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Lineberry v. Alexandria

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

October 31, 2019

RODNEY C. LINEBERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNNY ALEXANDER, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER TO MODIFY THE DOCKET, PARTIALLY DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING THAT PROCESS BE ISSUED AND SERVED ON DEFENDANT WILKERSON

          JAMES D. TODD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On July 3, 2019, Plaintiff Rodney C. Lineberry, who is incarcerated at the Hardin County Jail (Jail) in Savannah, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) The Court subsequently 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.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as Hardin County Sheriff Johnny Alexander, [1] Chief Deputy Mike Fielder, and Sergeant Wesley Wilkerson.

         Lineberry alleges that he was taken into custody at the Jail in July 2018 and “placed in to a cell block.” (ECF No. 1 at PageID 2.) “[T]he officer” in his cell block (Lineberry does not name the officer) “was told befor[e]hand that [Lineberry] was going to be jumped if placed in this cell.” (Id.) Lineberry does not allege who told “the officer” that he was going to be jumped. Two other inmates were forced to move from the cell where Lineberry was to be housed. (Id.) Those inmates allegedly told Sergeant Wilkerson that Lineberry “was going to be jumped, ” but Lineberry still was placed in the cell. (Id.) Lineberry does not allege whether it was Wilkerson who made the decision to house him there.

         After lockdown that day, Lineberry was “beaten by inmates” and suffered a broken nose and swelling of his eye. (Id.) Lineberry “was told if [he] went to the police [he] would be beaten again.” (Id.) He alleges that the doors were not checked at lockdown, and he does not know how the inmates were able to enter his cell; Lineberry suggests, however, that the guard had to open the cell. (Id.) He seeks compensatory damages. (Id. at PageID 3.)

         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))).

         Lineberry 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).

         To the extent Lineberry intends to assert claims against the Defendants in their official capacities, his claims are against Hardin County. The complaint, however, does not state a valid § 1983 claim against Hardin County. A local government such as a municipality or county “cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (emphasis in original); see also Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). A municipality may be held responsible for a constitutional deprivation only if there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691-92; Deaton v. Montgomery Co., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir. 1993). To demonstrate municipal liability, a plaintiff “must (1) identify the municipal policy or custom, (2) connect the policy to the municipality, and (3) show that his particular injury was incurred due to ...


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