United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MILDRED D. EDWARDS, Plaintiff,
THOMAS MILLER, Defendant.
acting pro se, filed this action alleging violation
of her constitutional rights when defendant, a medical
doctor, refused to prescribe pain medication for her and
discharged her as a patient.
filed a motion to dismiss on April 19, 2017. Plaintiff failed
to respond, and the court ordered her to show cause in
writing on or before June 9, 2017, why defendant's motion
should not be granted and this action dismissed. Plaintiff
failed to respond to the motion and to the court's order;
pursuant to LR 7.2, her failure to respond will be deemed a
waiver of any opposition to the relief sought.
was a patient of Dr. Miller at his clinic, Southeast Spine
and Pain Associates in Knoxville, Tennessee. Edwards received
Hydrocodone prescriptions from Dr. Miller. In connection with
her treatment, Edwards was required to submit urine drug
screens so that Dr. Miller could monitor whether she was
taking Hydrocodone in the manner prescribed. Edwards was
discharged as a patient from the clinic after her pill count
was short and she tested negative for Hydrocodone several
times. Dr. Miller ceased prescribing any pain medication for
alleges she went to a local hospital to get prescriptions
after Dr. Miller ceased to provide them. Eventually, she was
“red flagged” and denied prescriptions from the
hospital because she “went so much.” Edwards
blames Dr. Miller for subsequent actions of the hospital and
seeks “12.5 to 25 Million Dollars for her pain and
suffering.” Dr. Miller moves for dismissal of the
complaint on the grounds that Edwards has failed to allege
the deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States, and fails to allege that Dr.
Miller was acting under color of state law.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, requires the court to construe the complaint in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept all the
complaint's factual allegations as true, and determine
whether the plaintiff undoubtedly can prove no set of facts
in support of her claims that would entitle her to relief.
Meador v. Cabinet for Human Resources, 902 F.2d 474,
475 (6th Cir. 1990). The court may not grant such a motion to
dismiss based upon a disbelief of a complaint's factual
allegations. Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1198
(6th Cir. 1990); Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 377
(6th Cir. 1995) (noting that courts should not weigh evidence
or evaluate the credibility of witnesses). The court must
liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party
opposing the motion. Id. However, the complaint must
articulate more than a bare assertion of legal conclusions.
Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d
434 (6th Cir. 1988). The complaint must contain either direct
or inferential allegations respecting all the material
elements to sustain a recovery under some viable legal
theory. Id. Although the court is required to read
pro se complaints liberally, (see Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)), a plaintiff must
plead specific facts backing up her claims of civil rights
Miller asserts he is a private citizen, and at the time of
the events alleged in the complaint, he was not acting under
color of state law. Therefore, he cannot be sued for
violations of § 1983, which expressly requires that a
defendant act under color of state law.
state a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege the “deprivation of rights
secured by the United States Constitution or a federal statue
by a person who is acting under color of state law.”
Spadafore v. Gardner, 330 F.3d 849 (6th Cir. 2003).
Whether state action is present in a case involving private
citizens depends on whether the conduct allegedly causing the
deprivation of a federal right can be fairly attributable to
the state. Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922,
937 (1982). The “under color of state law”
element of § 1983 excludes from its reach private
conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful. Am.
Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999).
Supreme Court has set forth three tests to determine whether
conduct may be fairly attributable to the state in order to
hold a defendant liable under § 1983. These tests are
(1) the public function test, (2) the state compulsion test,
and (3) the nexus test. See Wolotsky v. Huhn, 960
F.2d 1331, 1335 (6th Cir. 1992). The public
function test requires that the private actor exercise powers
which are traditionally exclusively reserved to the state.
Id. The state compulsion test requires proof that
the state significantly encouraged or somehow coerced the
private party, either overtly or covertly, to take a
particular action so that the choice is really that of the
state. Id. Finally, the nexus test requires a
sufficiently close relationship (i.e., through state
regulation or contract) between the state and the private
party so that the action taken may be attributed to the
cannot establish that Dr. Miller is a state actor under the
public function test. The public function test requires that
the private actor exercise powers which are traditionally
exclusively reserved to the state, such as holding elections,
or eminent domain. Id. With regard to this case,
Edwards has not provided any facts explaining how a private
doctor at a private clinic was exercising a power
traditionally reserved to the state. Pain treatment and
medical care has not traditionally been a power reserved to
the state. Edwards was not a prisoner in state custody.
Therefore, Dr. Miller is not a state actor under the public
Edwards establish that Mr. Miller was a state actor under the
state compulsion test. The state compulsion test requires
that a state exercise such coercive power or provide such
significant encouragement, either overt or covert, that in
law the acts of a private citizen are deemed to be that of
the state. See Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1004
(1982). Edwards has provided no facts suggesting that the
state exercised coercive power or provided encouragement to
Dr. Miller to make his decision to stop prescribing pain
medication a state action.
Edwards cannot establish that Dr. Miller was a state actor
under the symbiotic relationship or nexus test. The acts of a
private citizen constitute state action when there is a
sufficiently close nexus between the state and the challenged
action so that the action of the private citizen may be
fairly treated as that of the state itself. See Jackson
v. Metropolitan Edison Co.,419 U.S. 345, 351 (1974).
Edwards must show that the state is intimately involved in
the challenged private conduct in order for that conduct to
be attributed to the state for the purposes of § 1983.
Her complaint fails to state any facts to support a
relationship between Dr. Miller and the state that led to any
constitutional deprivation. The court concludes that Dr.