Fountain v. St. Mary's Hospital Saginaw
OPINION and ORDER of Summary Judgment: the Court dismisses with prejudice the civil rights complaint. The Court further concludes that an appeal from this decision cannot be taken in good faith. Signed by District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow. (McColley, N)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
SHANE D. FOUNTAIN, #586396,
CASE NO. 2:21-CV-12053
HONORABLE ARTHUR J. TARNOW
ST. MARY’S HOSPITAL SAGINAW,
OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL
This is a pro se civil rights case brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his
complaint, Michigan prisoner Shane D. Fountain (“Plaintiff”) contests the medical care
that he received at St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan following a prison assault
on September 10, 2021. He alleges violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment
rights, as well as state law claims of assault and battery and negligence. He names the
hospital as the defendant in this action and sues the hospital in its official and individual
capacities seeking a declaratory judgment and monetary damages. ECF No. 1, PageID.14. The Court has granted Plaintiff leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee
for this action. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).
II. LEGAL STANDARDS
Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”), the Court is required
to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service on a defendant if it
determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from
such relief. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Court is similarly
required to dismiss a complaint seeking redress against government entities, officers, and
employees which it finds to be 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. A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis
in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490
U.S. 319, 325 (1989).
A pro se civil rights complaint is to be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Nonetheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires that
a complaint set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief,” as well as “a demand for the relief sought.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), (3).
The purpose of this rule is to “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(citation omitted). While this notice pleading standard does not require “detailed” factual
allegations, it does require more than the bare assertion of legal principles or conclusions.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the defendantunlawfully-harmed me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “A
pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of
a cause of action will not do.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Nor does a
complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
To state a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that:
(1) he or she was deprived of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the federal
Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person
acting under color of state law. Flagg Bros. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155-57 (1978);
Harris v. Circleville, 583 F.3d 356, 364 (6th Cir. 2009). A plaintiff must also allege that
the deprivation of rights was intentional. Davidson v. Cannon, 474 U.S. 344, 348 (1986);
Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 333-36 (1986). A pro se civil rights complaint is to be
construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Despite this liberal
pleading standard, the Court finds that the complaint is subject to dismissal.
Plaintiff’s complaint is subject to dismissal for several reasons. First, St. Mary’s
Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan is a private entity and likely not a “state actor” subject to
suit under § 1983. See Scott v. Ambani, 577 F.3d 642, 649 (6th Cir. 2009) (hospital
oncologist who treated prisoner was not a state actor because there was no contractual
relationship between the doctor and the State); Styles v. McGinnis, 28 F. App’x 362, 364
(6th Cir. 2001) (emergency room physician who treated prisoner was not a state actor);
accord Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Svs., 577 F.3d 816, 827-28, 831 (7th Cir.
2009). “Private parties do not automatically become state actors simply by caring for
prisoners.” Phillips v. Tangilag, _ F.4th _, 2021 WL 4237164, *4 (6th Cir. Sept. 17,
2021) (discussing standards). Plaintiff alleges no facts which indicate that the Michigan
Department of Corrections contracts with the hospital or otherwise had any influence
over the care that he received at the hospital due to his prisoner status. The “mere fact
that a hospital is licensed by the State is insufficient to transform it into a state actor for
purposes of § 1983.” Kottmyer v. Maas, 436 F.3d 684, 688 (6th Cir. 2006). Plaintiff thus
fails to allege facts showing that St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw is a state actor subject to
suit under § 1983.
Second, even assuming that St. Mary’s Hospital is a state actor, Plaintiff fails to
allege facts demonstrating the personal involvement of that entity in the conduct giving
rise to his complaint. It is well-settled that a civil rights plaintiff must allege the personal
involvement of a defendant to state a claim under § 1983 and that liability cannot be
based upon a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. See Monell v.
Department of Social Svs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 (1978); Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484,
495 (6th Cir. 2009); see also Taylor v. Michigan Dep’t of Corr., 69 F.3d 716, 727-28 (6th
Cir. 1995) (plaintiff must allege facts showing that the defendant participated, condoned,
encouraged, or knowingly acquiesced in alleged misconduct to establish liability).
Plaintiff’s suit against the hospital appears to solely be based upon a theory of respondeat
superior because he only challenges the care that he received by the treating physician.
Any assertion that the hospital failed to supervise an employee, should be vicariously
liable for an employee’s conduct, and/or did not sufficiently respond to the situation is
insufficient to state a claim under § 1983. See Shehee v. Luttrell, 199 F.3d 295, 300 (6th
Cir. 1999); see also Martin v. Harvey, 14 F. App’x 307, 309 (6th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff
does not allege facts which show that any injury he suffered is the result of any hospital
policy or regulation, or that any improper conduct arose from the deliberate failure to
adequately investigate, train, or regulate employees. See Ellis v. Cleveland Mun. Sch.
Dist., 455 F.3d 690, 700 (6th Cir. 2006) (setting forth three-part test for such claims).
Third, Plaintiff fails to allege facts showing that the hospital (or the treating
physician) acted with the requisite intent so as to state an Eighth Amendment claim. The
United States Supreme Court has held that “deliberate indifference to serious medical
needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain proscribed by
the Eighth Amendment.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). When a prisoner
receives some medical care but challenges the adequacy of that care, as here, a prisoner
must allege facts showing that the care is “so grossly incompetent” or so grossly
“inadequate” as to “shock the conscience” or “be intolerable to fundamental fairness.”
Phillips, 2021 WL 4237164 at *5 (citing Rhinehart v. Scutt, 894 F.3d 721, 737 (6th Cir.
2018)). Plaintiff alleges no such facts. Rather, he admits that the treating physician
cleaned his lacerations, removed a small piece of fence from one of them, and stitched
him up after examining him, but complains that the treating physician did not examine
his neck or take an X-ray or MRI even though he complained of neck pain. Plaintiff does
not indicate what injury, if any, he continues to suffer. ECF No. 1, PageID.3.
While Plaintiff may disagree with the testing and/or treatment provided, he does
not allege facts which show that the hospital (or treating physician) acted
unconstitutionally. See Jennings v. Al–Dabagh, 97 F. App’x 548, 550 (6th Cir. 2004)
(prisoner’s own opinion that his care was substandard or that he was not given treatment
he requested raises a medical malpractice claim, not constitutionally defective medical
care). Decisions about whether to order additional diagnostic tests or treatment are
classic examples of the exercise of medical judgment and do not constitute cruel and
unusual punishment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 107. Plaintiff’s allegations do not indicate that
the hospital (or treating physician) acted with deliberate indifference or provided care that
was so grossly incompetent or inadequate as to shock the conscience or be intolerable to
fundamental fairness. At best, his allegations amount to a claim of malpractice or
negligence. Medical malpractice, however, does not violate the Eighth Amendment,
Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106 (“Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation
merely because the victim is a prisoner.”); Darrah v. Krisher, 865 F.3d 361, 372 (6th Cir.
2017) (“As a general rule, a patient’s disagreement with his physicians over the proper
course of treatment alleges, at most, a medical-malpractice claim, which is not cognizable
under § 1983.”), and allegations of negligence are insufficient to state a claim under §
1983. Collins v. City of Harker Hgts., 503 U.S. 115, 127-28 (1992); Lewellen v.
Metropolitan Gov’t. of Nashville & Davidson Co., Tenn., 34 F.3d 345, 348 (6th Cir.
Fourth, to the extent that Plaintiff complains of excessive use of force or
confinement in segregation, he fails to provide any details for those claims, fails to allege
supporting facts, and fails to indicate how the hospital is liable for any such conduct.
Conclusory allegations are insufficient to state a claim under § 1983. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-57; Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 588 (1998);
Moldowan v. City of Warren, 578 F.3d 351, 390-91 (6th Cir. 2009). Plaintiff thus fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in his pleadings
and his complaint must be dismissed.
Lastly, the Court notes that any allegations of medical malpractice, negligence, or
assault and battery, while perhaps actionable under Michigan law, do not provide a basis
for relief under § 1983. See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 924 (1982)
(claims under § 1983 can only be brought for “deprivation of rights secured by the
constitution and laws of the United States.”). Section 1983 does not provide redress for
violations of state law. Pyles v. Raisor, 60 F.3d 1211, 1215 (6th Cir. 1995).
Consequently, any state law claims are dismissed without prejudice to those claims being
brought in state court. The Court declines to exercise pendant jurisdiction over any state
For the reasons stated, the Court concludes that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in his complaint. Accordingly, the
Court dismisses with prejudice the civil rights complaint. The Court further concludes
that an appeal from this decision cannot be taken in good faith. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a)(3); Coppedge v. United States, 369 U.S. 438, 445 (1962).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Arthur J. Tarnow
ARTHUR J. TARNOW
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: October 4, 2021
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