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Davis v. Corecivic

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

December 6, 2019

VELVED DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
CORECIVIC, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND

          JAMES D. TODD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On October 15, 2019, Plaintiff Velved Davis, who is incarcerated at the Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tennessee, filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) The complaint concerns events that allegedly occurred while Davis was incarcerated at the Hardeman County Correctional Facility (HCCF) in Whiteville, Tennessee. (Id. at PageID 2.) After Davis submitted the necessary 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. 4.) The Clerk shall record the Defendants as CoreCivic and Correctional Officers First Name Unknown (FNU) Tuggle and Gable.

         Davis alleges that on June 25, 2019, Officers Tuggle and Gable forced him into a cell that was flooded from a broken sprinkler head. (ECF No. 1 at Pag e I D 4 .) Dav is alleges that he previously had been housed in the cell, where the sprinkler head was “pop[p]ed” and “still running water.” (Id.) He alleges that the conditions were unchanged when the officers returned him to the cell. (Id.) Davis asserts that the officers “used excessive force while [I] was in restraints” and forced him into the “inhabitual [sic] cell as a form of punishment.” (Id.) Davis alleges that he grieved the incident, which the grievance committee determined was grievable. (Id.) He seeks unspecified compensation. (Id.)

         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))).

         Davis 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).

         Davis sues CoreCivic, a private company that “performs the traditional state function of operating a prison [and therefore] acts under color of state law for purposes of § 1983.”[1] Thomas v. Coble, 55 Fed.Appx. 748, 748 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996)). The Sixth Circuit has applied the standards for assessing municipal liability to claims against private corporations that operate prisons or provide medical care or food services to prisoners. Id. at 748-49; Street, 102 F.3d at 817-18; Johnson v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 26 Fed.Appx. 386, 388 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Eads v. State of Tenn., No. 1:18-cv-00042, 2018 WL 4283030, at *9 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 7, 2018). To prevail on a § 1983 claim against CoreCivic, Davis “must show that a policy or well-settled custom of the company was the ‘moving force' behind the alleged deprivation” of his rights. Braswell v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 419 Fed.Appx. 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2011). Davis, however, does not allege anything about CoreCivic, much less that one of its policies of customs was the moving force behind the alleged violation of his rights. He therefore fails to state a claim against CoreCivic.

         Davis alleges that Officers Tuggle and Gable “used excessive force” when placing him back into the flooded cell. The Eighth Amendment protects a convicted inmate from cruel and unusual punishments, including “the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.” See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992) (quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 319 (1986)); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991). Establishing an Eighth Amendment claim of excessive force requires a showing that (1) “the alleged wrongdoing was objectively ‘harmful enough' to establish a constitutional violation, ” and (2) “‘the officials act[ed] with a sufficiently culpable state of mind.'” Hudson, 503 U.S. at 8 (quoting Wilson, 501 U.S. at 298, 303). Davis, however, does not describe the officers' actions that he contends constituted excessive force. He merely concludes that they used excessive force on him. That contention alone does not satisfy the pleading ...


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