United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division
JORDAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Jennifer
Russell's Motion to Dismiss [doc. 27], Defendant Jennifer
Russell's Brief [doc. 28], Plaintiff Annissa Colson's
Response in Opposition [doc. 44], and Defendant Jennifer
Russell's Reply [doc. 45]. For the reasons herein, the
Court will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in
Annissa Colson (“Ms. Colson”) alleges that one
evening she was involved in a car accident and that Officer
Dustin Cook (“Officer Cook”) and Officer Arik
Wilson (“Officer Wilson”), both of the Alcoa
Police Department, arrested her on charges that include
driving under the influence and reckless endangerment.
[Compl., doc. 1, ¶ 5]. Ms. Colson claims that, while at
the scene of the accident, she consented to a blood alcohol
test and that Officer Cook and Officer Wilson drove her to
Blount Memorial Hospital for the test. [Id.]. She
alleges, however, that she withdrew her consent once they
arrived at the hospital, causing Officer Cook and Officer
Wilson to instruct her to get back into their patrol vehicle.
[Id.]. At that point, Ms. Colson, who claims to
suffer from multiple anxiety disorders including
“severe panic disorder, ” alleges that she
experienced a “crippling panic attack, gasping for
breath, in obvious distress” and asked Officer Cook and
Officer Wilson to let her breathe. [Id. ¶¶
1, 5]. “I need to breathe. Please let me breath,
” she allegedly said to them. [Id. ¶ 56].
According to Ms. Colson, who refers to herself as
“diminutive, ” Officer Cook and Officer Wilson
believed that she was resisting their commands and responded
by forcing her back into their patrol vehicle. [Id.
¶ 6]. She claims that Officer Cook pulled her into the
patrol vehicle from inside while Officer Wilson pushed her
into it, and in the process, Officer Wilson thrust his knee
into her knee and caused it to “pop.”
[Id. ¶¶ 6-7].
Ms. Colson was inside the patrol vehicle, she was allegedly
“screaming in pain and crying for her mother.”
[Id. ¶ 9]. Ms. Colson claims that Officer Cook
then contacted his supervisor, Lieutenant Keith Fletcher
(“Lieutenant Fletcher”), and requested guidance
on how to proceed, including advice as to whether they should
take Ms. Colson to have her knee examined by a medical
professional. [Id.]. Lieutenant Fletcher allegedly
told them to take Ms. Colson to Blount County Jail, where the
staff nurse could check her knee and conduct a mandatory
blood draw. [Id. ¶¶ 9, 64]. According to
Ms. Colson, they transported her to Blount County Jail, and
Defendant Jennifer Russell (“Nurse Russell”)- the
jail's nurse-and others met her there. [Id.
¶¶ 10, 11, 65]. Ms. Colson claims that as they escorted
her through the jail, she was screaming in pain because of
her knee, fell to the floor, and had to be lifted to her
feet. [Id. ¶ 66]. She alleges that she was
brought to a room, surrounded by officers, and strapped into
a “restraint char.” [Id. ¶¶
10, 66-67]. At that point, Nurse Russell allegedly performed
“an abbreviated” and “slipshod” exam
of her knee, during which she instructed Ms. Colson to
“do a series of exercises, ” compared her knees,
saw no swelling, and found no “visible injury.”
[Id. ¶¶ 68, 171]. She allegedly left the
room and returned later but only to draw her blood.
[Id. ¶¶ 11, 69]. Ms. Colson alleges that
she remained fastened in the restraint chair for roughly
another five hours, having received no medication to ease the
pain in her knee or a brace. [Id. ¶¶ 68,
Colson asserts that after she was released from Blount County
Jail, she learned that she had suffered “a tibial
plateau fracture, a torn ACL, [and] a torn LCL, ” which
required surgery and months of post-operative therapy.
[Id. ¶¶ 16, 78]. She also maintains that
she endured “substantial mental anguish.”
[Id. ¶ 16]. As a result, she has filed this
lawsuit against the City of Alcoa, Tennessee; Blount County,
Tennessee; and officers of these local governments in their
official and individual capacities, bringing several claims
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988 and
alleging violations of her constitutional rights under the
Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. [Id. at
32-53]. Ms. Colson implicates Nurse Russell in several of
these claims, alleging the unlawful and excessive use of
force (Count Four), inadequate medical treatment (Count
Nine), and failure to protect (Count Ten) in violation of
§ 1983. [Id. at 37-38, 48-53]. She also brings
claims under Tennessee common-law against Nurse Russell,
including one for intentional infliction of emotional
distress (Count Twelve) and one for negligence (Count
Thirteen). [Id. at 54-56]. Nurse Russell now moves
for dismissal of these claims.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), “[a] pleading
that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To survive a
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the plaintiff's complaint must contain
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the
plaintiff pleads facts that create a reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable for the alleged conduct in the
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
accepts the allegations in the complaint as true and
construes them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999).
“[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of
the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to
legal conclusions, ” however. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. A plaintiff's allegations must consist of more
than “labels, ” “conclusions, ” and
“formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of
action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation
omitted); see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” (citation omitted)). “Although a motion
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) invites an inquiry into the legal
sufficiency of the complaint, not an analysis of potential
defenses to the claims set forth therein, dismissal
nevertheless is appropriate when the defendant is entitled to
a meritorious affirmative defense such as qualified
immunity.” Peatross v. City of Memphis, 818
F.3d 233, 240 (6th Cir. 2016).
1983 permits a claim for damages against “[e]very
person who, under color of [state law], subjects, or causes
to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other
person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of
any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because
§ 1983 has “a ‘color of law'
requirement, ” a defendant “can be held liable
only if state law, whether provided by statute or judicially
implied, empowers him with some legal obligation to
act.” Doe v. Claiborne County, 103 F.3d 495,
512 (6th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted). A claim under §
1983 therefore consists of two elements: (1) the defendant
deprived the plaintiff of a constitutional right or a federal
statutory right and (2) the defendant deprived the plaintiff
of one of these types of rights while acting under color of
state law (i.e., state action). Id. at 511;
Christy v. Randlett, 932 F.2d 502, 504 (6th Cir.
1991). “Absent either element, a section 1983 claim
will not lie.” Christy, 103 F.3d at 511.
Count Nine: Failure to Provide Adequate Medical Care
Count Nine, Ms. Colson asserts that Nurse Russell's
alleged failure to provide her with adequate medical care
resulted in an abridgment of her constitutional rights under
the Eighth Amendment. [See Pl.'s Resp. at 2].
The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments,
U.S. Const. amend. VIII, and under the Eighth Amendment,
prisoners have a constitutional right to medical care,
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976). When a
prison official is deliberately indifferent to a
prisoner's serious medical needs, that official violates
the prisoner's Eighth Amendment right to medical care.
Id. at 104-05; see Grose v. Caruso, 284 F.
App'x 279, 284 (6th Cir. 2008) (“[I]t is
well-settled that lack of proper medical treatment can
constitute an Eighth Amendment violation.” (citations
omitted)). Also, “it is undisputed that . . . nurses
are subject to suit under § 1983” if they are
deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's Eighth Amendment
rights while acting under color of state law. Harrison v.
Ash, 539 F.3d 510, 521 (6th Cir. 2008). In moving the
Court to dismiss Count Nine, Nurse Russell relies on a
twofold argument, contending that Ms. Colon's allegations
do not equate to deliberate indifference and that she is
entitled to qualified immunity. [Def.'s Br. at 9-21].
Deliberate Indifference to a ...