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Anderson v. Wagonshults

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

April 28, 2015



JULIET GRIFFIN Magistrate Judge.

By Order entered April 17, 2015 (Docket Entry No. 55), this action was referred to the Magistrate Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to hear and determine any pretrial issues and motions, to conduct any necessary conferences and hearings, and to submit a report and recommendation for disposition of any motion filed under Rules 12, 15, 56, and 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Presently pending is a motion to dismiss (Docket Entry No. 52), filed by Defendants Debra Wagonschutz and Craig D'Apolito. For the reasons set out below, the Court recommends that the motion be denied.


The Plaintiff is an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Correction ("TDOC") who is currently confined at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning, Tennessee. He filed this action pro se and in forma pauperis on August 8, 2013, based on events that occurred during his previous confinement in the Maury County Jail ("Jail") in Columbia, Tennessee. He seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights alleged to have been committed at the Jail.

The Plaintiff alleges that he attempted to hang himself at the Jail. After this unsuccessful suicide attempt, he asserts that he was moved to an observation cell at the Jail where the temperature was kept at forty six (46) degrees, he was allowed to wear only a smock, was forced to eat with his fingers, and was not allowed to shower or brush his teeth. The Plaintiff alleges that, after enduring these conditions for two months, he swallowed razor blades and was thereafter sent to the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, where he remained for eight days. He asserts that he was not given a smock or anything to cover up with upon his return to the Jail, was forced to lie on the floor, was allowed only sporadic showers, and was not allowed to see a dentist despite signing up on sick call about "bad teeth." He further maintains that his regular medication was discontinued when he was arrested and that he was not permitted to see "mental health" when he complained that the medication he was taking was not helpful. See Complaint (Docket Entry Nos. 1 and 1-1).

Process in the action was served on Debra Wagonschutz, Craig D'Apolito, and Nurse Practitioner Floyd Sealey.[1] By Order entered September 13, 2013 (Docket Entry No. 6), Defendant Tracy Carter McKinnes was added as a defendant. The action was subsequently stayed pending resolution of other prisoner civil rights cases brought within this District based on events occurring at the Jail. See Orders entered September 13, 2013 (Docket Entry No. 6), and November 4, 2013 (Docket Entry No. 18). By Order entered December 8, 2013 (Docket Entry No. 44), the Court provided the parties a six month period to conduct discovery and a forty-five (45) day period thereafter to file dispositive motions. The Defendants have all filed answers in the action, see Docket Entry Nos. 43, 47, and 48, and a jury trial is demanded.

Defendants Wagonschutz and D'Apolito bring their motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Defendants contend that the Plaintiff's complaint does not allege that he suffered any physical injury as a result of the alleged inadequate medical care, mental health care, or conditions of confinement and, further, that the complaint fails to mention the Defendants in his statement of facts and, thus, does not state that the Defendants were personally involved in any of the alleged events. Based upon these deficiencies, the Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity in both their official and individual capacities. Finally, they argue that, because they are entitled to qualified immunity, the Plaintiff's claim against Maury County should be dismissed. See Memorandum in Support (Docket Entry No. 53). The Plaintiff has not responded to the motion to dismiss.


A motion to dismiss filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is reviewed under the standard that the Court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint, resolve all doubts in the plaintiff's favor, and construe the complaint liberally in favor of the pro se plaintiff. See Kottmyer v. Maas , 436 F.3d 684 (6th Cir. 2006); Boswell v. Mayer , 169 F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999); Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken , 829 F.2d 10, 11-12 (6th Cir. 1987). However, although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, the plaintiff must provide the grounds for his entitlement to relief and this "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (abrogating Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

The factual allegations supplied must be enough to show a plausible right to relief. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555-61. More than bare assertions of legal conclusions are required to withstand a motion to dismiss and the complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all of the material elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory. Id.; Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc. , 859 F.2d 434, 436-37 (6th Cir. 1988). The Court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Gregory v. Shelby Cnty , 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000), abrogated in part on other grounds, Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. West Va. Dep't of Health & Human Res. , 532 U.S. 598, 121 S.Ct. 1835, 149 L.Ed.2d 855 (2001). Although Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not reflect a "hyper-technical, code-pleading regime, " it "does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678-79.


Although the Defendants assert in their motion that the Plaintiff fails to adequately plead facts supporting his claims, their motion to dismiss is specifically couched in terms of the defense of qualified immunity.

Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense that shields government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald , 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982); Estate of Carter v. City of Detroit , 408 F.3d 305, 310 (6th Cir. 2005). The initial question in the qualified immunity analysis is whether "the facts alleged show the [defendant's] conduct violated a constitutional right." Saucier v. Katz , 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001) (citing Siegert v. Gilley , 500 U.S. 226, 232, 111 S.Ct. 1789, 114 L.Ed.2d 277 (1991)). If the alleged conduct does not amount to the violation of a constitutional right, the defendant is entitled to qualified immunity. The next step is to determine whether the constitutional right at issue has been "clearly established" under the law. Cope v. Heltsley , 128 F.3d 452, 458 (6th Cir. 1997). A right is "clearly established" when the "contours of the right [is] sufficiently clear that a reasonable [government official] would understand that what he is doing violates that right." Harris v. City of Circleville , 583 F.3d 356, 366-67 ...

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