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Johnson v. Madison County

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division

October 28, 2019




         On March 4, 2019, Plaintiff Anthony Turner Johnson, who currently is incarcerated at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) Johnson's complaint addresses alleged conditions at the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex (CJC) in Jackson, Tennessee, where Johnson previously was confined. (Id. at PageID 2.) After Johnson submitted the necessary financial documents, the Court issued an order granting leave to proceed in forma pauperis and assessing the civil filing fee pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(a)-(b). (ECF No. 6.) On June 28, 2019, Johnson submitted an amended complaint listing several additional Defendants. (ECF No. 13.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Madison County; Nurses Kayla, Sarah, and Rita;[1] Corrections Officers (C/O) First Name Unknown (FNU) Carter, B. Giovanni, and FNU Blurton; Sergeants FNU Brown and FNU Gilly; and Lieutenant FNU Balderama.

         Johnson alleges the CJC is unsanitary and that inmates are threatened and harassed when they try to voice their concern about the conditions. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) Unnamed captains, sergeants, and lieutenants allegedly denied the inmates mat covers to avoid contact with mold. (Id.) He asserts the CJC is overcrowded and infested with spiders, and the toilets leak. (Id. at PageID 3.) Unspecified CJC employees allegedly withheld important mail from inmates and denied others free exercise of their religion. (Id.) Johnson alleges he was forced to become a vegetarian because the CJC would not provide him Kosher meats. (Id.) The mold in the CJC caused asthma flare ups and skin rashes and bumps on some inmates. (Id. at PageID 4.) The CJC allegedly told inmates to follow certain cleaning policies but did not provide cleaning products. (Id.) Gnats allegedly contaminated inmates' food, causing inmates to contract Hepatitis A. (Id.) Trustee inmates did not wash their hands after handling mops and buckets and before serving food. (Id.) Food and drink sometimes contained paint chips or hair, which sickened inmates, but many did not receive medical care. (Id. at PageID 4-5.)

         In his amended complaint, Johnson names several individuals allegedly responsible for the many violations. (ECF No. 13.) He alleges that COs Blurton, Giovanni, and Carter told trustee inmates to hand out food wearing the same gloves worn when handling cleaning supplies. (Id. at PageID 53.) These officers would then serve inmates through food flaps coated in chipping paint that could fall into food and drinks. (Id.) Defendants Gilly, Brown, and Balderama allegedly placed inmates with tuberculosis in open population with other inmates. (Id.) Balderama also overpopulated rooms with three to four inmates, even though the cells are designed for only two. (Id.) Inmates' sick-call requests were allegedly “neglected” by Nurses Kayla and Sarah. (Id.) Defendant Carter did not call for maintenance when the toilets were not working. (Id.) On one three-day occasion, Balderama locked down the facility and denied inmates an hour of recreation, a shower, and phone calls. (Id. at PageID 54.) For another three-week period, inmates had to eat cold meals. (Id.) Johnson also alleges that he developed tuberculosis because of inadequate medical care at the CJC. (Id.) Although he tested negative while at the CJC, he was retested after being moved to another facility and tested positive. (Id.)

         Johnson seeks to sue on behalf of himself and several other current or past inmates of the CJC. (ECF No. 1 at PageID 9.) He does not specify the relief he seeks but states only that he is “wanting of compensation.” (Id. at PageID 6.)

         The Court is required to screen prisoner complaints and to dismiss any complaint, or any portion thereof, if the complaint-

(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         In assessing whether the complaint in this case states a claim on which relief may be granted, the standards under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), as stated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-79 (2009), and in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007), are applied. Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). The Court accepts the complaint's “well-pleaded” factual allegations as true and then determines whether the allegations “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.'” Williams v. Curtin, 631 F.3d 380, 383 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681). Conclusory allegations “are not entitled to the assumption of truth, ” and legal conclusions “must be supported by factual allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), Rule 8 nevertheless requires factual allegations to make a “‘showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 n.3.

         “Pro se complaints are to be held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers,' and should therefore be liberally construed.” Williams, 631 F.3d at 383 (quoting Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 712 (6th Cir. 2004)). Pro se litigants, however, are not exempt from the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Wells v. Brown, 891 F.2d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 1989); see also Brown v. Matauszak, 415 Fed.Appx. 608, 612, 613 (6th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011) (affirming dismissal of pro se complaint for failure to comply with “unique pleading requirements” and stating “a court cannot ‘create a claim which [a plaintiff] has not spelled out in his pleading'” (quoting Clark v. Nat'l Travelers Life Ins. Co., 518 F.2d 1167, 1169 (6th Cir. 1975))).

         Johnson filed his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) a deprivation of rights secured by the “Constitution and laws” of the United States (2) committed by a defendant acting under color of state law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970).

         The claims in Johnson's complaint are directed at Madison County. See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). When a ยง 1983 claim is made against a municipality or county, the court must analyze two distinct issues: (1) whether the plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and (2) if so, whether the municipality or county ...

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