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Estate of Bradley v. Wright

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

September 3, 2019

GERRY WRIGHT, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Ohio County Jailer and DEPUTY DEANNA CULBERTSON, DEPUTY JACOB PHELPS, and OHIO COUNTY JAIL DEFENDANTS


          Joseph H. McKinley Jr., Senior Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion by Defendants, Gerry Wright, individually and in his official capacity as Ohio County Jailer, Deputy DeAnna Culbertson, Deputy Jacob Phelps, and the Ohio County Jail, for summary judgment [DN 48]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On August 7, 2015, Robert Matthew Bradley was arrested by the Kentucky State Police at approximately 4:47 p.m. and charged with failure to wear a seatbelt, failure to produce insurance card, driving on DUI suspended license, first offense, and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol/drugs, third offense. (Uniform Citation, DN 29-2.) The arresting officer took Bradley to the Ohio County Hospital for a blood draw to obtain evidence which would be used in the prosecution of Bradley. Bradley was booked into the Ohio County Detention Center (“OCDC” or “jail”) at approximately 5:52 p.m. Deputies DeAnna Culbertson and Jacob Phelps were involved in the booking process with Bradley. Upon being booked into the jail, Bradley was loud and somewhat belligerent. Bradley walked into the jail without assistance and had no difficulty moving about the booking area. He complied with all of the deputies' requests, including posing for a booking photograph, answering the standard medical questions, signing the medical form, signing the facility admission report and personal property intake form, and changing into jail attire without assistance. Both deputies were aware that he had first been taken to the hospital for a blood draw and that he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

         At the conclusion of the booking process, Bradley was placed in a detoxification cell located by the booking area. After having been placed in the detox cell, Bradley expressed that he was hungry, and Deputy Culbertson prepared a plate of food and a glass of tea for Bradley. Bradley consumed all of the meal. Deputy Phelps collected the plate and glass at a later point in the night. In addition to the meal, Bradley requested he be allowed to use a telephone. Deputy Phelps permitted him to use the phone and assisted him in locating at least one telephone number. Bradley spoke with his brother, Virgil Langston, at approximately 6:00 p.m. on August 7, 2015. Bradley remained in the detox cell during the night.

         Deputy Culbertson testified that inmates Kristen Geary and Candace Burden bonded out of the jail at 10:00 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. respectively. On both occasions, Deputy Culbertson checked on Bradley, and he was asleep and snoring. (Culbertson Aff. at ¶¶ 17-19.) Deputy Phelps testified that he conducted cell checks as reflected on the jail daily activity log and had other contacts with Bradley. Phelps testified that between regular cell checks and checks on Bradley when other inmates were booked into or bonded out of jail on August 7, 2015, Bradley would have been checked on at least on an hourly basis. (Phelps Aff. at ¶ 17.) Deputy Culbertson and Deputy Phelps' shifts ended between 11:00 and 12:00 p.m. Bradley was discovered not breathing in the early morning hours of August 8, 2015.[1] The Kentucky State Police investigated the death and issued its report in July 2017. Neither party has provided the Court with a copy of the report.

         Plaintiff, Estate of Robert Matthew Bradley, by his Administratrix Lena Goins, brought this action on September 26, 2016, for violations “of both [Bradley's] civil rights, [42] U.S.C. § 1983 and the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997.” (Complaint at ¶7.) In the original complaint, Plaintiff asserted claims against Gerry Wright, individually and in his official Capacity as Ohio County Jailer, and the Ohio County Jail. Deadlines were extended multiple times in this action. In May 2018, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. In addition to filing a response, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint to add claims against Deputies DeAnna Culbertson and Jacob Phelps.

         On August 1, 2018, the Court granted leave to amend the complaint but rejected the amended complaint tendered with Plaintiff's motion finding that it did not clarify any of the claims brought against the original defendants or the new defendants. The Court required Plaintiff to file an amended complaint clearly and adequately identifying each claim Plaintiff is asserting against each Defendant sufficient to satisfy the Iqbal and Twombly guidelines. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Additionally, the Court denied Defendants' motion for summary judgment with leave to refile. On August 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. After the newly filed amended complaint and additional discovery, Defendants now move for summary judgment again.


         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


         “In order to make a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish a violation of an existing constitutional right by a person acting under color of state law.” Muhammad v. Skinner, 193 F.Supp.3d 821, 830 (E.D. Mich. 2016), appeal dismissed (Sept. 8, 2016)(citing Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978)). “Section 1983, however, does not confer any substantive rights but rather affords a means to ‘vindicate rights conferred by the Constitution or laws of the United States.'” Muhammad, 193 F.Supp.3d at 830 (quoting Aldini v. Johnson, 609 F.3d 858, 864 (6th Cir. 2010)). Here, Plaintiff alleges a Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical need claim against Jailer Wright, Deputy Culbertson, and Deputy Phelps in their individual capacities and a failure to train and supervise claim against Jailer Wright in his official capacity and the Ohio County Jail.

         1. Claims brought against Wright in his Official Capacity and Ohio County Jail

         “Official-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, 166 (1985) (quoting Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 n. 55 (1978)). Plaintiff's official-capacity claim against Jailer Wright, therefore, is actually against Ohio County. See Lambert v. Hartman, 517 F.3d 433, 440 (6th Cir. 2008). Similarly, the claims against the Ohio County Jail must also be brought against Ohio County because the jail is not an entity subject to suit. See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994) (advising that since the county police department is not an entity which may be sued, the county is the proper party); Smallwood v. Jefferson County Gov't, 743 F.Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990) (concluding that a suit against the fiscal court and judge executive is actually a suit against the county itself).

         2. Municipal Liability

         Ohio County seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's municipal liability claim for failure to train and supervise. Under § 1983, a municipality can be held liable only if the plaintiff demonstrates that the injury suffered was a direct result of the municipality's official policy or custom. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. “[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.” Id.; Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (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. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986)). 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). Plaintiff alleges that Ohio County had a policy, custom, or practice of failing to train and supervise its deputy jailers.

         “[T]he inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for § 1983 liability only where the failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the police come into contact.” City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). See also Meeks v. City of Detroit, Michigan, 727 Fed.Appx. 171, 2018 WL 1721761, at *9 (6th Cir. Apr. 9, 2018). To prevail on a failure-to-train claim, Plaintiff must show “(1) that a training program is inadequate to the tasks that the officers must perform; (2) that the inadequacy is the result of the [county's] deliberate indifference; and (3) that the inadequacy is closely related to or actually caused the plaintiff's injury.” Brown v. Chapman, 814 F.3d 447, 463 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Plinton v. County of Summit, 540 F.3d 459, 464 (6th Cir. 2008)). A plaintiff may demonstrate deliberate indifference in two ways: “(1) by pointing to ‘prior instances of unconstitutional conduct demonstrating that [Defendants] had notice that the training was deficient and likely to cause injury but ignored it,' or (2) by alleging ‘a single violation of federal rights, accompanied by a showing that [Defendants] had failed to train its employees ...

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