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Torrens v. Jacks

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

October 17, 2019

DOUGLAS TORRENS, Plaintiff,
v.
BONNIE JACKS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELI RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a pro se complaint for alleged violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1), filed by Douglas Torrens, a pretrial detainee in the custody of the Humphreys County Jail in Waverly, Tennessee. Plaintiff has also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP) (Doc. No. 2), which the Court will grant by Order entered contemporaneously herewith. The complaint is now before the Court for an 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.

         INITIAL REVIEW OF THE COMPLAINT

         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 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 § 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

         For purposes of the initial screening, the Court will except as true all allegations in the following paragraph.

         Upon his intake at the Humphreys County Jail in November 2018, Plaintiff was given a physical (examination) during which he reported to Nurse Jacks that he had broken his wrist at some point prior to being sent to jail. (Doc. No. 1 at 4-5.) Nurse Jacks is employed by Southern Health Care Partners, the medical services contractor for the Jail. (Id. at 4.) Nurse Jacks ordered x-rays which confirmed a broken bone in Plaintiff's “arm/wrist/hand area, ” but no treatment was offered to him. (Id.) Nurse Jacks told Plaintiff that “if [he] had money to pay or insurance she would send [him] out for treatment, but that they would not pay for it.” (Id. at 5.) This statement by Nurse Jacks is also referenced in Plaintiff's grievance over the lack of treatment, [1] in which he additionally states that Nurse Jacks refused to order treatment by an outside physician “since [the injury] is preexisting.” (Id. at 15.) In response to Plaintiff's grievance, the Jail Administrator requested that Plaintiff be allowed to see the physician when he comes in, but Nurse Jacks refused. (Id. at 7, 15.)

         Plaintiff alleges that his injury seemed to worsen due to not being in a cast, that he suffered undue pain and concern, and that “to this day [his wrist] is not right.”[2] (Id.) He asks the Court to order Defendants to send him to an orthopedic physician to review his injury and make a decision on treatment, and seeks an award of unspecified punitive damages. (Id.)

         IV. ANALYSIS

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff fails to state a viable claim against the Humphreys County Jail and Sheriff Davis. The Jail is not a proper defendant under Section 1983, which creates a cause of action against “[e]very person” who, acting under color of state law, abridges “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “For purposes of § 1983, ‘person' includes individuals and ‘bodies politic and corporate.'” Hix v. Tennessee Dep't of Corr., 196 Fed.Appx. 350, 355 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 & n. 55 (1978)). A county jail “is a place; it is not a ‘person' that can be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Tucker v. Salandy, No. 3:17-cv-00671, 2017 WL 2438401, at *2 (M.D. Tenn. June 6, 2017). Moreover, in suing Sheriff Davis in his official capacity only, [3] Plaintiff has effectively sued his employer, Humphreys County. See Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003) (holding that “individuals sued in their official capacities stand in the shoes of the entity they represent”). While Humphreys County is a proper defendant under Section 1983, municipal liability may be established only if Plaintiff's harm was caused by the execution of ...


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