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Stanton v. Davidson County Sheriff's Office

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

July 9, 2019




         Plaintiff Dustin Stanton, a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1), and an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) (Doc. No. 2). The IFP application will be granted by Order accompanying this Memorandum.

         The complaint is before the Court for initial review pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A, and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

         I. PLRA Screening Standard

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court must dismiss any IFP complaint that is facially 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. Similarly, Section 1915A provides that the Court shall conduct an initial review of any prisoner complaint against a governmental entity, officer, or employee, and shall dismiss the complaint or any portion thereof if the defects listed in Section 1915(e)(2)(B) are identified. Under both statutes, this initial review of whether the complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted asks whether it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ” such that it would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Applying this standard, the Court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and, again, must take all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Tackett v. M & G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (citing Gunasekera v. Irwin, 551 F.3d 461, 466 (6th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted)). Furthermore, pro se pleadings must be liberally construed and “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, pro se litigants are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989), nor can the Court “create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading.” Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 613 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975)).

         II. Section 1983 Standard

         Plaintiff seeks to vindicate alleged violations of his federal constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal laws. Wurzelbacher v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d 580, 583 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, to state a Section 1983 claim, Plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights 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. Carl v. Muskegon Cty., 763 F.3d 592, 595 (6th Cir. 2014).

         III. Allegations and Claims

         Plaintiff, who is in pretrial detention at the Davidson County Maximum Correctional Center (MCC), alleges that he made a request to be placed in the security management unit on January 24, 2019, because he feared for his safety after an officer handed a bag of his commissary items to one of the inmates on his list of incompatibles. (Doc. No. 1 at 7.) Plaintiff had been in this protective custody placement for a month when, on February 24, 2019, he was attacked on the recreation yard by another inmate, Josh Raines. At the time of the attack, Plaintiff was in full restraints (leg irons and a belly chain with handcuffs) but Raines, “a disruptive inmate serving disciplinary time with a 15 yr sentence waiting on T.D.O.C. bus to take him to prison” (id. at 9), did not have leg irons and the handcuffs attached to his belly chain were “loose enough to easily take off.” (Id. at 7.) As a result, Plaintiff could not defend himself except by trying to shield his face, and Raines landed multiple blows to his head and body resulting in momentary loss of consciousness, facial and bodily injuries, and chipped teeth. (Id. at 7, 10.)

         Plaintiff does not allege any provocation for this attack, or that any Defendant was aware of any likelihood that Raines would attack him. He alleges that Officers Jennifer Lane and Trevor Matthews were the Unit Post officers responsible for ensuring that all inmates are fully restrained when they leave their cells for escort to a different destination within the MCC, and that these Defendants failed to perform their job of fully restraining Raines by “leaving his leg irons completely off and his belly chains handcuffs loose enough to take off[.]” (Id. at 8.) He alleges that Administrative Staff Member Ruby Joyner, Classification Director Beth Gentry, and Chief of Security Jamie Johnson were aware that he had been housed in the Security Management Unit since January 24, 2019. (Id. at 9.)

         Plaintiff alleges that the Recreation Officer on February 24, 2019, Officer Jennifer Cobbs, failed to perform her job by not inspecting all inmates' restraints before letting them on to the recreation yard. (Id.) He further alleges that Defendant Cobbs--along with Lt. Kevin Cole and Sgt. Nicholas Pallak, who “were over security operations that day, watching security cameras from their office” and supervising the handling of security concerns--allowed “all status inmates [to] rec together that day, ” including inmates in disciplinary segregation, “Adm Max, ” and protective custody. (Id. at 8-9.) In addition, he alleges that there were “at least 13 inmates on 1 side of the fence when its only suppose[d] to be 5 on split sides of the fence. That's why there is split cages[, ] for different status inmates.” (Id. at 8.) He claims that “they run recreation like that because it gets done faster and easier.” (Id.) He alleges that this practice is ongoing at the MCC. (Id.)

         In a letter to the Court submitted with his complaint, Plaintiff asks for counsel to be appointed for him and clarifies that “numerous officers in claim failed to keep me safe by putting all status inmates together on 1 side of the rec fence when it's plainly 10-12 split cages, but policies and procedures are being broken on a daily basis so officers can bring whole unit out, get rec done faster and easier[.]” (Doc. No. 1-2.)

         Plaintiff sues all Defendants in their individual and official capacities, and claims that they were deliberately indifferent, provided inadequate protection, and failed to follow policies and procedures, resulting in the breach of security which led to Plaintiff's injuries. (Doc. No. 1 at 7, 9.) He further states that Sheriff Daron Hall and the Davidson County Sheriff's Office ...

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