Thomas v. Fayette County et al
ORDER ADOPTING DE 32 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re DE 26 Partial Motion to Dismiss signed by Judge John T. Fowlkes, Jr. on 6/9/2017. (Fowlkes, J.)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
FAYETTE COUNTY, et. al,
ORDER ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION FOR PARTIAL DISMISSAL
Before the Court is the Defendants Fayette County, Tennessee and Sheriff Bobby Riles’
Partial Motion to Dismiss that was filed on March 14, 2017. (ECF No. 26). All pretrial matters
have been referred to the United States Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation or
determination pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e)(2)(B) and W. D. Tenn. LR 4.1(b)(2). (Admin.
Order 2013-05). On May 12, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a report and recommendation
on the Defendant’s Partial Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 32). On May 23, 2017, Plaintiff filed
timely objections to the report and recommendation to which the Defendants filed an opposing
response on May 30, 2017. (ECF Nos. 34 & 40).
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A United States District Judge may refer certain dispositive pretrial motions to a United
States Magistrate Judge for submission of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C); Brown v. Wesley Quaker Maid, Inc., 771 F.2d
952, 957 (6th Cir. 1985). While most actions by a Magistrate Judge are reviewed for clear error,
dispositive recommendations to the District Court Judge are reviewed de novo. Thomas v. Arn,
474 U.S. 140, 141-42 (1985).
A District Court Judge shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report
or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. Although, the
District Judge may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge, the judge may also receive further evidence or
recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. Also, de novo review is not
required when the objections to the report and recommendation are frivolous, conclusive or
general. See 28 U.S.C. §636 (b)(1)(B) and (C); Fed. Rule Civ. P. 72(b); Baker v. Peterson, 67
Fed. App’x 308, 311 (6th Cir. 2003); Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986).
III. FACTUAL HISTORY
The Magistrate Judge has issued two reports and recommendations in this case thus far.
The initial report and recommendation included an extensive summary of the factual history of
this case. (ECF No. 12). The last report and recommendation provides a succinct description of
the remaining claims in this matter along with an updated procedural history. (ECF No. 32, p.
2). Plaintiff has submitted objections that do not challenge any of the proposed findings of fact
within the report and recommendation. Therefore, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s
proposed findings of fact.
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Defendants assert that the official capacity
claims against Sheriff Riles should be dismissed as redundant, due to claims against Fayette
County. Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). The Defendants also argue that
the individual capacity claim against Sheriff Riles for failure to provide medical treatment as
required under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 should be dismissed. The Defendants assert that Plaintiff failed
to plead with particularity acts that show deliberate indifference rising to criminal recklessness.
(ECF No. 26-1, pp. 3-7). Brooks v. Celeste, 39 F.3d 125 (6th Cir. 1994).
While noting that pro se complaints are construed more liberally than pleadings drafted
by lawyers, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant the Defendant’s Partial
Motion to Dismiss all claims against Sheriff Riles in both his individual and official capacities.
The Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against Sheriff Riles in his official
capacity should be dismissed because a § 1983 claim against a government official is tantamount
to an action against a governmental entity or in this case, Fayette County. 1 (ECF No. 32, pp. 67). See Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 54
(1978) (Normally, a suit under § 1983 should be brought against either the local public official in
his individual capacity and the local government which employs him); Leach v. Shelby County
Sheriff, 891 F.2d 1241, 1244-45 (6th Cir. 1989); and Foster v. Michigan, 573 F. Appx 377, 390
(6th Cir. 2014). Plaintiff’s objections only generally refer to her claim against Sheriff Riles in his
official capacity by describing the County’s motion to dismiss this claim as “twisted statements.”
Plaintiff has failed to provide any legal support or specific objections to the Magistrate Judge’s
report and recommendation on this issue. Therefore, the Court overrules Plaintiff’s objection
and adopts the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation to dismiss claims against Sheriff Riles in his
The Magistrate Judge also clarified that the official capacity claims against Sheriff Riles should have been
dismissed in the initial screening report and recommendation. Inadvertently, the report and recommendation
ultimately misstated the recommendation to dismiss the official capacity claim against Sheriff Riles. Similarly, the
undersigned Court adopted the first report and recommendation and mistakenly overlooked dismissing the official
capacity claim against Sheriff Riles at that stage in the proceedings. (ECF No. 32, p. 7).
With reference to Plaintiff’s individual capacity claim against Sheriff Riles for deliberate
indifference to her serious medical needs, the Magistrate Judge clarified that in order to sustain
this claim, a plaintiff must establish that the prison official intentionally denied or delayed access
to medical care for a serious need under both an objective and subjective component. Blackmore
v. Kalamazoo County, 390 F.3d 890, 895 (6th Cir. 2004)(quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1994)). The Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff has satisfied the objective
component. (ECF No. 32, pp. 7-8).
In the complaint, Plaintiff sufficiently alleges serious
medical conditions of atrial fibrillation, thyroid cancer, high blood pressure, and eye surgery on
the day prior to her detention at the Fayette County jail. She also alleged that during her
incarceration, she was denied the daily prescribed medications for these conditions. (ECF No. 1,
pp. 13-14, 16-17). Accordingly, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s finding that
Plaintiff has satisfied the objective component of a deliberate indifference to serious medical
However, in order to establish a viable claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical
needs, a plaintiff must also satisfy the subjective component of this claim. This requirement is
met when the prison official: 1) knows and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health and
safety; and 2) is aware of facts from which an inference may be drawn that a substantial risk of
serious harm exists. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
Despite Thomas’ assertions in her response to the partial motion to dismiss, the Magistrate
Judge determined that she had failed to allege in her complaint that Sheriff Riles knew any facts
pertaining to her medical condition, participated in detaining and imprisoning her or personally
took an active role in denying her medical treatment. The Magistrate Judge also concluded there
were no facts showing that Sheriff Riles was even present at the Fayette County jail while
Thomas was incarcerated.
(ECF No. 32, p. 9). The Magistrate Judge noted that only one
paragraph in Count VII of the complaint referred to Sheriff Riles other than the general
allegations regarding his role as policy maker for the County. The Magistrate Judge concluded
that Plaintiff’s factual assertions that Sheriff Riles should have known his employees’
misconduct are insufficient to support a claim of subjective indifference to the Plaintiff’s serious
medical needs. Combs v. Wilkinson, 315 F.3d 548, 558 (6th Cir. 2002) (ECF No. 1, p. 19 &
ECF No. 32, pp. 9-10).
Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge’s findings that she failed to allege that Sheriff
Riles: 1) was present at the jail at any time during her incarceration; 2) participated in the alleged
events at the jail; 3) engaged in any affirmative acts related to Plaintiff’s alleged lack of medical
treatment; or 4) had any knowledge of or any role in providing or denying treatment to Plaintiff.
(ECF No. 34, pp. 3-4). The Defendants respond that Plaintiff merely recites allegations against
all detention officials without pointing to any specific acts of Sheriff Riles. (ECF No. 40, p. 4).
In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges:
Despite clear and unequivocal knowledge of The Plaintiff’s need
for medication, her delicate medical condition, the Defendants,
named and unnamed, with deliberate indifference did not initiate or
take proper precautions to protect The Plaintiff or to properly and
adequately monitor The Plaintiff’s physical health.
Defendants, and/or their employees and agents ignored The
Plaintiff’s symptoms and left her in the holding cell without further
monitoring and/or assistance.
From on or about October, 7, 2015 through October 9, 2015, The
Plaintiff had seizures accompanied by vomiting spells and
Defendants’ failure to monitor their correctional officers and
medical personnel to ensure that they adequately monitor and
supervise inmates who have serious medical needs;
Defendant Fayette County Jail and Sherriff [sic] Bobby Riles are
supervisory officials who knew, or in the exercise of reasonable
care, should have known that individual prison officials had
engaged in misconduct and other violations of the constitutional
rights of prison inmates at the Fayette County Jail, more
specifically The Plaintiff.
(ECF No. 1, pp. 10, 12-13, 15-19). The Court finds that Plaintiff’s complaint only indirectly ties
Sheriff Riles to the deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs claim. As a supervisory
official, she alleged that Riles should have known of her maltreatment based on his role as
Sheriff. However, these conclusory allegations do not provide direct or indirect knowledge of
her condition, as required. Leach, 891 F.2d at 1246.
A failure of a supervisory official to supervise, control, or train
the offending individual [employees] is not actionable absent a
showing that the official either encouraged or in some way
directly participated in it. At a minimum a plaintiff must show
that the official at least implicitly authorized, approved or
knowingly acquiesced in the unconstitutional conduct of the
Id. (quoting Hays v. Jefferson County, Ky, 668 F.2d 869, 874 (6th Cir. 1982)); Farmer, 511 U.S.
at 837; and Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976).
As stated by the Magistrate Judge, all of these averments are conclusory.
particular allegations are provided in Plaintiff’s responses to the Defendants’ Partial Motion to
Dismiss as well as in her objections to the report and recommendation.
averments are insufficient to overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. A plaintiff’s factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption
that all allegations in the complaint are true. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)(emphasis added). Contrary to the allegations in her objections, Plaintiff failed to assert
within her complaint that Sheriff Riles was present, participated, or engaged in the denial of
medical care. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to establish the subjective component - that Sheriff
Riles had and disregarded knowledge of Plaintiff’s serious medical need and yet deliberately
refused to provide the treatment needed for her care. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837. Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s objections are overruled. The Court finds the Magistrate Judge’s report and
recommendation to dismiss Sheriff Riles in his official capacity should be adopted.
The Court finds that the Defendants’ Partial Motion to Dismiss all claims against Sheriff
Riles should be Granted.
Upon a de novo review, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s report and
recommendation in its entirety, overrules Plaintiff’s objections and orders that all of Plaintiff’s
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Sheriff Riles in his individual and official capacities
IT IS SO ORDERED on this 9th day of June, 2017.
s/John T. Fowlkes, Jr.
JOHN T. FOWLKES, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?