United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
CHARLES W. DOUGLAS, Plaintiff,
GREENUP COUNTY, KY, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. REEVES, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
W. Douglas is an inmate confined at the Christian County Jail
in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney,
Douglas has filed a civil rights action against prison
officials at the Greenup County Detention Center
(“GCDC”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
[Record No. 1] The Court granted Douglas's motion to
proceed without prepayment of the filing fee by separate
Order. [Record No. 5]
Court conducts a preliminary review of Douglas'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 Douglas's 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.
allegations of Douglas's Complaint are set forth in a
rambling, confusing and disjointed manner, thus the nature of
his claims (and against whom he asserts each) is difficult to
understand. However, from what the undersigned is able to
ascertain, Douglas seeks to bring claims against Defendants
Mike Worthington (Jailer at the GCDC), Belinda Moore (a
facility nurse at the GCDC), Lt. Richard Diamond (a
Lieutenant at the GCDC), the Kentucky Correctional Medical
Health Care Service Network, and Greenup County, Kentucky,
based on allegations that he was denied medication for severe
chronic depression and PTSD, as well as mental health
services. Douglas also alleges that he was denied access to
the courts based on his lack of access to a law library while
he was housed at the GCDC.
Complaint includes several attachments (labeled as separate
“complaints”), in which he adds allegations that
Lt. Diamond engaged in “retaliation tactics;”
Douglas was housed with an inmate with a known propensity to
violence, resulting in an altercation causing injury to his
right arm; and that the “County or Jail or Jailer M.
Worthington or medical staff employed by I.E. Nurse B. Moore
… willfully violat[ed] the cleanliness of the jail
while refusing to treat [Douglas] and 4 other individuals for
scabies.” [Record No. 1 at p. 9-10] He also alleges
that he was denied the use of physical therapy equipment
required to rehabilitate his arm and that he was transferred
from the GCDC to the Christian County Detention Center
without being treated for Hepatitis C.
noted, the Court evaluates Douglas's Complaint under a
more lenient standard because he is not represented by an
attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir.
2003). However, the principles requiring generous
construction of pro se pleadings are not without
limits. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir.
1989); Wilson v. Lexington Fayette Urban County
Government, No. 07-CV- 95-KSF, 2007 WL 1136743 (E.D. Ky.
April 16, 2007). Although the Court has an obligation to
liberally construe a complaint filed by a person proceeding
without counsel, that obligation does not extend so far as to
require or permit it to create arguments or claims that the
plaintiff has not made. Coleman v. Shoney's,
Inc., 79 Fed.Appx. 155, 157 (6th Cir. 2003) (“Pro
se parties must still brief the issues advanced with some
effort at developed argumentation.”). Further, the
Court is not required to create a claim for the plaintiff,
nor to “conjure up unpled allegations.”
Moorman v. Herrington, No. CIV A 4:08-CV-P127-M,
2009 WL 2020669, at *1 (W.D. Ky. July 9, 2009)(citations
thoroughly reviewed Douglas's Complaint, the Court
concludes that it must be dismissed. A complaint must set
forth claims in a clear and concise manner, and 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);
Hill, 630 F.3d at 470. See also Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8. But Douglas's Complaint falls woefully short
of these requirements, as it fails to contain “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is
entitled to relief, ” nor does it include allegations
that are “simple, concise, and direct.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (d)(1). Rather, the allegations of
Douglas's Complaint are rambling and, at times,
does Douglas make any real effort to allege what any
particular Defendant did to allegedly violate his
constitutional and/or statutory rights. Federal notice
pleading requires, at a minimum, that the complaint advise
each defendant of what he allegedly did or did not do that
forms the basis of the plaintiff's claim against him.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Grinter v. Knight,
532 F.3d 567, 577 (6th Cir. 2008). Otherwise, it is unduly
burdensome (if not impossible) for any particular Defendant
to meaningfully respond to the claims asserted against them.
Thus, a “[p]laintiff must state a plausible
constitutional violation against each individual
defendant-the collective acts of defendants cannot be
ascribed to each individual defendant.” Reilly v.
Vadlamudi, 680 F.3d 617, 626 (6th Cir. 2012) (citations
omitted). To be sure, “[e]ven a pro se prisoner must
link his allegations to material facts … and indicate
what each defendant did to violate his rights…”
Sampson v. Garrett, 917 F.3d 880, 882 (6th Cir.
2019) (citing Hill, 630 F.3d at 471; Lanman v.
Hinson, 529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir. 2008)). Vague
allegations that one or more of the defendants acted
wrongfully or violated the plaintiff's constitutional
rights are not sufficient. Laster v. Pramstaller,
No. 08-CV-10898, 2008 WL 1901250, at *2 (E.D. Mich. April 25,
contrast, Douglas's Complaint consists of conclusory
allegations that his statutory and constitutional rights have
been violated, without sufficient allegations of material
facts describing what any particular defendant did or did not
do to violate these rights. For example, although Douglas
makes the conclusory allegation that his rights under the
“A.D.A., R.A., P.L.R.A., and H.I.P.P.A.” have
been violated, he fails to offer any facts to support his
claims that such violations occurred, much less attribute any
alleged statutory violation to a particular
Defendant. Similarly, although Douglas claims that
Lt. Diamond engaged in “retaliation tactics, ” he
does not allege that Douglas engaged in protected conduct, a
required element of a retaliation claim. King v.
Zamiara, 680 F.3d 686, 694 (6th Cir. 2012). And in
support of his claim of “deliberate indifference to
serious mental and medical needs, ” he alleges only
that Defendants “operat[ed] w/ sufficiently culpable
state of mind in acting and failed to act w/ deliberate
indifference w/ intentional delay of medical
assistance.” [Record No. 1 at p. 2] However, “a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds'
of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause
of action's elements will not do.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
Indeed, “[l]egal conclusions that are
‘masquerading as factual allegations' will not
suffice.” Heyne v. Metro. Nashville Pub. Sch.,
655 F.3d 556, 563-64 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Terry v.
Tyson Farms, Inc., 604 F.3d 272, 276 (6th Cir.2010)
(other citations omitted)). The lack of factual detail
supporting Douglas's claims and vague nature of his
allegations are sufficient reasons to dismiss his claims
without prejudice for failure to adequately state a claim for
relief. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Hill,
630 F.3d at 470.
addition, Douglas's attempt to impose liability on
Worthington solely in his capacity as a supervisor fails.
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, “[g]overnment officials
may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of
their subordinates under a theory of respondeat
superior.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. Rather, for
a supervisor to be held liable under § 1983, he or she
must have personal involvement in the alleged
unconstitutional conduct about which the plaintiff complains.
Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th Cir.
1999). The mere fact that a defendant acted in a supervisory
capacity is not enough: respondeat superior
(vicarious liability) is not an available theory of liability
in a § 1983 action. Polk County v. Dodson, 454
U.S. 312, 325-26 (1981).
extent Douglas seeks to bring claims against Greenup County,
a county government is only responsible under § 1983
when its employees cause injury by carrying out the
county's formal policies or practices. Monell v.
Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
Thus, a plaintiff must specify the county policy or custom
which she alleges caused her injury. Paige v.
Coyner, 614 F.3d 273, 284 (6th Cir. 2010). Here, Douglas
claims that it is the custom and policy of Greenup County and
jail faculty and staff “to inflict pain & anguish
physical and emotional.” [Record No. 1 at p. 2]
However, this vague and implausible allegation is
insufficient to allege an official policy or governmental
custom sufficient to impose municipal liability.
Id.; Bright v. Gallia County, Ohio, 753
F.3d 639, 660 (6th Cir. 2014) (“To establish municipal
liability pursuant to § 1983, a plaintiff must allege an
unconstitutional action that ‘implements or executes a
policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision
officially adopted and promulgated by that body's
officers' or a ‘constitutional deprivation 
visited pursuant to governmental custom even though such a
custom has not received formal approval through the
body's official decisionmaking channels.'”);
Brown v. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, 517 Fed.Appx. 431,
436 (6th Cir. 2013).
Douglas's claim that he was denied access to the Courts
appears to be based on a claim of lack of access to a law
library during his state criminal case. [Record No. 1 at p.
3, 14; Record No. 9-1] However, Douglas states that he was
represented by counsel in his state criminal proceedings
(although he claims was not satisfied with his public defense
attorney because he felt pressured to sign a plea agreement).
[Record No. 9-1] The United States Court of Appeals for the
Sixth Circuit has held that, where counsel is appointed to
represent the prisoner plaintiff in his criminal action
pending against him, as a matter of law, the state has
fulfilled its constitutional obligation to provide him with
full access to the courts. Holt v. Pitts, 702 F.2d
639, 640 (6th Cir. 1983).
(and most critically), in addition to all of these pleading
deficiencies, it is clear from the face of the Complaint that
Douglas's claims are untimely. The Court may dismiss a
claim plainly barred by the applicable limitations period
upon initial screening. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199,
215 (2007) (“If the allegations, for example, show that
relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations,
the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a
claim.”); Franklin v. Fisher, 2017 WL 4404624,
at *2 (6th Cir. 2017) (“The district court properly
dismissed Franklin's complaint for failure to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted because it is obvious
from the face of her complaint that almost all of her claims
are barred by the applicable statute of limitations.”);
Castillo v. Grogan, 52 Fed.Appx. 750, 751 (6th Cir.
2002) (“When a meritorious affirmative defense based
upon the applicable statute of limitations is obvious from
the face of the complaint, sua sponte dismissal of the
complaint as frivolous is appropriate.”).
one-year statute of limitations, KRS § 413.140(1)(a),
applies to civil rights claims asserted under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Hornback v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Co.
Gov't., 543 Fed.Appx. 499, 501 (6th Cir. 2013). A
claim accrues when the plaintiff becomes aware of the injury
which forms the basis for his claims. Estate of Abdullah
ex rel. Carswell v. Arena, 601 Fed.Appx. 389, 393-94
(6th Cir. 2015) (“Once the plaintiff knows he has been
hurt and who has inflicted the injury, the claim
accrues.”) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing
United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 122 (1979)).
Where the operative facts are not in dispute, the Court
determines as a matter of law whether the statute of
limitations has expired. Highland Park ...