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Martin v. Gray

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

September 29, 2017

JOHN WILLIS MARTIN, JR. PLAINTIFF
v.
LYNN GRAY et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Greg N. Stivers, Judge

         Plaintiff John Willis Martin, Jr., a convicted prisoner currently incarcerated in the Graves County Jail, filed a pro se complaint (DN 1) and supplemental complaint (DN 10) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging claims arising during his detention as a convicted prisoner at the Warren County Regional Jail (WCRJ). This matter is before the Court on initial review of the complaint and supplemental complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, the Eighth Amendment claims regarding Plaintiff's tooth extraction and post-extraction treatment shall continue against Defendants Gray and Smith in their individual capacity for damages; all other claims will be dismissed.

         I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS

         In the complaint, as Defendants, Plaintiff names (1) Lynn Gray, LPN, at Southern Health Partners (SHP); and (2) Jason Smith, dentist at WCRJ. He sues Defendants Gray and Smith in their individual and official capacities. In the supplemental complaint, as Defendants, Plaintiff names (1) Nurse Gray at WCRJ/SHP, in her official capacity; and (2) WCRJ. In construing the pleadings in a light most favorable to the pro se Plaintiff, as this Court must, the Court concludes that Defendants in this action are Defendants Gray and Smith in their individual and official capacities and the WCRJ.

         In the complaint and supplemental complaint, Plaintiff complains of a painful tooth extraction in March 2017 and a failure to adequately treat his post-extraction tooth pain and open wound, despite complaining of “unbearable” pain.

         In the supplemental complaint, Plaintiff additionally complains that on one occasion he “went to the hoe[1] at 11:30 am for disrupting count and had to do 24 hours in there”; that while there, “they pressure washed the detox room which is next door”; and that “at 4:10 am Saturday morning they woke us up to do the side we were on and made us go to the detox side which was still wet and had puddles and took our mats at 7:00 am and made us sit or lay down on a wet floor.” He reports requesting “oranges” with no response.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages and injunctive relief effectively in the form of being transferred from WCRJ.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Because Plaintiff is a prisoner seeking relief against governmental entities, officers, and/or employees, this Court must review the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the 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).

         A. Claims Against WCRJ and Official-Capacity Claims Against Defendants Gray and Smith

         The WCRJ is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. Marbry v. Corr. Med. Servs., 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); see also Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991) (holding that a police department may not be sued under § 1983). In this situation, Warren County is the proper Defendant. See Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990).

         Further, Warren County is a “person” for purposes of § 1983. See Monell v. New York City Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978).

         Additionally, the official-capacity claims against Defendants Gray and Smith, to the extent that they are employed by WCRJ, also are construed as brought against Warren County. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (“Official-capacity suits . . .‘generally represent [] another way of pleading an action against ...


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