Lyle v. Montgomery County, Tennessee et al
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION: For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned recommends that the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Pierce, Porter, Ritscher, Lee, Carter, Sparks and Vansciver (Docket No 42 ) be GRANTED, and that Plaintiff=s claims against these Defendants be DISMISSED in this action. Signed by Magistrate Judge Jeffery S. Frensley on 2/15/2017. (xc:Pro se party by regular and certified mail.)(DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(hb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
ROBERT DOUGLAS LYLE,
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, TENNESSEE,
ABL FOOD SERVICE, et al.,
Case No. 3:16-cv-00864
Judge Crenshaw / Frensley
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
I. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
This matter is before the Court upon a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Pierce,
Porter, Ritscher, Lee, Carter, Sparks and Vansciver. Docket No. 42. In support of that Motion,
Defendants have contemporaneously filed a Memorandum of Law. Docket No. 43.
Plaintiff has not responded to the instant Motion.
Plaintiff filed this pro se, in forma pauperis action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983
complaining about the conditions of his confinement at the Montgomery County Jail. Docket No.
1. Defendants filed the instant Motion and supporting Memorandum of Law arguing Plaintiff has
failed to state a claim against them for which relief can be granted on the grounds Plaintiff
“. . .
makes only sparse, non-meritorious allegations against the individually named defendants to the
lawsuit.” Docket No. 43. Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s failure to state a cognizable legal claim
against any of the Defendants in their individual capacity renders his allegations insufficient to
state a claim against them under Section 1983, such that Plaintiff’s claims against them should be
For the reasons set forth below the undersigned recommends that the Defendants’ Motion
to Dismiss (Docket No. 42) be GRANTED, that Plaintiff’s claims against Defendants, Pierce,
Porter, Ritscher, Lee, Carter, Sparks and Vansciver be DISMISSED, and that they be terminated as
Defendants in this action.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
A. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) provides that a claim may be dismissed for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a
complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all material elements to
sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory. Mezibov v. Allen, 411 F.3d 712, 716 (6th Cir.
2005). Conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations will not
suffice. Id. A complaint containing a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion of a
legally cognizable right of action is insufficient. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955,
1965 (2007). The A[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level@; they must Astate a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.@ Id. At 1965,
1974. See also, Ass=n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir.
Moreover, the United States Supreme Court has addressed the appropriate standard that
must be applied in considering a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). The Iqbal Court stated in part as follows:
Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a
court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is
inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of the cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice . . . . Rule 8
marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading
regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock the doors of discovery for plaintiff
armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a
plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss . . . . Determining whether a
complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed,
be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense. . . . But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit
the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged - but it has not Ashow[n]@ - Athat the pleader is entitled to relief.@
556 U.S. at 678-79 (citations omitted).
B. 42 U.S.C. ' 1983
Plaintiff alleges violations of his Eighth Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983.
See Docket No. 1. Section 1983 provides, in part, that:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction
thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in
equity, or other proper proceeding for redress...
Thus, in order to state a claim under ' 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right
secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged
deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S.
42, 48, 108 S. Ct. 2250, 2254-55 (1988), citing Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 101 S. Ct.
1908, 1913, 68 L. Ed. 2d 420 (1981) (overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474
U.S. 327, 330-331, 106 S. Ct. 662, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662 (1986)); Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S.
149, 155, 98 S. Ct. 1729, 1733, 56 L. Ed. 2d 185 (1978). The traditional definition of acting under
color of state law requires that the defendant in a ' 1983 action have exercised power Apossessed
by virtue of state law and made possible only because the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority
of state law.@ Id. at 49, 108 S. Ct. 2255, quoting United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 326, 61 S.
Ct. 1031, 1043, 85 L. Ed. 1368 (1941).
2. Eighth Amendment.
The Eighth Amendment provides that:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed,
nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
U.S. Const. amend. VIII.
The United States Supreme Court has held that the constitutional prohibition of Acruel and
unusual punishments@ forbids punishments that are incompatible with Athe evolving standards of
decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,@ or which Ainvolve the unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain.@ Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102-03, 97 S. Ct. 285, 290, 50 L. Ed.
2d 251 (1976) (citations omitted).
In order to establish an Eighth Amendment claim, an inmate must satisfy a two-prong test:
(1) the deprivation alleged must be objectively serious; and (2) the official responsible for the
deprivation must have exhibited deliberate indifference to the inmate=s health or safety. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 1977, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811 (1994).
3. Individual Liability.
To state a cognizable claim against an individual under Section 1983 “a plaintiff must set
forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under color of state law.”
Sigley Live v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F. 3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006). A person sued in their
individual capacity under Section 1983 can be held liable based only on their own
unconstitutional behavior. See Murphy v. Grenier, 406 Fed. Appx. 972, 974 (6th Cir. 2011)
(unpublished opinion) (“Personal involvement is necessary to establish section 1983 liability”);
see also Gibson v. Matthews, 926, F. 2d 532, 535 (6th Cir. 1991)(noting that personal liability
“must be based on the actions of that defendant in the situation that the defendant faced, and not
based on any problems caused by the errors of others, either defendants or non-defendants”).
The Case at Bar
The only allegation against Defendant Pierce is that “she oversees the food trays at the
jail.” Docket No. 1, p. 11. This allegation is contained in the section of the Complaint dealing
with Plaintiff’s claims regarding the actions of Defendant ABL, the food service provider at the
Montgomery County Jail, about the nutritional content of the food. There is nothing in and of
itself that is unconstitutional about overseeing the food trays and there is no allegation that
Defendant Pierce has any involvement, control or responsibility for the actions of ABL regarding
the nutritional content of the food served at the Montgomery County Jail. Because there are no
allegations against Defendant Pierce that she was responsible for the deprivation of a right
secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States or otherwise had any involvement in the
actions about which Plaintiff complains apart from a ministerial responsibility with the food
trays, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Defendant Pierce in her individual capacity and
therefore the undersigned recommends Defendant Pierce’s Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.
Defendants Porter, Vansciver and Sparks
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Porter, Vansciver and Sparks, “. . . are deputy’s (sic) that
work at the Montgomery County Jail that ‘participate’ in ‘gang bangging’[sic] hand shaking-with
“Black” inmates and in return get favors when “white” inmates do not! Like Montgomery
County- Jail Deputy “Mrs. Porter” work’s [sic] in laundry on 1st shift that’s over trustee workers
that- work’s in laundry and also deputy “Mrs. Vansciver that works on 2nd shift.” Docket No. 1,
p. 10. Plaintiff alleges Defendants Porter and Vansciver provide favors to inmates whose families
pay then on the “low”. Id. at p. 17. Defendant Sparks is in a category of deputies who allegedly
threaten inmates with lock downs and take away privileges such as visits and commissary. Id.
Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable legal claim against any of these Defendants. Although
Plaintiff does name these individuals in his complaint, there is no particularized account that tells
exactly what they did that is a violation of the Constitution or law. There is further no allegation
that any these individuals took any action directed toward Plaintiff. For these reasons, the
undersigned recommends that the Motion to Dismiss of Defendants Porter, Vansciver and Sparks
The only mention of Defendant Ritscher in the complaint is in a list of Defendants
alleging he oversees TDOC and county workers. Docket No. 1, p. 2. Because there are no factual
allegations alleging any constitutional deprivation by the Defendant Ritscher Plaintiff cannot
support a claim against him and therefore the undersigned recommends that Defendant Ritscher’s
Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.
Plaintiff complains that the Montgomery Court Jail places inmates on lock down prior to
providing them a hearing and only provides hearings upon request by the inmate. Docket No. 1,
pp. 18-19. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lee is the hearing officer. Id. at pp. 2, 19.
Beyond alleging he is the hearing officer, Plaintiff does not state any particular facts or
allege any wrongdoing by Defendant Lee. Plaintiff’s concerns appear to be with the policies and
procedures regarding rule violation hearings implemented by Defendant Montgomery County.
Because there is no specific allegation that Defendant Lee is responsible for the policies or
procedures or has otherwise acted in an unconstitutional manner the undersigned recommends
that Defendant Lee’s Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.
Plaintiff complains that the Montgomery County Jail houses Tennessee Department of
Correction state inmates but has no “institute parole officer” (“IPO”) or counselor to help inmates
in computing their sentences. Docket No. 1, p. 22. Plaintiff alleges Defendant Carter oversees all
TDOC time and parole and that she “knows nothing about being an IPO or counselor to inmates.”
Id at pp. 2, 22. As with the other Defendants addressed herein, Plaintiff merely identifies
Defendant Carter by her position and alleges no factual allegation of unconstitutional action by
this Defendant. The allegation that Defendant Carter is unqualified to do the job does not equate
to an unconstitutional act by Defendant Carter. Further, Plaintiff’s complaint that the
Montgomery County Jail does not provide TDOC inmates with adequate counselors and parole
officers is a claim against Montgomery County and not against Defendant Carter and would not
entitle him to any relief against Defendant Carter. For these reasons, the undersigned
recommends that Defendant Carter’s Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED.
For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned recommends that the Motion to Dismiss of
Defendants Pierce, Porter, Ritscher, Lee, Carter, Sparks and Vansciver (Docket No 42) be
GRANTED, and that Plaintiff=s claims against these Defendants be DISMISSED in this action.
Under Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, any party has fourteen (14) days
after service of this Report and Recommendation in which to file any written objections to this
Recommendation with the District Court. Any party opposing said objections shall have fourteen
(14) days after service of any objections filed to this Report in which to file any response to said
objections. Failure to file specific objections within fourteen (14) days of service of this Report
and Recommendation can constitute a waiver of further appeal of this Recommendation. See
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L. Ed. 2d 435 (1985), reh=g denied, 474 U.S. 1111
(1986); 28 U.S.C. ' 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72.
JEFFERY S. FRENSLEY
United States Magistrate Judge
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