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Edwards v. Warren County Regional Jail

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

January 11, 2018



          Greg N. Stivers, United States District Judge.

         This is a pro se civil rights action originally brought by three convicted prisoners, Cory Alan Edwards, Mason Byrn, and Brandon Whitlow, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Brandon Whitlow and the claims against him have been dismissed from this action. The claims alleged in the complaint by the remaining two Plaintiffs, Cory Alan Edwards and Mason Byrn, are before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601, 608 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim regarding failure to provide Plaintiff Edwards with new glasses will proceed against Defendant Laslee in her individual capacity. All other claims and Defendants will be dismissed.


         Plaintiffs are incarcerated at the Warren County Regional Jail (WCRJ). They bring this action against the following five Defendants: (1) WCRJ; (2) the WCRJ “Medical Department”; (3) WCRJ Jailer Stephen Harmon; (4) WCRJ Deputy Jailer Missie Causey-Edmonds; and (5) Talana Laslee, WCRJ “Head Nursing Staff.” Plaintiff sues the three individuals in both their official and individual capacities.

         Plaintiff Edwards first alleges that since June 2017, he has requested new prescription glasses because his old ones were broken. He states that he has “blarrie vision & bad head aches too due to [his] Eye Presciptions being over 5-years old.” Plaintiff Edwards states that he has “repeatly filed/filled Medical Request to be Treated” and that Defendant Laslee has refused to give him proper treatment and stated that she “wasn't going to get [him] no New Prescription Glasses unless The Kentucky Department of Corrections tell her other wise.” Plaintiff Edwards further states that he brought this matter to the attention of Defendants Harmon and Causey-Edmonds and “they Refuse to get nothing done about my medical issue.” Plaintiff also states that he filed a grievance on June 27, 2017, about this issue, but that he “got nothing back, not even a Comment/Response.” Plaintiff attached this grievance to his complaint. In the grievance, Plaintiff states that he is “having extreme head aches and having difficulties seeing out of [his] broken glasses due to [his] eye scriptions being over 5-years-old” (DN 1-3, p. 3). Plaintiff further states in this grievance that this violates his rights as a “state inmate.” In the response section of the grievance there is a comment dated July 7, 2017, which reads as follows: “I/M currently has glasses and does not meet criteria to go to outside appointment” (DN 1-3, p. 4).

         Plaintiffs Edwards and Byrn each allege that they are being “housed on the floor . . . with only 1-mattress and not 6 inches off the ground which is Required by State law which states (State prisoners [are] to be housed off the floor 6-inches or be pervided a Stacker Bunk to keep [them] 6 inches off the floor.” Plaintiffs state that this constitutes “Cruel Punishment.” Plaintiffs further claim that this condition also violates Plaintiff Byrn's rights because he is a “Diabetic with Diabetic Ulcers” and diabetics are not supposed to be housed on the floor.

         As relief, Plaintiffs request compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief in the form of release from incarceration.


         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 608.

         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, 94 (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.” Columbia Nat. 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, 640 (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).

         A. Defendant WCRJ Medical Department

         Under § 1983, “person” includes individuals, municipal corporations, and “other bodies politic and corporate.” Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 689-90 & n.55 (1978); Mumford v. Basinski, 105 F.3d 264, 267 (6th Cir. 1997). “A prison's medical department is not an entity with a corporate or political existence . . . . [Therefore] medical departments are not ‘persons' under § 1983.” Hix v. Tenn. Dep't. of Corr., 196 F. App'x 350, 356 (6th Cir. 2006); see also Downer v. Bolton, No. 3:17-CV-P341-CRS, 2017 WL 3082676, at *3 (W.D. Ky. July 19, 2017) (dismissing the plaintiff's claim against the LMDC Classification Department because it was not a person subject to being sued under § 1983); Benberry v. Dir. of Louisville Metro. Corr., No. 3:06-CV-P520-S, 2007 WL 2229389, at *3 (W.D. Ky. July 27, 2007) (dismissing plaintiff's claims against the jail Medical Department because it is not a legal entity ...

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