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Price v. Brewer

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

January 8, 2018



          Thomas B. Russell, Senior Judge Defendants United States District.

         Plaintiff Thomas Mchenry Price, who is incarcerated in the Fulton County Detention Center (FCDC), filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court on initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons that follow, the complaint will be dismissed, but Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint.


         Plaintiff brings suit against FCDC Deputy Guard Rick Brewer and the FCDC. He does not indicate in which capacity(ies) he sues Defendant Brewer. As his statement of his claims, Plaintiff alleges that while Defendant Brewer was driving the property truck, Plaintiff “was riding passenger side of the truck in the back while legs Hanging off he ramed me into side of building twisted me off the truck and pinned me in between truck and building.” Plaintiff states that he received “a spinal and leg injury”; that Defendant Brewer refused him medical treatment until another FCDC employee became concerned for Plaintiff; and that the second time he went to medical, he was billed. He asserts that he has been having “Bad Back Pain since the accident and they have been refusing me medical treatment.” As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary and punitive damages and injunctive relief.[1]


         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. Defendant FCDC

         Defendant FCDC is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983 because municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994); 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). In this situation, it is Fulton County that is the proper defendant. See Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990).

         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 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. 658, 691 (1978); 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 original). To demonstrate municipal liability, a plaintiff “must (1) identify the municipal policy or custom, (2) connect the policy to the municipality, and (3) show that his particular injury was incurred due to execution of that policy.” Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 815 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Garner v. Memphis Police Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993)).

         None of the allegations in the complaint demonstrate that any alleged wrongdoing or injury occurred as a result of a policy or custom implemented or endorsed by Fulton County. Accordingly, the complaint fails to establish a basis of liability against the municipality and fails to state a cognizable § 1983 claim. Accordingly, the claims against the FCDC will be dismissed.

         B. Defendant Brewer

         Plaintiff fails to state the capacity in which he sues Defendant Brewer. Individual-capacity “suits seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law.” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985). “Official-capacity suits, in contrast, ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'” Id. at 166 (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 691 n.55). “[Section] 1983 plaintiffs must clearly notify defendants of the potential for individual liability.” Moore v. City of Harriman, 272 F.3d 769, 773 (6th Cir. 2001) (en banc). “When a § 1983 plaintiff fails ...

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