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Hickman v. Helton

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Columbia.

January 23, 2015

JAMES RONALD HICKMAN et al., Plaintiffs,
KYLE HELTON, Sheriff, GILES COUNTY JAIL, TERESA MATTOX, Administrator, and KELLY - Nurse, Defendants

James Ronald Hickman, Plaintiff, Pro se, Pulaski, TN.

Anthony Len Peden, Plaintiff, Pro se, Pulaski, TN.


WILLIAM J. HAYNES, JR., Senior United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, James Ronald Hickman, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants: the Giles County Jail; Kyle Helton, Giles County Sheriff; Teresa Mattox, Administrator of the Giles County Jail; and " Kelly, " a nurse at the Giles County Jail. (Docket Entry No. 1).

According to his complaint, Plaintiff is disabled with a prosthetic leg, and suffers from heart problems. Plaintiff alleges that he has had eight heart attacks, a double bypass and the placement of fourteen stents in the last three years. Plaintiff alleges that after his release from Saint Thomas Hospital in March, when four stents were placed in his heart, Plaintiff was directed to go to a cardiac rehabilitation facility and also to have a follow-up examination with his heart doctor in two weeks. Yet, the jail officials have refused to comply with either directive. Administrator Mattox allegedly told Plaintiff that he can wait until he gets out of jail to go see a heart doctor. Plaintiff does not allege his projected release date.

Plaintiff also alleges that he has been prescribed medication that has not been provided to him. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that (1) for two weeks, jail officials repeatedly tried to give Plaintiff medication that his doctor had stopped prescribing until the jail nurse finally removed the medication from his list; (2) the jail charges for medical visits and medication, and sometimes charges for medication that is not actually provided; (3) the plaintiff is housed on the medical ward, where there are frequently no jail officials at all even though he and others on the ward have very poor health and require supervision; (4) the jail is overcrowded and " run by kids that don't know what they are doing" (Docket Entry No. 1, at 7); (5) Plaintiff fell in the shower on November 30 but was not taken to the emergency room until December 3, 2014.

Plaintiff also alleges that the jail lacks proper accessability features for disabled inmates. Specifically, Plaintiff cites the lack of a " handicap shower, " that resulted in Plaintiff's falling in the shower. Plaintiff also asserts that there are not any benches for disabled inmates to sit down for outdoor recreation.

The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA"). Under the PLRA, the Court is required to dismiss sua sponte any in forma pauperis or prisoner complaint brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; see also 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33, 112 S.Ct. 1728, 118 L.Ed.2d 340 (1992).

Plaintiff's complaint is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and (2) that " the deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of state law." Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

As to Defendant Giles County Jail, the Giles County Jail is not an entity that is suable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Watson v. Gill, 40 F.App'x 88, 89 (6th Cir. 2002) (county jail is a department of the county and not a legal entity susceptible to suit); Travis v. Clinton Cnty. Jail, No. 1:10-cv-1276, 2011 WL 447000, at *2 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 4, 2011) (" The jail is a building, not an entity capable of being sued in its own right."). To the extent the claim against the Giles County Jail might be liberally construed to be asserted against Giles County, such a claim asserted against Sheriff Kyle Helton in his official capacity. Accordingly, the Court declines to construe the claim against the Giles County Jail as asserted against the county, and Plaintiff's claims against the Giles County Jail should be dismissed as moot.

As to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Sheriff Helton and Administrator Mattox in their official capacities, an official-capacity claim is, in reality, a claim against the entity that employs the defendants, here Giles County. Because Sheriff Helton and Administrator Mattox are the persons ultimately responsible for the administration of the Giles County Jail, the Court concludes that they are appropriately named in their official capacities. Giles County can be held responsible for an alleged constitutional deprivation only if there is a causal link between a policy or custom of the municipality and the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). To state such a claim, Plaintiff must " identity the policy, connect the policy to the [municipality] itself and show that the particular injury [constitutional violation] was incurred because of the execution of that policy." Garner v. Memphis Police Dep't, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting Coogan v. City of Wixom, 820 F.2d 170, 176 (6th Cir. 1987), overruled on other grounds by Frantz v. Vill. of Bradford, 245 F.3d 869 (6th Cir. 2001)).

Under these standards, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has stated colorable claims against Defendants Helton and Mattox in their official capacities based on the alleged denial of adequate, handicapped-accessible shower facilities and other accommodations for the plaintiff as a disabled individual. Cf. Kiman v. N.H. Dep't of Corrs., 451 F.3d 274, 287-88 (1st Cir. 2006) (finding disputed issues of material fact barred summary judgment on a § 1983 claim where prisoner presented evidence that corrections officers prevented him from using shower chair or disabled-accessible shower facilities despite repeated requests); Frost v. Agnos, 152 F.3d 1124, 1129 (9th Cir. 1998) (denying summary judgment as to § 1983 claim brought by disabled prisoner on crutches for violation of the Eighth Amendment, based on allegations that slippery shower floors created substantial risk to his safety); Muhammad v. Dep't of Corrs., 645 F.Supp.2d 299, 317 (D.N.J. 2008) (finding the amputee-inmate plaintiff stated an Eighth Amendment claim based on his assignment to an upper bunk in a cell located far from handicapped-accessible shower); Lamzot v. Phillips, No. 04 Civ. 6719(LAK), 2006 WL 686578, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (finding that the disabled-inmate plaintiff met objective prong of deliberate-indifference test where he alleged that he was denied access to a handicapped-accessible bathroom, stating: " Plainly, the alleged deprivation of reasonable safety was serious enough to meet the objective element of an Eighth Amendment violation.").

As to Defendants Mattox and Kelly, Plaintiff alleges that he has a serious heart condition and a propensity to fall and that these Defendants are aware of this condition, but have declined to provide reasonably necessary follow-up care and medication. The Court concludes that Plaintiff has stated colorable claims against Defendants Mattox and " Kelly" in their individual capacities for deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs serious medical needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976). See also Westlake v. Lucas, 537 F.2d 857, 860 (6th Cir. 1976) (" [A] prisoner states a proper cause of action when he alleges that prison authorities have denied reasonable requests for medical treatment in the face of an obvious need for such attention where the inmate is thereby exposed to undue suffering or the threat of tangible residual injury.").

An appropriate Order is filed herewith.

It is so ORDERED.


Plaintiff, James Ronald Hickman, filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants, Giles County Jail; Kyle Helton, Giles County Sheriff; Teresa Mattox, Administrator of the Giles County Jail; and " Kelly, " a nurse at the Giles County Jail. (Docket Entry No. 1). Plaintiff files this action on his behalf and on behalf of his cellmate, Anthony Len Peden. Although Peden signed the complaint, Peden did not submit his own application to proceed in forma pauperis, and the complaint does not allege any injury to Peden. Accordingly, the Court construes the complaint as filed by Plaintiff on his behalf only, and the Clerk is DIRECTED to STRIKE Peden as a plaintiff in this action. If Peden desires to pursue his claims for alleged damages under § 1983, Peden must file his separate action. The Clerk is further DIRECTED to serve a copy of this order on Plaintiff Peden. Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis is pending (Docket Entry No. 2).

Plaintiff's application (Docket Entry No. 2) establishes that he lacks sufficient funds to pay the full filing fee in advance and is therefore GRANTED. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(b) and 1914(a), Plaintiff is nonetheless assessed the $350.00 civil filing fee. The Administrator of the Giles County Jail is DIRECTED to submit to the Clerk of Court, as an initial payment, the greater of: (a) 20% of the average monthly deposits to Plaintiff's credit at the jail; or (b) 20% of the average monthly balance to Plaintiff's credit for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Thereafter, the custodian shall submit 20% of Plaintiff's preceding monthly income (or income credited to Plaintiff for the preceding month), but only when Plaintiff's monthly income exceeds $10.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). Payments shall continue until the $350.00 filing fee has been paid in full to the Clerk of Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(3).

The Clerk of Court MUST send a copy of this order to the Administrator of the Giles County Jail to ensure compliance with that portion of 28 U.S.C, § 1915 pertaining to the payment of the filing fee. If Plaintiff is transferred from his present place of confinement, the Administrator must ensure that a copy of this order follows Plaintiff to his new place of confinement, for continued compliance herewith. All payments made pursuant to this order must be submitted to the Clerk of Court for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, 801 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203.

The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA"), 28 U.S.C. § § 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e. In accordance with the Memorandum file herewith, Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Giles County Jail are DISMISSED for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff, however, has stated colorable claims against Defendant Helton in his official capacity, Defendant Mattox in her official and individual capacity.

The Clerk is INSTRUCTED to send Plaintiff a service packet (a blank summons and USM 285 form) for each individual Defendant. Plaintiff MUST complete the service packets and return them to the Clerk's Office within 30 days of the date of receipt of this order. Upon return of the completed service packets, PROCESS SHALL ISSUE. Plaintiff is forewarned that failure to return the completed service packets within the time required could jeopardize his prosecution of this action, but Plaintiff may request additional time for complying with this order if necessary. He is also forewarned that his prosecution of this action will be jeopardized if he fails to keep the Clerk's Office informed of his current address at all times.

As to Defendant " Kelly, " for whom no last name is provided, Plaintiff is advised that an inmate who brings a civil-rights complaint must specifically identify each defendant against whom relief is sought and must give each defendant notice of the claims against him or her. In addition, pursuant to Rule 4(m) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, service must in most cases be made upon a defendant within 120 days after the filing of a complaint. Thus, Plaintiff generally has 120 days to identify any unnamed defendant. Plaintiff is forewarned that process cannot be served upon a partially identified defendant. Plaintiff must conduct a reasonable investigation or, if necessary, to conduct discovery to determine promptly the full name of Nurse Kelly so as to effect timely service of process upon her as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(m), and to file a timely motion pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a) for leave to amend his complaint to correctly identify this defendant by her full name.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (A) and (B) and Rule 72(a) and (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this action is referred to the Magistrate Judge to hear and determine any pretrial issues, motions, including discovery matters, to conduct any necessary conferences and hearings and to submit a report and recommendation for disposition of any motion filed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12, 15, 56 and 65.

It is so ORDERED.

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