Anthony v. Lamar County et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 6 Motion for Judgment on Pleadings; granting 8 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The Court dismisses Plaintiff's state-law claims against Defendants Lamar County and Danny Rigel in both his official and individual capacities. The Court orders Plaintiff to file a reply tailored to answer Defendant's assertion of qualified immunity no later than November 2, 2017. Signed by District Judge Keith Starrett on 10/19/2017 (cb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:17-CV-131-KS-MTP
LAMAR COUNTY, et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
For the reasons below, the Court grants Defendants’ Motions for Judgment on
the Pleadings [6, 8].
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants forced him to work on a Lamar County garbage
truck without training or remuneration while he was a pretrial detainee. In his words,
he “was used as an indentured servant . . . .” He alleges that an automobile struck and
severely injured him while he was working, causing the amputation of a leg, pain and
suffering, lost wage-earning capacity, lost wages, and medical bills. Finally, he alleges
that Defendants advised him while he was hospitalized that he was no longer in their
custody, and that they refused to pay for or provide medical care.
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Lamar County and Sheriff Danny Rigel in his
individual and official capacities. He asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging
that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. He may have also asserted claims
under state law, insofar as he alleged that Defendants violated specific Mississippi
statutes. Defendants filed two Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings [6, 8]. Plaintiff
did not respond to the motions, and they are ripe for the Court’s review.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A “motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is subject to the same
standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d
413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008). To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC v. La. State,
624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). “To be plausible, the
complaint’s factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. (punctuation omitted). The Court must “accept all well-pleaded
facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
Id. But the Court will not accept as true “conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual
inferences, or legal conclusions.” Id. Likewise, “a formulaic recitation of the elements
of a cause of action will not do.” PSKS, Inc. v. Leegin Creative Leather Prods., Inc., 615
F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). “While legal conclusions can
provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009).
III. MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AS TO STATE-LAW CLAIMS 
Defendants argue that any state-law tort claims asserted by Plaintiff are barred
by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). The MTCA codified the common-law
sovereign immunity of Mississippi and its political subdivisions. MISS. CODE ANN. § 1146-3(1). It “provides the exclusive remedy against a governmental entity or its
employees” under Mississippi law. Covington County Sch. Dist. v. Magee, 29 So. 3d 1,
4 (Miss. 2010). But the MTCA’s waiver of sovereign immunity is subject to certain
conditions, restrictions, and limitations.
Claims against Lamar County and Rigel in His Official Capacity
Notice of Claim
First, Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s tort claims are barred because he failed
to provide notice as required by the MTCA. The statute provides that “any person
having a claim under this chapter shall proceed as he might in any action at law or in
equity, except that at least ninety (90) days before instituting suit, the person must file
a notice of claim with the chief executive officer of the governmental entity.” MISS.
CODE ANN. § 11-46-11(1). The Mississippi Supreme Court “strictly applies the ninetyday-notice requirement . . . .” Gorton v. Rance, 52 So. 3d 351, 358 (Miss. 2011). It “is
a hard-edged, mandatory rule,” id., that applies “equally to cases in which no notice is
filed, notice is filed after the complaint, or the complaint is filed sooner than ninety
days after filing notice.” Brown v. Southwest Miss. Reg’l Med. Ctr., 989 So. 2d 933, 936
(Miss. Ct. App. 2008).
Here, Defendants represented in briefing that Plaintiff provided a notice of claim
on May 11, 2017.1 Therefore, pursuant to MISS. CODE ANN. § 11-46-11(1), he was not
allowed to file suit until August 9, 2017. However, he filed the Complaint on August
The record contains no copy of the notice of claim or affidavit concerning its
service. Likewise, Plaintiff did not plead any facts concerning service of the notice of
2, 2017 – before the ninety-day period had expired. Therefore, his state tort claims
against Lamar County and Sheriff Rigel in his official capacity are barred because he
failed to comply with the MTCA’s notice requirement.
Defendants also argue that Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the MTCA’s “inmate
exception,” which provides:
A governmental entity and its employees acting within the course
and scope of their employment or duties shall not be liable for any
Of any claimant who at the time the claim arises is an
inmate of any detention center, jail, workhouse, penal farm,
penitentiary or other such institution, regardless of whether
such claimant is or is not an inmate of any detention center,
jail, workhouse, penal farm, penitentiary or other such
institution when the claim is filed.
MISS. CODE ANN. § 11-46-9(1)(m). This exemption from the MTCA’s waiver of sovereign
immunity applies to both pretrial detainees and convicted inmates. See Liggans v.
Coahoma County Sheriff’s Dep’t, 823 So. 2d 1152, 1155 (Miss. 2002).
All of Plaintiff’s claims appear to arise from events which occurred while he was
a pretrial detainee and, therefore, an “inmate” within the meaning of MISS. CODE ANN.
§ 11-46-9(1)(m). In fact, Plaintiff specifically alleged that Defendants violated MISS.
CODE ANN. §§ 47-1-57 and 47-1-59, which both relate to the provision of medical care
to prisoners. Therefore, Plaintiff’s state-law tort claims against Lamar County and
Sheriff Rigel in his official capacity are barred by the MTCA’s “inmate exception.”
Claims against Rigel in His Individual Capacity
The MTCA provides that “no employee shall be held personally liable for acts or
omissions occurring within the course and scope of the employee’s duties.” MISS. CODE
ANN. § 11-46-7(2). Plaintiff alleged in his Complaint : “At all pertinent times,
Defendant Rigel was acting by virtues [sic] of his position as Sheriff of the Lamar
County Sheriff’s Department and acting under the color of law.” Therefore, Plaintiff’s
claims against Defendant Rigel in his individual capacity are barred by the MTCA.
IV. MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS AS TO FEDERAL CLAIMS 
Defendant Rigel argues that Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to satisfy
the heightened pleading standard which applies when a public official raises qualified
immunity as a defense. Accordingly, Rigel argues that the Court should require
Plaintiff to file a reply pursuant to Rule 7(a). See FED. R. CIV. P. 7(a)(7).
“The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability
for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory
or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S. Ct. 808, 172 L. Ed. 2d 565 (2009). “Although
nominally a defense, the plaintiff has the burden to negate the defense once properly
raised.” Poole v. Shreveport, 691 F.3d 624, 627 (5th Cir. 2012).
Qualified immunity can be raised at either the pleading or summary judgment
stage of litigation. When it is raised at the pleading stage, “[h]eightened pleading” is
required. Reyes v. Sazan, 168 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 1999). The plaintiff must provide
“allegations of fact focusing specifically on the conduct of the individual who caused the
plaintiffs’ injury.” Id. Plaintiffs must “rest their complaint on more than conclusions
alone and plead their case with precision and factual specificity.” Nunez v. Simms, 341
F.3d 385, 388 (5th Cir. 2003). In other words, a “plaintiff seeking to overcome qualified
immunity must plead specific facts that both allow the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the harm he has alleged and that defeat a
qualified immunity defense with equal specificity.” Backe v. Leblanc, 691 F.3d 645, 648
(5th Cir. 2012).
The plaintiff “cannot be allowed to rest on general characterizations, but must
speak to the factual particulars of the alleged actions, at least when those facts are
known to the plaintiff and are not peculiarly within the knowledge of defendants.”
Schultea v. Wood, 47 F.3d 1427, 1432 (5th Cir. 1995). If a plaintiff does not provide
sufficient factual detail as to an individual defendant, the Court “may, in its discretion,
insist that a plaintiff file a reply tailored to an answer pleading the defense of qualified
immunity.” Reyes, 168 F.3d at 161; see also Schultea, 47 F.3d at 1430-32.
Here, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Rigel was the Sheriff of Lamar County,
Mississippi, and that he was acting within the course and scope of his employment at
all relevant times. Complaint at 1, Anthony v. Lamar County, No. 2:17-CV-131-KSMTP (S.D. Miss. Aug. 2, 2017), ECF No. 1. Plaintiff alleged that Rigel’s “actions and
inactions” proximately caused his injuries. Id. at 3. But he did not plead any specific
facts concerning Rigel’s alleged actions and inactions, or his personal involvement in
the events surrounding his injury, beyond a general allegation that Lamar County,
through Rigel, “used and continue to use inmates to operate a garbage truck for the
benefit of Lamar County, Mississippi.” Id. at 2.
The Court orders Plaintiff to file a reply pursuant to Rule 7(a)(7) that specifically
addresses the “factual particulars” of Defendant Rigel’s alleged actions and inactions.
Schultea, 47 F.3d at 1432. Plaintiff must provide “allegations of fact focusing
specifically on” Rigel’s conduct. Reyes, 168 F.3d at 161. Plaintiff should allege sufficient
facts to raise a genuine issue of fact as to each of his claims against Defendant Rigel.
Plaintiff shall file the reply within two weeks of the entry of this order. Failure
to do so will be deemed purposeful delay and/or contumacious conduct which could
result in the dismissal of Plaintiff’s federal claims against Defendant Rigel without
For these reasons, the Court grants Defendants’ Motions for Judgment on the
Pleadings [6, 8]. Plaintiff’s state-law claims against Lamar County and Defendant
Danny Rigel in both his official and individual capacities are dismissed. The Court also
orders Plaintiff to file a Rule 7(a)(7) reply tailored to answer Defendant’s assertion of
qualified immunity within two weeks of the entry of this order – no later than
November 2, 2017.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this 19th day of October, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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