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Tolson v. Daviess County Detention Center

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

October 23, 2019



          Joseph H. McKinley Jr., Senior Judge.

         This is a pro se civil rights action brought by a convicted prisoner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening of the complaint and amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and upon a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss some claims, deny Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint, and allow him the opportunity to amend his pleadings.


         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 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] 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 (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. See Columbia Natural 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).

         II. 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. The Complaint

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Daviess County Detention Center (DCDC). In the complaint, he names DCDC as the sole Defendant. Plaintiff alleges that he fell over a mat due to the extreme overcrowding in his cell. He further alleges that, as a result of the fall, he was injured and taken to the hospital. Plaintiff states that he is now housed in an 18-man cell with 47 men which has only two showers and two toilets. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

         1. The Eighth Amendment

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits conduct by prison officials that involves the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” Ivey v. Wilson, 832 F.2d 950, 954 (6th Cir. 1987) 1987) (per curiam) (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981)). The deprivation alleged must result in the denial of the “minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; see also Wilson v. Yaklich, 148 F.3d 596, 600-01 (6th Cir. 1998). The Eighth Amendment is only concerned with “deprivations of essential food, medical care, or sanitation” or “other conditions intolerable for prison confinement.” Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 348 (citation omitted). Moreover, “[n]ot every unpleasant experience a prisoner might endure while incarcerated constitutes cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment.” Ivey, 832 F.2d at 954.

         a. Fall Due to Overcrowding

         Plaintiff alleges that he fell because he tripped over a mat that was on the floor due to overcrowding in his cell. When alleging that his safety was endangered due to conditions of confinement, a plaintiff can successfully bring a § 1983 claim only by showing that the prison officials acted with “deliberate indifference” to inmate health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 828-29 (1994). Deliberate indifference is a higher standard than negligence, and it contains objective and subjective components. Id. at 834; see also Richko v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 819 F.3d 907, 915 (6th Cir. 2016) (observing that deliberate-indifference claims require proof of objective and subjective components). The risk of harm to the prisoner caused by the conditions of confinement must have been, objectively, sufficiently serious to require constitutional protection. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834; see also Flint ex rel. Flint v. Ky. Dep't of Corr., 270 F.3d 340, 352 (6th Cir. 2001) (“To succeed on a conditions of confinement claim, a plaintiff must show . . . the deprivation alleged is, objectively, ‘sufficiently serious.'”). As for the subjective component, it requires Plaintiff to “show that (1) ‘the official being sued subjectively perceived facts from which to infer a substantial risk to the prisoner,' (2) the official ‘did in fact draw the inference,' and (3) the official ‘then disregarded that risk.'” Richko, 819 F.3d at 915-16 (quoting Rouster v. Cty. of Saginaw, 749 F.3d 437, 446 (6th Cir. 2014)).

         Here, Plaintiff's allegations do not suggest that the risk he faced due to overcrowding was sufficiently serious. See., e.g., Agramonte v. Shartle, 491 Fed.Appx. 557, 560 (6th Cir. 2012) (holding that “overcrowding is not, in itself, a constitutional violation”). Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged facts that show that any jail official knew that Plaintiff's placement in an allegedly overcrowded cell put Plaintiff at risk of suffering serious harm and then failed to take reasonable measures to abate that risk. For these reasons, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim based upon his fall. See, e.g., Lau v. Kekuaokalani, No. 17-00258 JMS-KSC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116365 (D. Haw. July 25, 2017) (dismissing claim that plaintiff fell due to overcrowding in cell because failed to show defendant acted with deliberate indifference to plaintiff's safety); see also Lamb v. Howe, 677 Fed.Appx. 204, 208 (6th Cir. 2017) (noting ...

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