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Jacobs v. Wagner

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

June 20, 2019

TRAVIS WAGNER, et al., Defendants.



         Taylor Ross Jacobs, an inmate at the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, filed this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Travis Wagner, the Smyrna Streets Department, and the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center. (Doc. No. 1.) He also filed an application to proceed in this court without prepaying fees and costs. (Doc. No. 2.)

         I. Application to Proceed as a Pauper

         The court may authorize a prisoner to file a civil suit without prepaying the filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Because it appears from the plaintiff's in forma pauperis application that he cannot pay the full filing fee in advance, his application (Doc. No. 2) will be granted. The $350.00 filing fee will be assessed as directed in the accompanying order. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         II. Initial Review

         Under the screening requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the court must conduct an initial review and dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A, 1915(e)(2)(B); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). The court must also 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 a pro se 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)).

         A. Factual Allegations

         The plaintiff is currently serving a two-year sentence at the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center (“RCCWC”). (Doc. No. 1 at 5.) On the morning of February 28, 2019, the plaintiff alleges that he was cleaning up litter beside Rock Springs Road in Smyrna, Tennessee, as part of his job assignment at RCCWC. (Id.) According to the plaintiff, he was standing “directly ahead of the work van, preparing a new trash bag.” (Id.) Travis Wagner, a crew supervisor with the Smyrna Streets Department, then drove the work van toward the plaintiff. (Id.) The plaintiff yelled for Wagner to stop and “quickly jerked [his] trash picker off of the pavement so it would not be crushed by the van tire.” (Id.) The plaintiff yelled for Wagner to stop a second time, but Wagner continued accelerating and the van's “passenger side window” struck the plaintiff in the left shoulder blade, knocking him into a ditch. (Id.) The plaintiff got out of the ditch and approached the passenger window of the van, at which point Wagner said, “I use the van as a cattle prod for people who lag behind.” (Id.) The plaintiff alleges that there was a witness to this incident. (Id.)

         Because of this incident, the plaintiff alleges, he sustained injuries to his left shoulder blade and right knee. (Id. at 7.) He alleges that the only medical treatment he received was a three-day regimen of ibuprofen. (Id.)

         The plaintiff alleges that the Smyrna Street Department “had prior knowledge of [Wagner's] abuse toward inmates and continued to let him supervise them.” (Id. at 6.) He also alleges that the RCCWC “had received multiple complaints/grievances spanning at least a year about [Wagner] being abusive and continued to send work crews out with him which ultimately led to him assaulting me with a motor vehicle and the subsequent injuries.” (Id.) He requests monetary damages from Wagner, the Smyrna Street Department, and the RCCWC. (Id.)

         B. Standard of Review

         To determine whether a prisoner's complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” under the PLRA's screening requirements, the court applies the same standard as under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The court therefore accepts “all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, [and] ‘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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009)). An assumption of truth does not, however, extend to allegations that consist of legal conclusions or “‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). A pro se pleading must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         C. Discussion

         “To prevail on a cause of action under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove ‘(1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under the color of state law.'” Winkler v. Madison Cty., 893 F.3d 877, 890 (6th ...

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