Johnson v. Claud
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Senior Judge Thomas B. Russell on 12/04/2017. Plaintiff may amend his complaint as instructed within 30 days.cc: Plaintiff, pro se; Defendant; Calloway County Attorney (MNM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
JOSHUA BRYAN JOHNSON
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:17-CV-P173-TBR
JAILER KEN CLAUD
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Joshua Bryan Johnson, filed a pro se, in forma pauperis complaint pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A
and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by
Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199 (2007). For the reasons set forth below, the complaint will be
dismissed in part and allowed to continue in part, and Plaintiff will be afforded an opportunity to
I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
Plaintiff, a convicted inmate housed at the Calloway County Jail (CCJ), sues Jailer Ken
Claude in his official capacity. He alleges that during his nearly sixteen-month stay in CCJ he
has not been given medicine for his severe migraine headaches. He states that he cannot afford
to purchase over-the-counter medicine from the canteen and that “the nurse and staff here at
Calloway County Jail tell me to purchase them or don’t come to jail.” He states that he has filled
out “several med-call forms to try to get Tylenol or aspirin put on med care only to be treated
like my health means nothing to the jail.”
Plaintiff also alleges that Dr. Paulis has only seen him one time and that “the only thing
he did was take blood pressure. I am being denied proper medical care.”
Plaintiff next alleges that “the only incoming mail is in the form of postcard and the jail
makes a copy and throws the original copy away.” He also states that a “jailer can deny prisoner
to prisoner mail.” He states that the only form of mailing for outgoing mail is a postcard. He
alleges that this rule violates an inmate’s “right to a proper trial by writing this on a open
postcard where everyone can read.”
As relief, Plaintiff asks for monetary damages and “to fix the mailing procedures.”
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). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). The Court may, therefore,
dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where
the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Id. at 327. 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. Prater v. City of
Burnside, Ky., 289 F.3d 417, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). While a reviewing court must liberally
construe pro se pleadings, 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).
If an action is brought against an official of a governmental entity in his official capacity,
the suit should be construed as brought against the governmental entity. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of
State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Therefore, in the case at bar, Plaintiff’s claim against
Defendant Claud in his official capacity is actually brought against the Calloway County
government. See Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994).
When a § 1983 claim is made against a municipality, like Calloway County, a 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 is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City
of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). The Court will address the issues in reverse
“[A] municipality 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. New York City Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978) (emphasis in original);
Searcy v. City of Dayton, 38 F.3d 282, 286 (6th Cir. 1994); Berry v. City of Detroit, 25 F.3d
1342, 1345 (6th Cir. 1994). “[T]he touchstone of ‘official policy’ is designed ‘to distinguish acts
of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, and thereby make clear that
municipal liability is limited to action for which the municipality is actually responsible.’” City
of St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 138 (1988) (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S.
469, 479-80 (1986)) (emphasis in Pembaur).
A municipality cannot be held responsible for a constitutional deprivation unless there is
a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional
deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Deaton v. Montgomery Cty., Ohio, 989 F.2d 885, 889
(6th Cir. 1993). Simply stated, the plaintiff must “identify the policy, connect the policy to the
city itself and show that the particular injury was incurred because of the execution of that
policy.” Garner v. Memphis Police Dep’t, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993) (quoting Coogan v.
City of Wixom, 820 F.2d 170, 176 (6th Cir. 1987), overruled on other grounds, Frantz v. Vill. of
Bradford, 245 F.3d 869 (6th Cir. 2001)). The policy or custom “must be ‘the moving force of
the constitutional violation’ in order to establish the liability of a government body under
§ 1983.” Searcy, 38 F.3d at 286 (quoting Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 326 (1981)
(citation omitted)); Bd. of Cty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cty., Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404 (1997)
(indicating that plaintiff must demonstrate “deliberate conduct”).
Here, the Court finds that Plaintiff has alleged a policy or custom that is the moving force
behind his alleged inability to obtain medication for his migraines and regarding the postal
restrictions he outlines in his complaint. The Court further finds that the allegations regarding
the lack of medication and the postal restrictions state constitutional claims. Because Plaintiff
has alleged constitutional violations due to a custom or policy of CCJ regarding his inability to
obtain medication and regarding the postal restrictions, the Court will allow those claims to
continue. In doing so, the Court offers no opinion on their ultimate merit.
The Court interprets Plaintiff’s allegations that Dr. Paulis has only seen him one time,
that the only treatment Dr. Paulis gave him was to take his blood pressure, and that he is “being
denied proper medical care” to be an Eighth Amendment claim of deliberate indifference to his
serious medical needs. The Court finds that Plaintiff does not allege a policy or custom behind
his claim that he did not receive adequate medical attention from Dr. Paulis or others. Therefore,
his official-capacity claim for this allegation cannot continue. It will be dismissed, but Plaintiff
will be given an opportunity to amend his complaint to name in their individual capacities the
Defendant(s) responsible for the alleged denial of medical treatment. See LaFountain v. Harry,
716 F.3d 944 (6th Cir. 2013) (a district court may allow a prisoner to amend a complaint to avoid
sua sponte dismissal under the Prison Litigation Reform Act).
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS ORDERED that the § 1983 claim against Defendant Claud for failing to provide
medical treatment in his official capacity is DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(l)
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff may amend his complaint as instructed in this
Memorandum Opinion and Order within 30 days. That is, Plaintiff may amend his complaint to
name individuals he alleges failed to provide proper medical care for his migraine headaches in
their individual capacities.
The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to send to Plaintiff a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint
form with this case number and the word “Amended” written thereon along with three blank
summons forms. Should Plaintiff file an amended complaint, the Court will conduct an initial
review of Plaintiff’s amended complaint pursuant to § 1915A.
After the time period in which Plaintiff may amend his complaint has passed, the Court
will enter a separate Order Directing Service and Scheduling Order to govern the development of
the remaining claims.
December 4, 2017
Plaintiff, pro se
Calloway County Attorney
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