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Wimber v. Stewart County Detention Center

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

July 22, 2019

JAMES D. WIMBER, AKA JJ Wimber, Plaintiff,



         James D. Wimber, an inmate of the Stewart County Detention Center in Dover, Tennessee, filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Stewart County Detention Center, f/n/u White, Angie Lemons, K.C. Wimberly, Sgt. Harmon, Frankie Gray, Kenny Anderson, and Deputy Scallion. (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

         The complaint alleges that, while an inmate of the Stewart County Jail, Defendants refused to provide Plaintiff with medical treatment for his asthma and breathing problems in January of 2017, May of 2018, and on March 20, 2019. The complaint further alleges that Plaintiff developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (“COPD”) because of Defendants' failure to provide him with medical treatment. (Doc. No. 1).

         IV. Analysis

         “A final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised in that action.” Federated Dep't Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394, 398 (1981). The doctrine of res judicata, i.e., the preclusive effect of a judgment, encompasses both issue preclusion and claim preclusion. Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 77 n.1 (1984); Rawe v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 462 F.3d 521, 528 n.5 (6th Cir. 2006). “Issue preclusion refers to the effect of a judgment in foreclosing relitigation of a matter that has been litigated and decided.” Id. In contrast, “[c]laim preclusion refers to the effect of a judgment in foreclosing litigation of a matter that never has been litigated, because of a determination that it should have been advanced in an earlier suit.” Id.

         “Issue preclusion bars relitigation of an issue when: (1) the identical issue was raised and actually litigated in a prior proceeding; (2) the determination of the issue was necessary to the outcome of the prior proceeding; (3) the prior proceeding resulted in a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the party against whom issue preclusion is sought had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior proceeding.” Gen. Elect. Med. Sys. Europe v. Prometheus Health, 394 Fed.Appx. 280, 283 (6th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

         Earlier this year, [1] Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint pursuant to Section 1983 in which he raised allegations about his medical care at the Stewart County jail during 2017 and 2018. See James D. Wimber v. Stewart County, Tenn., No. 3:19-cv-00355 (M.D. Tenn. filed 4/30/17) (Richardson, J). Plaintiff named Stewart County, Tennessee, and Sheriff f/n/u White as Defendants to that action. By Order and Memorandum Opinion entered on May 21, 2019, the Court dismissed the action for failure to state Section 1983 claims upon which relief can be granted as to both Defendants. (Id., Doc. Nos. 12 and 13). After final judgment was entered in the case, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint. (Id., Doc. No. 19). The Court denied the motion to amend, finding that (1) Plaintiff was not permitted to amend his complaint after the dismissal of his action and the entry of final judgment; (2) to the extent that Plaintiff sought an amendment of the judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff sought to amend his complaint to allege more of the “continuing same neglect” of which he complained in the original complaint and the Court already had determined that complaints of medical malpractice or negligence are insufficient to entitle a plaintiff to relief; and (3) Plaintiff also was not entitled to relief if his motion was considered under Rule 60 (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 20).

         Plaintiff is barred under the doctrine of issue preclusion from relitigating the Court's prior adjudication of these same Section 1983 claims. In reviewing both complaints, it is apparent that Plaintiff's previous lawsuit and current lawsuit concern the same incidents and some of the same Defendants at the same facility. The precise issues now raised, i.e., Section 1983 claims against Sheriff White and Stewart County, Tennessee[2] arising from the alleged ...

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