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Ferguson v. Dawson

July 23, 2010

JAMARIUS FERGUSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALBERT DAWSON, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William J. Haynes, Jr. United States District Judge

Judge HAYNES

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff, Jamarius Ferguson, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants: Albert Dawson, DCS Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Superintendent ("Woodland Hills Center"), and Anthony Hamilton, Children's Services Officer. Plaintiff has also named "John Doe" Defendants who are unknown employees at the Woodland Hills Center. Plaintiff asserts claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments for Defendants' failures to protect him from unsafe environment that subjected him to the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment and for Defendants' deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Dawson failed to train properly employees at the Woodland Hills Center in protecting detainees from being attacked. Plaintiff's claims arise out of an attack on him on or about May 20, 2006, while he was in DCS custody at the Woodland Hills Center.

Before the Court is a motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 27), contending that Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations, Defendants may not be sued in their official capacities, and that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.

In response (Docket Entry No. 32), Plaintiff asserts that the Complaint was filed within the statute of limitations period, Plaintiff has pled sufficient facts to establish constitutional violations and Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his initial complaint involving the incident in question on May 18, 2007. Ferguson v. Governor Phil Bredesen, et al., No. 3:07-0545, (Docket Entry No. 1). Plaintiff filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, and on May 2, 2008, the Court entered an order dismissing the action without prejudice. Id., Docket Entry No. 31.

On May 1, 2009, Plaintiff's mother, Jamille Ferguson, filed the current action pro se against Phil Bredesen, Governor; Viola Miller, Commissioner of the Department of Children's Services ("DCS"); Steve Hornsby, DCS Deputy Commissioner; Ted Martinez, DCS Executive Director of the Office of Juvenile Justice; Albert Dawson, DCS Woodland Hills Youth Development Center Superintendent; and "John Doe" Defendants who are unknown employees at the Woodland Hills Center. Ferguson v. Governor Phil Bredesen, et al., No. 3:09-0618, (Docket Entry No. 1). Jamille Ferguson listed Jamarius Ferguson as her disabled son on the style of the Complaint and signed the Complaint for Jamarius, indicating that she had power of attorney to act on his behalf. Along with the Complaint, Jamille Ferguson also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis and a motion to appoint counsel.

On June 8, 2009, the Court ordered Jamille Ferguson to provide where she and Jamarius physically resided, Jamarius's age, the nature and duration of Jamarius's disability, the source of Jamarius's financial support, and why Jamarius's disability prevented him from submitting an application to proceed in forma pauperis on his own behalf. (Docket Entry No. 5). The Court advised that Jamarius was free to submit an application to proceed in forma pauperis and sign the complaint and represent himself, if he was not a minor and his disability permitted.

On June 22, 2009, Jamille Ferguson filed a response, stating that Jamarius was currently incarcerated; was 21 years old; that he was "disabled due to bipolar and schizophrenia, ADHD and learning disability." (Docket Entry No. 8). Jamille Ferguson also stated that Jamarius's disability prevented him from submitting an application to proceed in forma pauperis because due to his disabilities he is not always able to read and write and comprehend. Jamille Ferguson further stated that she was advised by the Pro Se Staff Attorney at the Federal Court Building to sign the documents for Jamarius in the manner performed. Id. Jamille Ferguson also stated that she was not attempting to represent Jamarius but was proceeding as a plaintiff herself. The Court granted Plaintiffs' application to proceed in forma pauperis on July 6, 2009. (Docket Entry No. 10).

On August 3, 2009, the Court conducted a frivolity hearing. At the hearing the Court dismissed without prejudice the Complaint as to Defendants Bredesen, Miller, Hornsby, and Martinez. (Docket Entry No. 15). The Court also granted the motion to appoint counsel. (Docket Entry No. 16). Thereafter, an Amended Complaint was filed on September 25, 2009. (Docket Entry No. 19).

II. ANALYSIS OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

Plaintiff was in the custody of the State of Tennessee Department of Children Services at the Woodland Hills Center in May of 2006. (Docket Entry No. 19, Amended Complaint at ¶ 7). While at the Woodland Hills Center, a group of detainees had formed a gang and freely roamed the detention center trying to recruit new members and would attack any detainees that were unwilling to join their gang. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. Plaintiff was approached by gang member detainees on several occasions and was encouraged to join a gang. Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff refused on each occasion and was harassed by these gang member detainees for his refusal. Id.

On or about May 20, 2006, while lying in his bed, Plaintiff was approached by gang member detainees and three of them began to beat him. Id. at ΒΆ 11. Plaintiff fell to the floor where he was beaten, kicked and stomped. Plaintiff blacked out several times and was unable to defend himself against the detainees. During the beating, other detainees congregated outside of Plaintiff's door laughing, yelling and beating on the door. During this disruption, no Woodland Hills ...


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