Lee v. Winston County, MS et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION re 92 Order on Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Senior Judge Glen H. Davidson on 9/11/2014. (dlh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
GENETTLE T. GATSON, Individually
as Heir of James Lee and as Administratrix
of the Estate of James Lee; MARCUS GORE,
Individually as Heir of James Lee; DERRICK J.
GATSON, Individually as Heir of James Lee; and
OPELEAN LEE, Individually as Heir of James Lee
CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:12-cv-00240-GHD-DAS
CITY OF LOUISVILLE, MISSISSIPPI
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING
DEFENDANT CITY OF LOUISVILLE. MISSISSIPPI'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment  filed by Defendant
City of Louisville, Mississippi. Upon due consideration, the Court finds that the motion should
A. Factual and Procedural Background
Plaintiffs Genettle T. Gatson, Marcus Gore, Derrick J. Gatson, and Opelean Lee
("Plaintiffs") bring this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendant the City of Louisville,
Mississippi (the "City,,).l Plaintiffs seek damages in connection with the death of the Decedent
James Lee (the "Decedent").
I Plaintiffs also initially filed this suit against the following Defendants: Winston County, Mississippi;
Sheriff Jason Pugh, in his individual and official capacity as Sheriff of Winston County; Warden Tim Palmer, in his
individual and official capacity as Warden of the Winston-Choctaw CountylRegional Correctional Facility; Nurse
Lynn White, in her individual and official capacity as an employee of the Winston-Choctaw CountylRegional
Correctional Facility; L.M. Claiborne, Jr., in his individual and professional capacity as the Chief of Police, City of
Louisville; Wexford Health Sources, Incorporated; and various John and Jane Does. On March 19,2013, the parties
agreed to dismiss L.M. Claiborne, Jr. as a Defendant. See Stipulation of Dismissal  of Chief Claiborne.
Subsequently, on April 26, 2013, the parties agreed to dismiss Wexford Health Sources, Incorporated as a
Defendant. See Agreed Order of Dismissal  of Wexford. On February 14, 2014, the Court entered an Order
 and memorandum opinion  dismissing Defendants Winston County, Mississippi; Sheriff Jason Pugh;
The following facts are not in dispute. The Decedent was incarcerated at the WinstonChoctaw CountylRegional Correctional Facility (the "WCCRCF") for unpaid fines and/or
misdemeanor reasons from October 4, 2011 through December 6, 2011. The WCCRCF has in
place a sick-call procedure, which inmates and detainees can use for medical treatment. During
the Decedent's subject two-month incarceration, he submitted at least twelve sick-call requests.
On November 25, 2013, the Decedent complained of hemorrhoids and rectal bleeding. The
Decedent was given hemorrhoid treatment and Tylenol. The Decedent subsequently saw a
medical doctor at the WCCRCF who recommended intravenous antibiotics and surgery. On
December 6, 2011, the Decedent was released from custody. On July 16, 2013, the Decedent
Plaintiffs allege that the City "has a policy of allowing a non court official being the
Chief of Police and/or Assistant Chief of Police to determine whether jail or payment
arrangements are made regarding fines"; that "[t]he [Decedent] was denied payment
arrangements"; and "Plaintiff was ordered to jail by the City." PIs.' Compl. 
aver that during the Decedent's subject incarceration he was subjected to deliberate indifference
to his medical needs, "in accordance with the City['s] customs and procedures." Id.
Plaintiffs allege that the City is liable since the alleged acts were carried out "pursuant to a policy
or custom of the City of Louisville and in conspiracy with the County of Winston, Mississippi, as
said policy or custom of refusing medical treatment . . . was moving force behind the
constitutional violations," and that the City is "the proximate cause of said deliberate
23. Plaintiffs aver that as a result of the alleged deliberate indifference, the
Decedent underwent multiple surgeries, including one to remove his colon, and eventually died
Warden Tim Palmer; and Nurse Lynn White as qualifiedly immune from suit. The sole Defendant remaining in the
case is the City of Louisville, Mississippi.
after being transported to the hospital. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages, punitive damages,
and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).
In the Court's February 14, 2014 Order  and memorandum opinion  dismissing
the claims against the other Defendants based on the doctrine of qualified immunity, the Court
lifted the stay on merits-discovery, which had been imposed while qualified-immunity issues
were pending. Seven days later, on February 21, 2014, the City filed the present motion for
summary judgment , arguing that summary judgment is proper on the remaining claims
because of the Court's rulings on the qualified-immunity issues, particularly the Court's ruling
that Plaintiffs had failed to show deliberate indifference on the part of the other Defendants.
Plaintiffs filed a response to the motion, and the City filed a reply. The matter is now ripe for
B. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure
materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986). See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a); Weaver v.
CCA Indus., Inc., 529 F.3d 335, 339 (5th Cir. 2008). The rule "mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a
sufficient showing to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on
which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.
The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing the
Court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See id. at 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548.
Under Rule 56(a), the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to "go beyond the pleadings and by ..
. affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate
'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.''' Id. at 324, 106 S. Ct. 2548;
Littlefield v. Forney Indep. Sch. Dist., 268 F.3d 275, 282 (5th Cir. 2001); Willis v. Roche
Biomedical Labs., Inc., 61 F.3d 313,315 (5th Cir. 1995).
Where the parties dispute the facts, the Court must view the facts and draw reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.
Ct. 1769, 167 L. Ed. 2d 686 (2007). "However, a nonmovant may not overcome the summary
judgment standard with conclusional allegations, unsupported assertions, or presentation of only
a scintilla of evidence." McClure v. Boles, 490 F. App'x 666, 667 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam)
(citing Hathaway v. Bazany, 507 F.3d 312, 319 (5th Cir. 2007)).
C. Analysis and Discussion
As stated above, Plaintiffs' claims against the City are brought pursuant to § 1983.
"Section 1983 provides a cause of action against any person who deprives an individual of
federally guaranteed rights 'under color' of state law." Filarsky v. Delia, - - U.S. - - , - - ,
132 S. Ct. 1657, 1661, 182 L. Ed. 2d 662 (2012) (quoting § 1983). "Anyone whose conduct is
'fairly attributable to the state' can be sued as a state actor under § 1983." See id.; see also
Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937, 102 S. Ct. 2744, 73 L. Ed. 2d 482 (1982). "A
municipality or other local government may be liable under this section if the governmental body
itself 'subjects' a person to a deprivation of rights or 'causes' a person 'to be subjected' to such
deprivation." Connick v. Thompson, - - U.S. - - , - - , 131 S. Ct. 1350, 1359, 179 L. Ed.
2d 417 (2011); see Monell v. N. Y. City Dep'l ofSoc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 692, 98 S. Ct. 2018,
56 L. Ed. 2d 611 (1978). However, "under § 1983, local governments are responsible only for
'their own illegal acts,' " Connick, 131 S. Ct. at 1359 (quoting Pembaur v. Cincinnati, 475 U.S.
469, 479, 106 S. Ct. 1292, 89 L. Ed. 2d 452 (1986) (emphasis in original»; local governments
"are not vicariously liable under § 1983 for their employees' actions," id.
Plaintiffs assert that the City failed to establish and implement policies, practices, and
procedures to assure adequate delivery of medical care to the Decedent; that the alleged actions
were carried out pursuant to the City's unconstitutional policy or custom of refusing medical
treatment and in conspiracy with Winston County; that this policy was the moving force behind
the alleged constitutional violations; and that the City failed to train or supervise its staff on how
to provide the delivery of medical care to inmates, including the Decedent. See PIs.' Compl. 
The City argues that based on the Court's February 14, 2014 grant of summary judgment
to the other Defendants on the basis of qualified immunity, and specifically, based on the Court's
finding that Plaintiffs failed to make out a constitutional violation, there can be no policy or
custom of the City that led to a deprivation of the Decedent's constitutional rights. Plaintiffs
argue that the City's motion for summary judgment is premature and that merits-discovery is
needed for Plaintiffs to respond to the City's motion. However, the Court finds that merits
discovery would be futile, as Plaintiffs cannot establish a viable claim against the City.
a. Claims of Unconstitutional Policy or Inadequate Policy
In order for the City to be liable under § 1983, Plaintiffs must establish deliberate
indifference by reference to an official custom or policy. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91,694,
98 S. Ct. 2018; see also City o/Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823, 105 S. Ct. 2427, 85
L. Ed. 2d 791 (1985) ("[T]here must be an affirmative link: between the policy and the particular
constitutional violation alleged.").
"Official municipal policy includes the decisions of a
government's lawmakers, the acts of its policymaking officials, and practices so persistent and
widespread as to practically have the force of law." Connick, 131 S. Ct. at 1359. These are
"action[s] for which the municipality is actually responsible." Pembaur, 475 U.S. at 479-80,
106 S. Ct. 1292; see Conner v. Travis County, Tex., 209 F.3d 794, 796 (5th Cir. 2000). Plaintiffs
must show either "(1) that the policy itself violated federal law or authorized or directed the
deprivation of federal rights or (2) that the policy was adopted or maintained by the
municipality's policymakers with deliberate indifference as to its known or obvious
consequences." Walker v. Upshaw, 515 F. App'x 334,339 (5th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting
Johnson v. Deep E. Tex. Reg'l Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, 379 F.3d 293, 309 (5th Cir.
2004) (in tum quoting Bd. of Comm 'rs ofBryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 423, 117 S. Ct.
1382, 137 L. Ed. 2d 626 (1997»).
The failure to establish or implement necessary policies, practices, and procedures can
constitute a "policy or custom" for purposes of a Monell § 1983 suit, but only if that failure
causes a constitutional violation. See Collins v. City ofHarker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 123
24, 112 S. Ct. 1061, 117 L. Ed. 2d 261 (1992); City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378,
388, 109 S. Ct. 1197, 103 L. Ed. 2d 412 (1989). In those situations, plaintiffs generally must
allege a pattern or series of incidents of unconstitutional conduct or a clear constitutional duty to
take action because the situation was certain to recur. In addition, the inaction must amount to
deliberate indifference, so that it is fair to infer that the inaction is itself a "policy." See Canton,
489 U.S. at 389, 109 S. Ct. at 1205.
Plaintiffs have failed to adequately allege the existence of a City policy that violated
federal law or directed the deprivation of federal rights or that a policy was adopted by
policymakers with deliberate indifference to its known consequences. Plaintiffs have also failed
to demonstrate that any underlying constitutional violation occurred in this case. Plaintiffs'
claims against the City are premised on the claim that the Decedent received constitutionally
inadequate medical treatment. As discussed at length in the Court's prior memorandum opinion
 ruling on the other Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and here included by
reference, Plaintiffs have failed to establish a constitutional problem with the Decedent's medical
treatment, and thus have not shown that the Decedent suffered actionable injury from the alleged
inadequate policy Plaintiffs attribute to the City policymakers. Instead, the summary judgment
evidence shows that the Decedent received competent medical treatment for his medical
condition during his subject incarceration.
Plaintiffs also have presented no evidence that the policy or lack thereof creates a serious
risk of physical harm to inmates, much less that the City policymakers knew of such a risk but
Plaintiffs have presented no evidence that the WCCRCF's policy on inmate
medical care violated federal law or authorized or directed the deprivation of federal rights; nor
have they presented evidence that the WCCRCF in any way failed to adopt policy that would
ensure the delivery of medical care to inmates, including the Decedent. Similarly, Plaintiffs have
not presented evidence that the WCCRCF's policy on inmate medical care was adopted or
maintained by the municipality's policymakers with deliberate indifference as to its known or
Further, as stated in the Court's prior memorandum OpInIOn , Plaintiffs' vague
allegations of a conspiracy between the City and Winston County to enforce unconstitutional
City policy to refuse medical treatment are not sufficient to make out a § 1983 conspiracy claim.
Importantly, Plaintiffs have not alleged an agreement between the City and Winston County to
enforce City policy that violated the Decedent's constitutional rights. "A plaintiff must 'allege
specific facts to show an agreement.' " Tebo v. Tebo, 550 F.3d 492,496 (5th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Priester v. Lowndes County, Miss., 354 F.3d 414, 420 (5th Cir. 2004)). Therefore, Plaintiffs also
do not have a viable § 1983 conspiracy claim.
b. Supervisory Liability
Finally, Plaintiffs assert a claim that the City failed to provide adequate supervision and
security and failed to train and manage, or improperly trained and managed, their agents, servant,
and employees to assure adequate delivery of medical care to the Decedent.
The Supreme Court has stated:
In limited circumstances, a local government's decision not to train
certain employees about their legal duty to avoid violating citizens'
rights may rise to the level of an official government policy for
purposes of § 1983. A municipality's culpability for a deprivation
of rights is at its most tenuous where a claim turns on a failure to
train. See Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 822-23, 105 S.
Ct. 2427, 85 L. Ed. 2d 791 (1985) (plurality opinion) ("[A]
'policy' of 'inadequate training' " is "far more nebulous, and a
good deal further removed from the constitutional violation, than
was the policy in Monelr). To satisfy the statute, a municipality's
failure to train its employees in a relevant respect must amount to
"deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the
[untrained employees] come into contact." Canton, 489 U.S. at
388, 109 S. Ct. 1197. Only then "can such a shortcoming be
properly thought of as a city 'policy or custom' that is actionable
under § 1983." Id. at 389, 109 S. Ct. 1197.
Connick, 131 S. Ct. at 1359-1360. To prevail on such a claim, Plaintiffs must prove that "(1) the
official failed to train or supervise the correctional officers, (2) a causal link exists between the
failure to train or supervise and the alleged violation ofthe inmate's rights, and (3) the failure to
train or supervise amounted to deliberate indifference." Walker, 515 F. App'x at 339 (citing
Thompson v. Upshur County, Tex., 245 F.3d 447, 459 (5th Cir. 2001) (in turn citing Smith v.
Brenoettsy, 158 F.3d 908, 911-12 (5th Cir. 1998))).
Any claim that the City failed to train or supervise staff to provide medical care to
inmates including the Decedent is conclusory and not supported by evidence. Plaintiffs have not
put forth evidence showing that the City knew of and disregarded conditions posing a risk of
serious harm to the Decedent. Silva v. Moses, 542 F. App'x 308, 311 (5th Cir. 2013) (per
curiam) (citing Roberts v. City a/Shreveport, La., 397 F.3d 287, 292 (5th Cir. 2005».
Moreover, because Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts showing a violation of the
Decedent's constitutional rights by the City, that is, deliberate indifference to the Decedent's
serious medical needs, Plaintiffs concomitantly have failed to allege facts showing liability on
the parts of the City for their alleged failure to supervise or train staff. See Roberts, 397 F.3d at
292. Therefore, the City cannot be liable on a failure-to-train-or-supervise claim. See Corring v.
Pearl River County, Miss., 550 F. App'x 204,205 (5th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (citing Hare, 74
F.3d at 649 n.4). Accordingly, Plaintiffs have failed to adequately allege a viable claim against
In sum, the Defendant City of Louisville, Mississippi's motion for summary judgment
 is GRANTED; all claims against Defendant the City of Louisville, Mississippi are
DISMISSED; and this case is CLOSED.
A separate ord~ accordance with this opinion shall issue this day.
THIS, the ~d;;' of September, 2014.
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