Phillips v. PTS of America, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: It is hereby ORDERED as follows: 1. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation 50 is ADOPTED and INCORPORATED by reference; 2. Defendants Mississippi County, Missouri and William Dorris' motion to dismi ss for lack of venue 40 is DENIED; 3. This matter is TRANSFERRED in its entirety, including Defendants Louisville Metro Government and Mark Bolton's pending motion to dismiss 37 to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. Signed by Judge Danny C. Reeves on 10/2/2017.(KM)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
ROSE M. PHILLIPS, Administratrix of
the Estate of William Culpepper, Jr.,
PTS OF AMERICA, LLC,
Civil Action No. 5: 16-466-DCR
This matter is pending for consideration of Defendants Mississippi County, Missouri
and William Dorris’ motion to dismiss for lack of venue [Record No. 40], and Defendants
Louisville Metro Government and Mark Bolton’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
[Record No. 37]. The plaintiffs have filed responses in opposition to both motions [Record
Nos. 44, 45] and Defendants Louisville Metro Government and Mark Bolton have filed a reply.
[Record No. 47]
United States Magistrate Candace Smith issued a Report and
Recommendation on September 12, 2017 [Record No. 50], recommending that Defendants
Mississippi County, Missouri and William Dorris’ motion to dismiss for lack of venue [Record
No. 40] be denied, and this matter be transferred in its entirety, including Defendants Louisville
Metro Government and Mark Bolton’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim [Record
No. 37], to the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The
defendants did not file timely objections to the Magistrate Judge’s recommendations.
Although this Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the
Magistrate Judge’s recommendations to which objections are made, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C),
“[i]t does not appear that Congress intended to require district court review of a magistrate’s
factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects
to those findings.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). Nevertheless, the Court has
examined the record and, having conducted a de novo review of the matter, agrees with the
The relevant facts are fully outlined in the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
William Culpepper, Jr. was arrested in Louisville, Kentucky on an
outstanding warrant issued by the State of Mississippi. He was temporarily housed at the
Louisville Metro Department of Corrections (“LMDC”). PTS, a company that provides
prisoner transportation services, was to transport Culpepper from LMDC to the Central
Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl, Mississippi. An overnight stop was planned at the
Mississippi County Detention Center (“MCDC”) in Mississippi County, Missouri. Prior to
departure, Culpepper allegedly reported that he had a bleeding ulcer and was experiencing
abdominal pain. He was transported despite his complaints, and given antacids during the trip.
He was barely responsive upon arrival at MCDC. When an ambulance arrived over half an
hour later, he was unresponsive, had no pulse, and could not be revived. The coroner
subsequently determined that Culpepper died due to a perforated duodenal ulcer.
Plaintiffs Rose M. Phillips, administrator of Culpepper’s estate, Michelle Meyer, as
parent and next friend of W.C., Culpepper’s minor daughter, and Brandon Green, Culpepper’s
adult son, filed a Complaint in this Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of the
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and various state law
claims. The plaintiffs claim that the Louisville Metro Government and Director Mark Bolton
violated Culpepper’s constitutional rights by surrendering Culpepper—who was in need of
medical care—to the custody of PTS. They allege that PTS and its employees violated
Culpepper’s constitutional rights by accepting custody of Culpepper and failing to seek
medical attention during the commute from LCDC to MCDC. Finally, they allege that MCDC
and its officers and employees violated Culpepper’s constitutional rights by failing to
immediately procure medical treatment upon his arrival at MCDC.
Defendants Mississippi County, Missouri and William Dorris argue that venue is
improper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) because “the Eastern District of
Kentucky is not where [a] substantial part of the events occurred . . . .” [Record No. 41, p. 2]
They argue that the proper venue is the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri, Southeastern Division, and that this case should be dismissed for lack of venue. The
plaintiffs respond that because “the events in this case stretch from Louisville, Kentucky to
Charleston, Missouri and involve all points in between,” a “substantial part of the events”
giving rise to this claim did not occur in any one district, and they were therefore entitled to
bring this action in any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3). [Record No. 45, p. 4] Because this includes the
Eastern District of Kentucky, they argue that venue is proper in this district. However, the
plaintiffs also state that they would have no objection if the defendants were to agree to a
transfer of this case to the Western District of Kentucky.
As Magistrate Judge Smith explained, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(3) only applies if the other
sections of 28 U.S.C. § 1391 are inapplicable. See Atl. Marine Const. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court,
--- U.S. ---, 134 S. Ct. 568, 578, 187 L. Ed. 2d 487 (2013) (describing § 1391(b)(3) as a
“fallback provision” applicable only if “no other venue is proper”). Here, there are two
districts in which a substantial portion of the events giving rise to the plaintiffs’ claims
occurred: the Western District of Kentucky and the Eastern District of Missouri. This action
could have been brought in either district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2). See First of Michigan
Corp v. Bramlet, 141 F.3d 260, 263 (6th Cir. 1998) (“The fact that substantial activities took
place in district B does not disqualify district A as a proper venue as long as ‘substantial’
activities took place in A, too.”) (quoting David D. Siegel, Commentary on the 1988 and 1990
Revisions of Section 1391, Subdivision (a), Clause (2), 28 U.S.C.A. § 1391 (1993)).
Accordingly, § 1391(b)(3) does not apply.
Because this matter was brought in an improper venue, this Court “shall dismiss, or if
it be in the interest of justice, transfer [the] case to any district or division in which it could
have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). As Magistrate Judge Smith explained, dismissal is
not the proper remedy in this case. The plaintiffs did not misuse the court process, and their
error was not an obvious one. If this case were dismissed, the statute of limitations might
prevent the institution of a new suit, and a resolution on the merits. Accordingly, transfer of
this case to a proper district would be in the interest of justice. See Jackson v. L & F Martin
Landscape, 421 F. App’x 482, 484 (6th Cir. 2009).
And as Magistrate Judge Smith concluded, factors such as the location of witnesses,
accessibility of relevant evidence, and the convenience of the defendants, suggest that the
Western District of Kentucky is an appropriate forum for this action. Finally, because this
Court is not a proper venue, it would be not be appropriate to resolve the pending motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim [Record No. 37] at this time. Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
The Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation [Record No. 50] is
ADOPTED and INCORPORATED by reference.
Defendants Mississippi County, Missouri and William Dorris’ motion to
dismiss for lack of venue [Record No. 40] is DENIED.
This matter is TRANSFERRED in its entirety, including Defendants Louisville
Metro Government and Mark Bolton’s pending motion to dismiss [Record No. 37], to the
United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
This 2nd day of October, 2017.
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