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Turner v. Knox County Detention Facility

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 15, 2016

JOAN TURNER, Plaintiff,



         Acting pro se, Joan Turner, (“Plaintiff”), an inmate at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex, brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Knox County Detention Facility (“KCDF”), Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones, and two alleged Knox County employees, correctional officer Romines and Nurse Allen [Doc. 1].

         I. Background

         In her complaint, Plaintiff alleges that she had three miscarriages before being diagnosed with thyroid disease and a clotting disorder by a high risk physician, Dr. Rousis [Id. at 4]. Dr. Rousis began Plaintiff on a regimen of aspirin, blood thinners, and thyroid medication, and she went on to successfully deliver two healthy children [Id.]. In February 2013, around the time that she was transferred to Knox County Detention Facility, Plaintiff learned that she was pregnant [Id.]. When Plaintiff was moved to the Knox County Jail, she informed Nurse Allen that she was a high risk pregnancy, that she had thyroid and clotting disorders, that Dr. Rousis was her high risk physician, and that she needed a regimen of aspirin, blood thinners, and thyroid medication [Id.]. She was not, however, provided with this medication after providing Allen with this information [Id.].

         Instead, she was scheduled an appointment with a physician at the University of Tennessee approximately 30 days from the date the pregnancy was verified [Id.]. Officer Romines transported Plaintiff to the appointment and “was very impatient with the whole process, ” demanding that Plaintiff be seen after a two and a half hour wait because he was “in a hurry” [Id.]. Plaintiff was seen by a nurse practitioner who confirmed a fetal heartbeat with a portable ultrasound machine [Id. at 4-5]. Although Plaintiff advised the nurse practitioner about her clotting disorder and thyroid disease, she was not written a prescription for any medication before returning to the jail [Id. at 5].

         Approximately one week later, Plaintiff had another appointment with the obstetrician, but the ultrasound did not detect a viable heartbeat [Id.]. She was initially placed in the infirmary, but after advising Allen that she was not experiencing cramping or other symptoms, she was sent back to her pod [Id.]. That evening, Plaintiff was once again transported to KCDF, where she was placed in a one-person cell for a week and was only given one hour out of the cell per day [Id.]. Approximately one week later, she was taken to the hospital and placed under general anesthesia for a dilation and curettage [Id.]. When she awakened from the surgery, she was shackled and transported back to KCDF [Id.].

         After her return, she was advised that her thyroid medication had been ordered and that she would get it as soon as it arrived [Id.]. However, the nurses would skip doses, prompting her to have to ask for her medications [Id.]. According to Plaintiff, “[s]he talked to Nurse Smith and said, [s]he isn't getting her medication anyway and asked to be sent back to Knox County Jail. Nurse Smith said she would have to sign a Refusal. She did and was transported back the next day” [Id.].

         Plaintiff alleges that she lost twenty pounds and “suffered emotional trauma” due to these events [Id. at 4-5]. Plaintiff requests $50, 000.00 in damages each from Allen and Romines [Id. at 6]. As to Jones, Plaintiff's requested relief is described as “Change Protocol on treating Inmates” [Id.].

         II. Standard for Screening

         Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), district courts must screen prisoner complaints and sua sponte dismiss any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915(A); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 213 (2007); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007), “governs dismissals for failure state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6).” Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). Thus, to survive an initial review under the PLRA, a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The reviewing court must determine whether the facts permit the court to infer “more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” which is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679.

         Plaintiff's claims arise under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 1]. In order to succeed on a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Svcs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009); Haywood v. Drown, 556 U.S. 729, 731 (2009); see also Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 does not itself create any constitutional rights; it creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”). The Court will address the allegations against each of the defendants in the complaint.

         III. Defendant Knox County Detention Facility

         Plaintiff has named the Knox County Detention Facility as a defendant in this action. Defendant Knox County Detention Facility is a building which serves as a place for confinement for those in custody, and, as such, it is not a suable entity under § 1983. See, e.g., Monell v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 689-90 n.53 (1978) (finding that only “bodies politic” are “persons” who can be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983); Marbry v. Corr. Med. Serv., 238 F.3d 422, 2000 WL 1827783, at *2 (6th Cir. 2000) (holding that “the Shelby County Jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983”); Rhodes v. McDannel, 945 F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991). Because KCDF is not an entity subject to suit, Knox County would be the proper party to address the allegations in Plaintiff's complaint. See, e.g., Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). In order to succeed on a § 1983 claim against a municipal entity, such as Knox County, Plaintiff must establish that: (1) her harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) the municipality itself was responsible for that violation, generally because of a policy, custom, pattern or practice of the municipal defendant that caused the Plaintiff's constitutional injury. Spears v. Ruth, 589 F.3d 249, 256 (6th Cir. 2009); Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479 (1986); see also Okolo v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville, 892 F.Supp.2d 931, 941 (M.D. Tenn. 2012); see also Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (“[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.”).

         In this case, however, Plaintiff has alleged only that certain Knox County employees denied her appropriate medical care and medicine. She has not identified any policy, custom, pattern, or practice on the part of Knox County officials that led to her injuries. Even liberally construing her allegations, the Court can discern no facts that would allow it to infer that Knox County is liable for her injuries. Because her allegations are insufficient for the Court to find that she has stated a ...

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