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Warren v. Henderson County Dept. Corrections

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

August 2, 2017

JASON CHRISTOPHER WARREN PLAINTIFF
v.
HENDERSON COUNTY DEPT. CORRECTIONS DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         Plaintiff, Jason Christopher Warren, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. 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, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the following reasons, Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to amend.

         I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee currently housed at the Henderson County Detention Center (HCDC). He sues the Henderson County Department of Corrections and the Henderson Police Department.

         Plaintiff alleges that on March 26, 2017, he was pulled over while riding a moped. At that time he was recovering from an injury to his right ankle/heel. He states that he had “pins sticking out of [his] right heal, ” yet he was made to stand on the side of the road “in pain crying and in massive amounts of pain for 5 to 10 mins” and then forced to walk more than 30 feet to the squad car. He alleges that he was “forced into the police car hitting the protected pin and made to walk without my crutches.” He also alleges that he was pulled from the squad car and forced to walk in to the HCDC, where he collapsed in pain.

         Plaintiff further alleges that he was told to unwrap his bandage making the pin coming out of his right heel visible, yet he was forced to walk to medical where he was given no pain medication and then forced to walk to a holding cell. He states that he was bleeding, yet was given no bandage and was later made to walk to be booked in to the facility.

         Plaintiff states that he was forced to sleep on the floor where his ankle and foot were kicked and stepped on several times. He states that one of his pins became stuck in his mat and came out. He states that he did not see a doctor for two weeks and did not receive any pain medication for three weeks. He states that, even after his pins were removed, he was kept in general population where he had to sleep on the floor, resulting in his foot being kicked and stepped on. He alleges that his ankle is still painful and swollen.

         As relief, Plaintiff asks for compensatory and punitive damages and release from incarceration so that he may seek outside treatment.

         II. ANALYSIS

         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 action, 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 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and (2). 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 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. When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. Prater v. City of Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         Defendants Henderson County Department of Corrections and the Henderson Police Department are not persons subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails and police departments, are not suable under § 1983. See Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir.1991) (holding that a police department may not be sued under § 1983); see also Marbry v. Corr. Med. Serv., No. 99-6706, 2000 WL 1720959 at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2000) (holding that a jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983). The claims against these Defendants are actually brought against Henderson County. See Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990). Further, Henderson County is a “person” for purposes of § 1983. Monell v. New York Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978). The Court will, therefore, construe the claims as being brought against Henderson County.

         When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality, like Henderson County, a court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether the 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, 120 (1992). The Court will address the issues in reverse order.

         “[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor - or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. at 691 (emphasis in original); Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994); Berry v. City of Detroit, 25 F.3d 1342, 1345 (6th Cir. 1994). “[T]he touchstone of ‘official policy' is designed ‘to distinguish acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and thereby make clear that municipal liability is limited to action for which the municipality is actually responsible.'” City of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 138 (1988) (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986)) (emphasis in Pembaur).

         A municipality cannot be held responsible for a constitutional deprivation unless there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Deaton v. Montgomery Cty., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir. 1993). Simply stated, the plaintiff must “identify the policy, connect the policy to the city itself and show that the particular injury was incurred because of the execution of that policy.” Garner v. Memphis Police Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting Coogan v. City of Wixom, 820 F.2d 170, 176 (6th Cir. 1987), overruled on other grounds, Frantz v. Vill. of Bradford, 245 F.3d 869 (6th Cir. 2001)). The policy or custom “must be ‘the moving force of the constitutional violation' in order to establish the liability of a government body under § 1983.” Searcy, 38 F.3d at ...


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