Myers v. Commonwealth of Kentucky et al
ORDER by Judge Beaton on 9/8/2021. For the reasons explained in the accompanying memorandum, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's claims against Louisville Metro Corrections and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Plaintiff may file an amended complaint within 30 days. cc: Plaintiff (pro se) w/ form, Defendants, Jefferson County Attorney cc: Plaintiff (pro se) w/ complaint form, Defendants, Jefferson County Attorney (JM)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:21-cv-85-BJB
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Darius Myers, a prisoner, initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. This matter is
before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. See McGore v. Wrigglesworth,
114 F.3d 601, 604 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199
(2007). For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed, and he will be given the
opportunity to amend his complaint.
I. STATEMENT OF CLAIMS
Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at Louisville Metro Corrections. Complaint (DN 1) at 1.
He names as Defendants the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Louisville Metro Corrections. Id.
He alleges that since April 2020 he has “been fighting a staph infection,” which he refers to as
“Mercer.” Id. at 4. Presumably this means MRSA—methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.
Plaintiff explains that he had two surgeries on his ankle and that the infection is in his bone
marrow and blood. Id.
Plaintiff states that after contracting the staph infection he was released from Louisville
Metro Corrections to the home incarceration program (HIP). Id. He states that during his time
in HIP he was able to “service [his] injury” and made progress fighting the infection, but that it
“changed for the worse because HIP violated me on a false claim, placing me back in jail, [with]
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no medication or rehabilitation to maintain my injury which after some period became worse.”
As relief, Plaintiff requests monetary and punitive damages. Id. at 5.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
When a prisoner initiates a civil action seeking redress from a governmental entity,
officer, or employee, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the action if the Court
determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) and (2). When determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon
which relief can be granted, the Court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to
Plaintiff and accept all of the factual allegations as true. See, e.g., Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468,
470–72 (6th Cir. 2010). While a reviewing court must liberally construe pro se pleadings, see id.
at 471; Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam), to avoid dismissal, a
complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
Reading the complaint liberally, it appears that Plaintiff alleges a Fourteenth Amendment
claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical need, i.e., treatment for a MRSA
infection. Neither of the entities he names, however, are appropriate Defendants in this case.
Commonwealth of Kentucky
First, Plaintiff does not explain why the Commonwealth of Kentucky is a proper
Defendant in this case. He is a county prisoner, not a state prisoner. See, e.g., Edwards v. Doe,
No. 3:06CV-P32-H, 2006 WL 1382242, at *1 n.1 (W.D. Ky. May 12, 2006) (explaining that
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since the merger of the Louisville and Jefferson County governments in 2003, the former
Jefferson County Jail is now known as the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections).
Second, § 1983 “does not provide a federal forum for litigants who seek a remedy against
a State for alleged deprivations of civil liberties.” Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S.
58, 66 (1989). The U.S. Constitution’s “Eleventh Amendment bars such suits unless the State
has waived its immunity or unless Congress has exercised its undoubted power under § 5 of the
Fourteenth Amendment to override that immunity.” Id. (citations omitted). The Commonwealth
of Kentucky has not waived its immunity, see Adams v. Morris, 90 F. App’x 856, 857 (6th Cir.
2004), and in enacting § 1983, Congress did not override the traditional sovereign immunity of
the states, Will, 491 U.S. at 66. Thus, the claim against the Commonwealth of Kentucky must be
dismissed because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant that is immune from such relief.
Louisville Metro Corrections
Louisville Metro Corrections is not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983 because
municipal departments, such as jails, are not suable under § 1983. See Rhodes v. McDannel, 945
F.2d 117, 120 (6th Cir. 1991) (holding that a police department may not be sued under § 1983);
Marbry v. Corr. Med. Serv., No. 99-6706, 2000 WL 1720959, at *2 (6th Cir. Nov. 6, 2000)
(holding that a jail is not an entity subject to suit under § 1983). A county (here the Louisville
Metro Government), not its constituent parts, would be the proper defendant in a case like this.
See Keeling v. Louisville Metro Corr. Dep’t, No. 3:14-cv-P697, 2015 WL 3457847, at *5 (W.D.
Ky. May 29, 2015); Smallwood v. Jefferson Cty. Gov’t, 743 F. Supp. 502, 503 (W.D. Ky. 1990)
(construing claims brought against the Jefferson County Government, the Jefferson County
Fiscal Court, and the Jefferson County Judge Executive as claims against Jefferson County
itself). Because the Metro Government is a “person” for purposes of § 1983, such “[l]ocal
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governing bodies … can be sued directly under § 1983.” Monell v. N.Y. Dep’t of Soc. Servs.,
436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978). The Court will therefore construe the claims against Louisville Metro
Corrections as brought against the Louisville Metro Government.
The Supreme Court has recognized that a municipal government is not automatically
liable for “an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents.” Monell, 436 U.S. at 694; id. at
691 (“[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor.”) (emphasis
in original); see also Gregory v. City of Louisville, 444 F.3d 725, 752 (6th Cir. 2006) (no
vicarious liability for constitutional violations committed by city employees).
Instead, the municipality may be held liable only if the government itself is to blame for
the unconstitutional acts—that is, if it adopted or ratified a policy or custom that caused the harm
inflicted by its officers or employees. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694 (“the government as an entity is
responsible under § 1983” only “when execution of a government’s policy or custom … inflicts
the injury”). Congress did not render municipalities liable, in other words, “unless action
pursuant to official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort.” Id. at 691.
Proving this requires a plaintiff to “point to a municipal ‘policy or custom’ and show that
it was the ‘moving force’ behind the constitutional violation.” Crabbs v. Scott, 800 F. App’x
332, 336 (6th Cir. 2020) (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Here, Plaintiff has not identified a
custom or policy which is responsible for the alleged constitutional deprivation related to his
medical care. The Court, however, will allow Plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended
complaint to name any individuals who allegedly are or were deliberately indifferent to a serious
medical condition of the Plaintiff. See LaFountain v. Harry, 716 F.3d 944, 951 (6th Cir. 2013)
(“[U]nder Rule 15(a) a district court can allow a plaintiff to amend his complaint even when the
complaint is subject to dismissal under the [Prison Litigation Reform Act].”).
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IV. CONCLUSION AND ORDER
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiff’s claim against Louisville
Metro Corrections pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted and DISMISSES the claim against Defendant Commonwealth of
Kentucky pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(2) for seeking relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.
Additionally, the Court ORDERS that within 30 days from the entry date of this
Memorandum Opinion and Order, Plaintiff may file an amended complaint to name as
Defendant(s) in their individual capacities any person(s) whom he alleges violated his
constitutional rights by deliberate indifference to his serious medical condition.
The Court DIRECTS the Clerk of Court to place this case number and “Amended” on a
§ 1983 complaint form and send it, along with four blank summons forms, to Plaintiff for his use
should he wish to amend the complaint.
The Court WARNS Plaintiff that failure to amend his complaint as instructed within the
30-day period may result in dismissal of this lawsuit for the reasons set forth in this
Memorandum Opinion and Order.
September 8, 2021
Plaintiff, pro se
Jefferson County Attorney
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