to Owensboro Mercy health hospital.” Plaintiff indicates that while the child was taken to be examined, “they put me in a private room, were I met a CPS Worker and a Detective. I then explained to them what had happened and wrote out a statement of what Happened.” He continues, “After that I guess they looked up my record and seen that Ive been in trouble before and started to make accusations of Child abuse! Never in my life have I laid my hands on any Child nor have I ever whipped my own!”

         Plaintiff then states, “Almost two years Later after thinking all of that was out of my life and found innocent they Come to my work and arrest me for Criminal abuse 1st and assault 1st. This is affecting me physically and mentally from being the father I am! And on top of that not to mention my Place of employment were Ive been employed for five years!” Plaintiff contends that he is innocent and locked up on false charges which is affecting his mental state.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages; injunctive relief in the form of “expunging my Record and Release Me”; and other relief in the form of “mak[ing] sure no one else is wrongfully Incarcerated.”


         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 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007).

         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 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 claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[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 pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557).

         Although courts are to hold pro se pleadings “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972), this duty to be less stringent “does not require us 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 courts “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. ...

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