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Elgin v. Swing

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

May 31, 2019

PHILIP W. ELGIN, JR., Plaintiff,



         Acting pro se, Philip W. Elgin, Jr. (“Plaintiff”), an inmate confined in the Bedford County Correctional Complex (“BCCX”), has submitted an amended civil rights complaint for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 [Doc. 4]. The matter is now before the Court for screening of the amended complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”). For the reasons set forth below, this action will proceed only as to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Nurse Becky and Nurse Tonya. All other claims and Defendants will be DISMISSED.


         Under the PLRA, district courts must screen prisoner complaints and shall, at any time, dismiss sua sponte any claims that are frivolous or malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or are against a defendant who is immune. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915(A); Benson v. O'Brian, 179 F.3d 1014 (6th Cir. 1999). The dismissal standard articulated by the United States Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), “governs dismissals for failure state a claim under [28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A] 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 an initial review under the PLRA, 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). Courts liberally construe pro se pleadings filed in civil rights cases and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that he was deprived of a federal right by a person acting under color of state law. Braley v. City of Pontiac, 906 F.2d 220, 223 (6th Cir. 1990) (stating that “Section 1983 . . . creates a right of action for the vindication of constitutional guarantees found elsewhere”).


         Plaintiff names Sheriff Austin Swing as a Defendant in this action because “[he] has the final say” and “hires Tim Lokey . . . Jennifer Little . . . [and] Mary West . . .” as administrators at the Bedford County Jail [Doc. 4 p. 4]. In his complaint, Plaintiff asserts that he is charged $20.00 every time he submits a sick call form, even if he is not seen by medical staff [Id.]. He claims that a doctor ordered him to sleep on a medical mat, but he has never received the medical mat, even after filing grievances requesting the ordered mat [Id.]. Plaintiff has also been denied his requests for an appointment to see a “neuro doc[tor]”, surgeon, and to receive his “regular medication” [Id.].

         Plaintiff further claims that he is unsatisfied with the jail's grievance procedure and complains that he has filed many grievances regarding the jails conditions of confinement that have never been answered [Id.]. Within those unanswered grievances, Plaintiff complains that the facility has issues with sewage on the floor, mold, and food [Id. at 5].

         Plaintiff asserts that he has written his appointed public defenders, Defendants James Tucker and Kathy Hickerson, concerning the possibility of getting his bond reduced or to be released on home arrest so he is able to take care of his son and to seek medical treatment [Id.]. However, Defendants James Tucker and Kathy Hickerson “don't care about [him]” and ignore Plaintiff's requests as do Defendants Judges Lee Russell, Forrest Durand, and Charles Rich [Id.].


         A. Respondeat Superior

         Plaintiff named Sheriff Austin Swing and jail administrators, Tim Lokey, Mary West, and Jennifer Little, as defendants in this matter. However, none of these Defendants appear in the body of the complaint and the Court finds no specific allegations against them whatsoever.

         Plaintiff does not allege any of these Defendants were responsible for, or even knew of, the alleged wrongdoings. It is a basic pleading essential that a plaintiff attribute factual allegations to particular defendants. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (holding that in order to state a claim, the plaintiff must make sufficient allegations to give a defendant fair notice of the claim). The Sixth Circuit has found that, “[w]here a person is named as a defendant without an allegation of specific conduct, the complaint against him is subject to dismissal, even under the liberal construction afforded to pro se complaints.” See Gilmore v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 92 Fed. App'x 188, 190 (6th Cir. 2004) (dismissing complaint where plaintiff failed to allege how any named defendant was involved in the violation of his rights).

         To the extent that Plaintiff has not specifically named Austin Swing, Tim Lokey, Mary West, and Jennifer Little, as Defendants because he seeks to hold these Defendants liable based on their role in administration at Bedford County Jail, a theory of supervisory liability is unacceptable in a § 1983 case. See Ashcroft v. Iqual, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“[O]ur precedents establish . . . that Government officials may not be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior.”); Monell v. New York City Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (finding that liability under § 1983 may not be imposed simply because a defendant “employs a tortfeasor”). The law is settled that § 1983 liability must be based on more than respondeat superior, or a defendant's right to control employees. Taylor v. Mich. Dept. of Corr., 69 F.3d 76, 80-81 (6th Cir. 1995). At a minimum, “a plaintiff must plead that each Government official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at ...

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