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McDonald v. Hickman County Jail

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

August 29, 2017

BURNACE R. MCDONALD, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
HICKMAN COUNTY JAIL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Burnace McDonald, Jr., a resident of Columbia, Tennessee, and former inmate of the Hickman County Jail in Centerville, Tennessee, brings this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Hickman County Jail, Southern Health Partners, and Lori Fuller, alleging violations of the Plaintiff's federal civil and constitutional rights. (Doc. No. 1). As relief, the Plaintiff seeks reimbursement for medical costs he has incurred, damages for pain and suffering, and injunctive relief. (Id. at 6).

         The complaint is before the Court for an initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) because the Plaintiff filed his complaint in forma pauperis.

         I. Required Screening of In Forma Pauperis Complaint

          Because the Plaintiff is proceeding as a pauper in this action, the Court must conduct an initial review of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and dismiss it or any portion of it that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. In assessing whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the Court applies the standards under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, as construed by Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). See Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that “the dismissal standard articulated in Iqbal and Twombly governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)] because the relevant statutory language tracks the language in Rule 12(b)(6)”).

         “Accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, the Court ‘consider[s] the factual allegations in [the] complaint to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (alteration in original). “[P]leadings that . . . are no more than conclusions[] are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3 (“Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief. Without some factual allegation in the complaint, it is hard to see how a claimant could satisfy the requirement of providing not only ‘fair notice' of the nature of the claim, but also ‘grounds' on which the claim rests.”).

         “Pro se complaints are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (“[A] court cannot create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Payne v. Sec'y of Treas., 73 Fed.Appx. 836, 837 (6th Cir. 2003) (affirming sua sponte dismissal of complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) and stating, “[n]either this court nor the district court is required to create Payne's claim for her”); cf. Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 231 (2004) (“District judges have no obligation to act as counsel or paralegal to pro se litigants.”); Young Bok Song v. Gipson, 423 Fed.Appx. 506, 510 (6th Cir.2011) (“[W]e decline to affirmatively require courts to ferret out the strongest cause of action on behalf of pro se litigants. Not only would that duty be overly burdensome, it would transform the courts from neutral arbiters of disputes into advocates for a particular party. While courts are properly charged with protecting the rights of all who come before it, that responsibility does not encompass advising litigants as to what legal theories they should pursue.”).

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         Plaintiff 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.

         III. Alleged Facts

         According to the complaint, the Plaintiff is a United States veteran receiving full disability benefits. He has been incarcerated at the Hickman County Jail on and off since 2014. During his periods of incarceration, Defendants have refused to provide the Plaintiff with his prescribed medications for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2014, the Plaintiff's attorney went before a Hickman County judge who ordered the jail to provide the Plaintiff with his medications. However, the complaint alleges that, during his most recent period of incarceration, the medications were not provided to the Plaintiff and at times he was placed in isolation as punishment for requesting his medications.

         In September 2015, Defendant Nurse Fuller told the Plaintiff that he did not need his medications. She ordered him to take a blood test and then told him that the results of the test proved he did not have a mental illness. When the jail would not provide the medications the Plaintiff had been prescribed by outside physicians, the Plaintiff ordered the medications and paid for them himself, but the jail would not dispense them. The complaint alleges that the Plaintiff's mental health deteriorated and the Plaintiff “has suffered greatly” as a result of not receiving his medication. In his complaint, the Plaintiff states: “I have waited this long to file suite [sic] because I'm soon to be released and feared the isolation lockdown for 23 hrs a day.” (Doc. No. 1 at 5, 7-8). The Plaintiff subsequently was released from the Hickman County Jail. (Doc. No. 3).

         IV. Analysis

         First, the Plaintiff's complaint names as a Defendant the Hickman County Jail. However, the Hickman County Jail, like any other jail or workhouse, is not a “person” that can be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Cf. Fuller v. Cocran, No. 1:05-CV-76, 2005 WL 1802415, at *3 (E.D. Tenn. July 27, 2005) (dismissing § 1983 claims against the Bradley County Justice Center on the same basis); Seals v. Grainger County Jail, No. 3:04CV606, 2005 WL 1076326, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. May 6, 2005) (“The Grainger County Jail, however, is not a suable entity within the meaning of § 1983.”). Thus, the ...


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