United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Whitson, an inmate of the Metro-Davidson County Detention
Facility in Nashville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in
forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against CoreCivic, alleging violations of his civil rights
based on a recent outbreak of scabies at the facility. (Doc.
No. 1). The complaint does not seek monetary damages;
liberally construing the complaint, the relief sought by the
Plaintiff is treatment for his condition and a change of
CoreCivic policies at the Metro-Davidson County Detention
Facility concerning incoming inmate screening and the
treatment of inmates with scabies.
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.
PLRA Screening Standard
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court must dismiss any
portion of a civil complaint filed in forma pauperis
that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
is frivolous, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who
is immune from such relief. Section 1915A similarly requires
initial review of any “complaint in a civil action in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity, ”
id. § 1915A(a), and summary dismissal of the
complaint on the same grounds as those articulated in §
1915(e)(2)(B). Id. § 1915A(b).
Sixth Circuit has confirmed that 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. 544 (2007), “governs
dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes
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 scrutiny on
initial review, “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). “[A] district court
must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff and (2) take all well-pleaded factual
allegations as true.” Tackett v. M & G
Polymers, USA, LLC, 561F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009)
(citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th
Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)).
pro se pleadings are to be held to a less stringent
standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines
v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Jourdan v.
Jabe, 951 F.2d 108, 110 (6th Cir. 1991), the courts'
“duty to be ‘less stringent' with pro
se complaints does not require us to conjure up
[unpleaded] allegations.” McDonald v. Hall,
610 F.2d 16, 19 (1st Cir. 1979) (citation omitted).
Section 1983 Standard
brings his federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against
any person who, acting under color of state law, abridges
“rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws . . . .” To state a claim under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must allege and show two elements:
(1) that he was deprived of a right secured by the
Constitution or 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); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
to the complaint, the Plaintiff has been exposed to
scabies while incarcerated at a CoreCivic facility
in Nashville, Tennessee. The complaint alleges that
CoreCivic's lax screening of incoming inmates led to the
scabies outbreak; CoreCivic initially ignored the scabies
outbreak; CoreCivic failed to take steps to control the
outbreak; CoreCivic failed to treat inmates and employees
exposed to scabies; and the Plaintiff was threatened with
solitary confinement if he complained about scabies or
refused to sign paperwork presented by CoreCivic. The
complaint further alleges that Defendant's refusal to
treat the Plaintiff for scabies has led to the
Plaintiff's continued suffering due to itching, rashes,
and bumps on his neck and hands. According to the complaint,
inmates with scabies are released into the general population
without having been treated, further spreading the
infestation to the public. (Doc. Nos. 1, 3).
complaint names one Defendant: CoreCivic, a Nashville-based
private prison company. For liability under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, Plaintiff must prove the deprivation of a right secured
by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that the
deprivation was caused by a person acting under color of
state law. Flagg Bros., Inc., v. Brooks, 436 U.S.
149, 155, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 56 L.Ed.2d 185 (1978). Because
CoreCivic performs a traditional state function in operating
a state prison, CoreCivic acts under the color of state law.
Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th
Cir.1996). However, unlike the state, CoreCivic is not
entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity and may be liable
under § 1983 “if its official policies or customs
resulted in injury to the plaintiff.” O'Brien
v. Mich. Dep't of Corr., 592 Fed.Appx. 338, 341 (6th
Cir. 2014); see also Mason v. Doe, No.
3:12CV-P794-H, 2013 WL 4500107, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Aug. 21,
2013) (collecting cases) (“a private corporation may be
liable under § 1983 when an official policy or custom of
the corporation causes the alleged deprivation of a federal
CoreCivic liable, the Plaintiff cannot rely on the theory of
respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Street,
102 F.3d at 818. Liability for failure to screen incoming
inmates for scabies, failure to control the facility scabies
outbreak, failure to treat inmates properly for their scabies
infestations, and retaliation against inmates who complained
about scabies attaches only if CoreCivic's policies were
shown to be the “moving force” behind the
Plaintiff's injuries. City of Canton v. Harris,
489 U.S. 378, 388, 109 S.Ct. 1197, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989).
Here, liberally construing the pro se complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that CoreCivic's policies, including
those policies concerning the process of screening of
incoming inmates for conditions such as scabies and the
inadequate treatment of scabes-infested inmates, are
responsible for the Plaintiff's injuries. Of course, what
the Plaintiff claims are policies may not be policies and may
not have resulted in the deprivation of the Plaintiff's
constitutional rights. However, these particulars can be
sorted out during the development of this case. For purposes