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Reece v. Shelby County

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

February 15, 2018

JOSHUA REECE, Plaintiff,
v.
SHELBY COUNTY, KENTUCKY d/b/a SHELBY COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          GREGORY F. VAN TATEIIHOVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Joshua Reece alleges assault and violations of civil rights at the hands of employees and contractees of the Shelby County Detention Center in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Before the Court today, several of the Defendants seek dismissal of claims relating to violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Additionally, Mr. Reece attempts to introduce evidence of a guilty plea entered by Deputy Jailer William Carey to achieve summary judgment for all claims against Mr. Carey. For the following reasons, the Defendants' Motion for Partial Dismissal will be GRANTED and Mr. Reece's Motion for Summary Judgment will be DENIED.

         I

         A

         Mr. Joshua Reece was arrested for shoplifting in November of 2015 and taken to the Shelby County Detention Center to await court proceedings. [R. 35-1 at 2.] Former Deputy Jailer William Anthony Carey was working at the detention center when Mr. Reece arrived. [R. 26 at 1.] He recognized Mr. Reece as the ex-boyfriend of his wife. [Id.] After booking, Mr. Reece was placed in Cell 317, but the parties dispute whether this cell was considered “maximum security.” [R. 26 at 1; R. 35-1 at 2.] According to accounts by Mr. Reece, he awoke around 2:00 a.m. the next morning to an assault by several other inmates.[1] He claims he was attacked for several hours. [R. 1 at ¶15.] After this attack, Mr. Reece claims he did not receive adequate medical treatment for his injuries. [Id. at ¶¶16 - 26.] Upon his release from the detention center, Mr. Reece asserts he had to have major corrective surgery to repair the fractures in his head and face. [Id. at ¶30.]

         On January 28, 2016, upon an affidavit from Eric Hettinger, a criminal complaint was filed against Mr. Carey in Shelby County District Court for his involvement in the assault of Mr. Reece. [R. 35-2 at 3.] Information provided by Mr. Reece suggests that Mr. Carey entered a guilty plea to official misconduct in the first degree and complicity to assault in the fourth degree on March 24, 2016.[2] [Id. at 9 -10.]

         B

         In his complaint, Mr. Reece sued twelve known defendants, as well as unknown employees of the Shelby County Detention Center. Among these defendants are Shelby County, Kentucky d/b/a Shelby County Detention Center; Bobby Waits, individually and in his official capacity as Shelby County Jailer; Southern Health Partners, Inc. (SHP); Ronald Waldridge, M.D., individually; Stacy Jenson, ARNP, individually; Kristy Newton, LPN, individually; Geri McClain, LPN, individually; Heather Lowe, individually; Christy Coleman, individually; Christy Bailey, individually; and William Anthony Carey, individually. Against all defendants, Mr. Reece's Count I alleged violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Additionally, against the individual defendants and SHP, Mr. Reece complained of Negligence, Gross Negligence, and Professional Negligence (Count II); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count III); and Civil Conspiracy, Aiding and Abetting, and Conspiracy to violate Constitutional Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count IV).

         Subsequent to the Defendants' Answers, Mr. Reece filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [R. 25] against Mr. Carey, which was later denied without prejudice due to the Motion referencing an exhibit not filed in the record. [See R. 34.] Upon Mr. Carey's filing of this Motion for Partial Dismissal [R. 27], Ms. Bailey, Shelby County, and Mr. Waits joined in the motion. [See R. 32.] Thereafter, Mr. Reece filed his second Motion for Summary Judgment. [R. 35.] Mr. Carey submitted a response [R. 36], p which incorporated his response to Mr. Reece's first motion [R. 26]. All pending motions have been thoroughly briefed and are now ripe for review.

         II

         A

         Regarding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “[t]he defendant has the burden of showing that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief.” DirecTV, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Carver v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454-55 (6th Cir. 1991)). When reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “construe[s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept[s] its allegations as true, and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. (citation omitted). Such a motion “should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Id. (quoting Ricco v. Potter, 377 F.3d 599, 602 (6th Cir. 2004)). The Court, however, “need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby County, 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). Moreover, the facts that are pled must rise to the level of plausibility, not just possibility; “facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stop[ ] short of the line between possibility and plausibility.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). According to the Sixth Circuit, “[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).

         Regarding summary judgment, such an order is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “A genuine dispute exists on a material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the evidence shows ‘that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Olinger v. Corporation of the President of the Church, 521 F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated another way, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its burden by showing “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come forward with facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). Moreover, “the nonmoving party must do more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact. It must present significant probative evidence in support of its opposition to the motion for summary judgment.” Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (internal citations omitted).

         When applying the summary judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, the Court is under no duty to “search the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” In re Morris, 260 F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, “the nonmoving party has an affirmative duty to direct the court's attention to those specific portions of the record upon which it seeks to rely to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Id.

         B

         Section 1983 does not create substantive rights but, rather, “provides a remedy for deprivations of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States....” Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982); Mertik v. Blalock, 983 F.2d 1353, 1359 (6th Cir. 1993). “To state a claim under § 1983, 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). “The first step in any such claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed.” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) (additional citations omitted)). Mr. Reece's § 1983 claim alleged violations under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

         1

         First, Mr. Carey argues that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to Mr. Reece because Mr. Reece was not a “free citizen” at the time of the alleged incident, and, therefore, his claims that the defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights should be dismissed. [R. 27-1 at 4.] Mr. Reece instead believes that, because he was not yet a convicted prisoner, Fourth Amendment protections extend to him as a pretrial detainee. [R. 30 at 3-4.]

         The Sixth Circuit has acknowledged that a claim of excessive force can be raised under the Fourth, Eighth, or Fourteenth Amendments. Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 472 (6th Cir. 2013). The Fourth Amendment protects free citizens from excessive force in its prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Id. The Eighth Amendment protects convicted persons from excessive force in its prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Id. However, persons, such as Mr. Reece, who are detained before trial are somewhere in the middle. The Burgess Court recognized this and determined that the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause is applicable to prohibit excessive force against those citizens who are neither free nor convicted. Id. The Sixth Circuit has held that claims of excessive force on a pretrial detainee are to be litigated under the Fourteenth Amendment, not the Fourth Amendment. Id.; see also Kulpa for Estate of Kulpa v. Cantea, No. 16-2521 2017 WL 3888000, at *3 (6th Cir. Sept. ...


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