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Hill v. Rickman

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

July 22, 2019

ASTIN HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
f/n/u RICKMAN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Astin Hill, an inmate in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office in Nashville, Tennessee, filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against f/n/u Rickman and the Davidson County Sheriff's Office. (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 the PLRA, the Court must conduct an initial review of any civil complaint brought by a prisoner if it is filed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), seeks relief from government entities or officials, 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, or challenges the prisoner's conditions of confinement. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). Upon conducting this review, the Court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion thereof, 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. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Sixth Circuit has confirmed that the dismissal standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. (2009), and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), “governs dismissals for failure to state a claim under those statutes 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 scrutiny on initial review, “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). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         In reviewing the complaint to determine whether it states a plausible claim, “a district court must (1) view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and (2) 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)). A pro se pleading 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) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         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 in the custody of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, Plaintiff was placed in a cold cell called “the stupid box” on April 8, 2019 after being charged with an assault on another inmate. (Doc. No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff was not provided with a blanket or mat. Overnight, he became so cold that he “had to lay on the floor under the metal bunk to try and warm up.” (Id.) Plaintiff was confined in the stupid box for at least twelve hours. The charge against Plaintiff was later dismissed, and the complaint alleges that Plaintiff was placed in “that cold box for no reason.” (Id.) The complaint seeks compensation for Plaintiff's pain and suffering and mental anguish for “lack of sleep and laying on metal bunk and concrete floor.” (Id. at 6).

         IV. Analysis

         The complaint names only two Defendants: f/n/u Rickman in his individual capacity and the Davidson County Sheriff's Office.

         However, other than being listed as a Defendant, f/n/u Rickman is not mentioned in the narrative of the complaint or anywhere else in the complaint. (See Doc. No. 1 at 5). A plaintiff must identify the right or privilege that was violated and the role of the defendant in the alleged violation. Miller v. Calhoun Cnty., 408 F.3d 803, 827 n.3 (6th Cir. 2005); Dunn v. Tenn., 697 F.2d 121, 128 (6th Cir. 1982). Because Plaintiff does not allege the personal involvement of f/n/u Rickman in the events set forth in the complaint, Plaintiff has not established a basis for imposing individual liability on this Defendant. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371 (1976); Heyerman v. Cnty. of Calhoun, 680 F.3d 642, 647 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, Plaintiff's claims against f/n/u Rickman must be dismissed.

         Plaintiff also names the Davidson County Sheriff's Office as a Defendant. The law is clear that a sheriff's office is not an entity that may be sued under § 1983. Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir.1994); see Mathes v. Metro. Gov't of Nashville & Davidson Cnty., No. 3:10- cv-0496, 2010 WL 3341889, at **2-3 (M.D. Tenn. Aug. 25, 2010) (noting that “since Matthews, federal district courts in Tennessee have frequently and uniformly held that police departments and sheriff's departments are not proper parties to a § 1983 suit” under Tennessee law, and therefore granting the motion to dismiss the § 1983 claim against the Davidson County Sheriff's Office); see also Harding v. Davidson Cnty. Sheriff's Office, No. 3:13-cv-0449, 2013 WL 2178029, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. May 20, 2013) (explaining that the Sheriff's Office is a division of the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County but is not itself a separate ...


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