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Sanders v. Daviess County Detention Center

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro

January 3, 2019

HAROLD DONAVAN SANDERS, JR. PLAINTIFF
v.
DAVIESS COUNTY DETENTION CENTER et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH H. MCKINLEY JR., DISTRICT JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Plaintiff Harold Donavan Sanders, Jr., filed the instant pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action proceeding in forma pauperis. This matter is before the Court on initial review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss some of Plaintiff's claims and allow others to proceed for further development.

         I.

         When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of it, if the court determines that the complaint 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).

         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)). “But the district court need not accept a ‘bare assertion of legal conclusions.'” Tackett, 561 F.3d at 488 (quoting Columbia Natural Res., Inc. v. Tatum, 58 F.3d 1101, 1109 (6th Cir. 1995)). “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).

         II.

         Plaintiff states that he is a convicted inmate at the Daviess County Detention Center (DCDC). He sues DCDC; James Hicks, a DCDC sergeant; and Alex Dixon, a DCDC deputy jailer. He sues Defendant Hicks in his individual and official capacities. He does not state in which capacity he sues Defendant Dixon. However, reading the complaint as a whole and construing it broadly, as the Court must do at this stage, the Court construes the complaint as suing Defendant Dixon in both his individual and official capacities.

         Plaintiff alleges that an incident occurred on July 30, 2018, where he was subjected to excessive force by Defendants Hicks and Dixon resulting in injuries.

         Upon review, the Court will allow Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims for excessive force to proceed against Defendants Hicks and Dixon in their individual capacities. In allowing the claims to proceed, the Court passes no judgment on their merit or ultimate outcome.

         However, “[o]fficial-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent [] another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'” Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n.55 (1978)). Suing employees in their official capacities is the equivalent of suing their employer. Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 439-40 (6th Cir. 2008); Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994); Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502. 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990). Therefore, the Court construes Plaintiff's official-capacity claims against Defendants Hicks and Dixon as brought against their employer, Daviess County.

         In addition, Defendant DCDC 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 U.S. App. LEXIS 28072, 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, Daviess County is the proper defendant. Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990) (construing claims brought against the Jefferson County Government, the Jefferson County Fiscal Court, and the Jefferson County Judge Executive as claims against Jefferson County itself). The Court will therefore construe the claims against DCDC as claims against Daviess County, as well.

         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). Under the second prong, a municipality cannot be held responsible for a constitutional deprivation unless there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Deaton v. Montgomery Cty., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir. 1993). 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)). The policy or custom “must be ‘the moving force of the constitutional violation' in order to establish the liability of a government body under § 1983.” Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981) (citation omitted)).

         In the instant case, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Hicks and Dixon subjected him to excessive force. However, he does not allege that their actions occurred as a result of a policy or custom implemented or endorsed by Daviess County. The complaint alleges an isolated occurrence affecting only Plaintiff. See Fox v. Van Oosterum, 176 F.3d 342, 348 (6th Cir. 1999) (“No evidence indicates that this was anything more than a one-time, isolated event for which the county is not responsible.”). Accordingly, Plaintiff's claims against DCDC ...


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