United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Michael Putnam is an inmate confined at the Blackburn
Correctional Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding
without an attorney, Mr. Putnam has filed a civil rights
complaint against prison officials under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. [R.
1; R. 3.] The Court has reviewed the fee motion and will
grant the request on the terms established by 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(b). Because Mr. Putnam has been granted
pauper status in this proceeding, the $50.00
administrative fee is waived. District Court Miscellaneous
Fee Schedule, § 14.
Court must conduct a preliminary review of Mr. Putnam's
complaint because he has been granted permission to pay the
filing fee in installments and because he asserts claims
against government officials. 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2), 1915A. A district court must dismiss any claim
that 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. Hill v.
Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). When
testing the sufficiency of his complaint, the Court affords
it a forgiving construction, accepting as true all
non-conclusory factual allegations and liberally construing
its legal claims in the plaintiff's favor. Davis v.
Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir.
Putnam's claims arise from his incarceration at two
different facilities—the Shelby County Jail and the
Oldham County Jail. In his complaint, Mr. Putnam alleges that,
although he was initially arrested in Shelby County and
booked into the Shelby County Jail, he was immediately
transferred to the Oldham County Jail. He was housed in the
Oldham County Jail from January 6, 2016 until approximately
August 1, 2016. Mr. Putnam alleges that, while he was housed
in the Oldham County Jail, he was improperly placed in
solitary confinement and was refused access to both a medical
doctor and a psychiatrist. He alleges that these actions
constitute violations of his Eighth Amendment right to be
free from cruel and unusual punishment.
Putnam further alleges that he was transferred back to the
Shelby County Jail on September 2, 2016, where he remained
until approximately June 28, 2017. Mr. Putnam alleges that he
was again refused access to both a medical doctor and a
psychiatrist by officials at the Shelby County Jail. He
alleges that these actions constitute additional violations
of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and
initial matter, Mr. Putnam has improperly joined the Shelby
County claims and the Oldham County claims in one action. The
joinder of multiple claims is governed by Rule 18 of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 18(a) states that
“[a] party asserting a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim,
or third-party claim may join, as independent or alternative
claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing
party.” Where, as here, a plaintiff attempts to join
claims against multiple defendants, Rule 20(a) provides the
(2) Persons . . . may be joined in one action as defendants
(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly,
severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising
out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
transactions or occurrences; and
(B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will
arise in the action.
Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(emphasis added). Thus, under the plain
language of Rule 20(a)(2), joinder is appropriate only if
both requirements are met: (1) the plaintiff's claims
arise from the “same transaction, occurrence, or series
of transactions or occurrences;” and (2)
“any question of law or fact common to all defendants
will arise in the action.” Id.
allegations in Mr. Putnam's complaint set forth Eighth
Amendment Claims against the Oldham County Defendants arising
from Mr. Putnam's confinement in the Oldham County Jail
and a separate Eighth Amendment claim against the Shelby
County Defendants arising from his confinement in the Shelby
County Jail. However, there is no factual overlap between Mr.
Putnam's Oldham County and Shelby County claims. Rather,
these facilities are separate facilities with separate staff
and procedures. Moreover, whether or not Mr. Putnam was
denied access to medical care by the Oldham County officials
has no relevance as to whether or not he was also denied
access to medical care by the Shelby County officials. For
all of these reasons, Mr. Putnam's Oldham and Shelby
County claims do not arise out of the same transaction,
occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.
sure, Mr. Putnam does allege that he was denied medical
treatment at both the Shelby County Jail and the Oldham
County Jail. Although these claims are based on the same
legal theory, they are completely separate and independent
claims. Indeed, “the test for joinder is not whether
claims arise from the same source of law.”
Murriel-Don Coal Co. v. Aspen Ins. UK Ltd., 790
F.Supp.2d 590, 600 (E.D. Ky. 2011). Accordingly, Putnam's
Oldham County claims are not properly joined with his Shelby
County claims. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607
(7th Cir. 2007) (“Unrelated claims against different
defendants belong in different suits...”).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that
“[m]isjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissing
an action. On motion or on its own, the court may at any
time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also
sever any claim against a party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.
Under this Rule, the Court “has broad discretion
‘to order a severance to avoid causing unreasonable
prejudice and expense to the defendant ... and to avoid great
inconvenience in the administration of justice.'”
Proctor v. Applegate, 661 F.Supp.2d 743, 781 (E.D.
Mich. 2009)(quoting Nail v. Michigan Dep't of
Corrections, 2007 WL 4465247, *3 (E.D. Mich.
2007)(alterations in original). After carefully considering
the issues and weighing its options under Rule 21, the Court
concludes that the most economical and just manner in which
to proceed is to sever Mr. Putnam's Eighth Amendment
Claims against the Shelby County defendants from his
unrelated claims against the Oldham County Defendants.
adding another wrinkle to this case, Mr. Putnam's Oldham
County claims are not properly filed in this district. A
plaintiff must file a civil rights action in a district where
one defendant resides if all defendants reside in the same
state, or in a district where a substantial part of the
relevant events occurred. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). While the
Shelby County claims were properly filed in this district,
the events giving rise to the Oldham County claims occurred
in Oldham County, Kentucky, which is located in the
Louisville division of the Western District of Kentucky, ...