Hankins v. Russell et al
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 18 ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss [Doc. #18] is DENIED. Signed by District Judge Henry E. Autrey on 1/16/14. (CEL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
TERRY RUSSELL, et al.,
No. 4:13CV1999 HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Before the Court is defendant Terry Russell’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s
official capacity claims against him, brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant’s motion to dismiss will be denied.
Plaintiff filed this action in October of 2013, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging violations of his civil rights during his incarceration at Eastern Reception,
Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”). In his complaint, plaintiff makes
allegations against defendants Terry Russell (Warden), Corizon, Inc. (Medical
Service Provider), Tonya Long (Dentist), Marvin Bohnenkamp (Dentist) and Mark
Plaintiff states that he was denied proper dental care for a period of six years
as a result of a combination of defendants’ personal bad acts and deliberate
indifference to his serious medical needs, as well as their reliance on
unconstitutional “customs, practices and policies.” Plaintiff further asserts that
defendant Russell failed to train and properly supervise defendants regarding
plaintiff’s need for dental services. Plaintiff also brings this action against
Corizon, Inc., asserting that they were acting according to an unconstitutional
policy in denying proper dental care.
In the instant motion before the Court, defendant Terry Russell, Warden at
ERDCC, moves to dismiss plaintiff’s official capacity claims against him.
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim
tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint so as to eliminate claims “which are
fatally flawed in their legal premises ... thereby sparing litigants the burden of
unnecessary pretrial and trial activity.” Young v. City of St. Charles, 244 F.3d 623,
627 (8th Cir.2001) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326–27, 109 S.Ct.
1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state
a claim, a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations,” but it must
contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955,
167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). As the United States Supreme Court reiterated in
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868
(2009), “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements,” will not pass muster under Twombly.
Because this case is before the Court on a motion to dismiss, the Court
assumes all facts alleged in the complaint as true. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514
F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008). At this stage of the litigation, the Court finds that
plaintiff’s allegations against defendant Russell in his official capacity are
sufficient to withstand defendant Russell’s motion to dismiss.
Defendant Russell moves to dismiss the allegations against him in his
official capacity, asserting that naming a government official in his or her official
capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the
official, in this case the State of Missouri. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police,
491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). “[N]either a State nor its officials acting in their official
capacities are ‘persons’ under § 1983.” Id. As a result, defendant Russell claims
that plaintiff’s claims against him in his official capacity cannot survive.
Plaintiff asserts that, in addition to his individual claims against defendant
Russell, he has alleged a custom or policy claim against defendant Russell, as well
as a claim against him for failing to properly supervise, direct or control the actions
of the subordinates under him. See Pearl v. Dobbs, 649 F.2d 608, 609 (8th Cir.
Under a failure to train theory, a defendant may be liable for deficient
policies for training and supervising another defendant if (1) he had notice of the
inadequacies, (2) his failure to train in a relevant respect evidences a deliberate
indifference to the rights of others, and (3) the alleged deficiency in training
procedures actually caused plaintiff's injuries. See City of Canton v. Harris, 489
U.S. 378, 390 (1989); Larson by Larson v. Miller, 76 F.3d 1446, 1454 (8th
Under a “policy” or “custom” theory, an official may be liable for an official
policy, or an unofficial "custom" which caused a persistent widespread pattern of
unconstitutional conduct of which officials had notice and subsequently reacted
with deliberate indifference or tacit authorization. Mettler v Whitledge, 165 F.3d
1197, 1204 (8th Cir. 1999).
In several places in his complaint, plaintiff asserts that defendant Terry
Russell acted personally, as well as, pursuant to either a “policy, practice or
custom,” and “refus[ed] and/or delay[ed] providing serious necessary medical
treatment” to plaintiff with regard to his dental needs. Plaintiff also asserts in his
factual allegations the times he went to defendant Russell seeking review of the
denial of treatment, whether through personal conversations or through the IRR
and grievance process, defendant Russell was acting in supervisory authority when
he failed to intervene with the actions of the other defendants when they told
plaintiff that the denial of medical treatment was being done “per policy.”
The Court finds that the aforementioned facts adequately allege both failure
to supervise and unconstitutional policy/custom claims. As such, the Court must
deny defendant Russell’s motion to dismiss his official capacity claims.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that defendants’ motion to dismiss [Doc. #18]
Dated this 16th day of January, 2014.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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