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Wimber v. Stewart County

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

May 21, 2019

JAMES D. WIMBER Plaintiff,
STEWART COUNTY, TENNESSEE, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff James D. Wimber, an inmate of the Stewart County Jail in Dover, Tennessee, filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Stewart County, Tennessee and Sheriff f/n/u White. (Doc. No. 1). The 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.

         I. PLRA Screening Standard

         Under 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).

         The court must construe a pro se complaint liberally, United States v. Smotherman, 838 F.3d 736, 739 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true unless they are entirely without credibility. See Thomas v. Eby, 481 F.3d 434, 437 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992)). Although 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).

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         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 Section 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. Dominguez v. Corr. Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Sigley v. City of Panama Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006)); 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         III. Alleged Facts[1]

         The complaint alleges that Plaintiff was an inmate of the Stewart County Jail in April 2018 and, because of unnamed staff members' “neglect and refusing to follow the protocall [sic] of their handbook of rules, ” (Doc. No. 1 at 3), Plaintiff's asthma turned into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”). Specifically, the complaint alleges that unnamed staff members refused to provide Plaintiff with the correct inhaler “that contained the medication [his] lungs needed to function without problems to [his] life or living” because it was too expensive and they did not keep it on site. (Id. at 4-5). Plaintiff was taken later to the emergency room at an outside hospital where he received the medicated inhaler. (Id. at 5).

         The complaint also alleges that Stewart County requires inmates to use their personal insurance to pay for needed medications and, while using Plaintiff's personal insurance to purchase his prescription medications, unnamed persons did not purchase all of the medications prescribed by Plaintiff's doctors. According to the complaint, these unnamed individuals “showed their neglect and the irresponsibility of my being cared for and taken care of medical needs as directed.” (Id. at 5). The complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged denial of proper medical care at the Stewart County Jail. (Id. at 7-8).

         IV. Analysis

         The complaint names two Defendants to this action: Sheriff f/n/u White and Stewart County, Tennessee.

         A. Defendant Sheriff f/n/u White

          The complaint names Sheriff White as a Defendant in his official capacity only. (Doc. No. 1 at 2). When a defendant is sued in his or her official capacity as an employee of the government, the lawsuit is directed against “the entity for which the officer is an agent.” Pusey v. City of Youngstown, 11 F.3d 652, 657 (6th Cir. 1993). See, e.g., Leach v. Shelby Cnty., 891 F.2d 1241, 1245-46 (6th Cir. 1989) (“[The plaintiff's] suit against the Mayor and the Sheriff of ...

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