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Richko v. Wayne County Sheriff's Department

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 31, 2015

LINDA RICHKO, as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF JEFFREY HORVATH, Plaintiff,


DENISE PAGE HOOD, District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss & Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of the remaining Defendants in this case [Docket No. 40, filed April 14, 2014]. On May 28, 2014, the parties filed a stipulated order dismissing Defendants Wayne County Sheriff's Department, Matthew Mears, Jeremy Meinke, and Lamiko Taylor-Beavers [Docket No. 51]. The Motion to Dismiss pertains to Defendant Wayne County Sheriff's Department only, and therefore, it is deemed MOOT. Remaining are Defendants Wayne County, April Williams, Larry Cameron, and Andre Stinson. Plaintiff filed a Response to the Motion [Docket No. 47, filed May 19, 2014] and the remaining Defendants filed a Reply to the Response [Docket No. 52, filed June 9, 2014].


On March 20, 2013, Plaintiff Linda Richko, as the personal representative of the Estate of Jeffrey Horvath, filed this an action for money damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986 and 1988, and the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (with removal of the state law claims) on April 27, 2012 [Docket No. 9]. On April 2, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint. The Complaint was filed against the above-named Defendants, in their individual capacities and/or as the entities in charge of running the Wayne County Jail and/or based on the above-named Defendants being in charge of supervising the employees, agents, officers and all others entrusted with positions and responsibilities of the Defendants.

The Second Amended Complaint alleges that on or about September 13, 2011, Horvath was arrested on an outstanding warrant by Dearborn Police at the Marathon gas station located at Southfield Road and Oakwood Boulevard, in the City of Dearborn, Michigan. He was booked and transferred to the custody of the Wayne County Sheriff's Department where he remained in the Wayne County Jail System for the following eight days because he was unable to post bond. On or about September 20, 2011, Horvath was transferred from his cell into a cell located in the area of the jail reserved for those detainees/inmates with mental illness because the toilet in Horvath's cell had been malfunctioning. At some time between Horvath's assignment to this new cell and the morning of September 21, 2011, inmate Brandon Gillespie (hereinafter referred to as "Gillespie"), was placed in Horvath's cell. Plaintiff alleges that Gillespie was placed in the cell with Horvath despite the fact that Defendants knew or should have known about Gillespie's dangerous and/or violent propensities, including the serious risk of harm or death to the Horvath based on Gillespie's violent schizophrenic history. Gillespie had also been incarcerated on felony charges of aggravated assault.

Plaintiff contends that according to Detroit Police Department records, on September 21, 2011 between the hours of 7:40 a.m. and 9:10 a.m., Gillespie "brutally assault[ed] [Horvath]... by punching him the head and face several times, delivering blows to his face with his foot and knee, stabbing him multiple times in the face with a pencil, and sodomizing him either pre- or post-mortem, causing serious injuries resulting in his death." Plaintiff states that, upon information and belief, during the assault Horvath "called for help from the Defendants [John Does 1-5], screaming let me out, let me out, ' however, the Defendants willfully and wantonly disregarded his pleas for help and/or refused to intervene." Plaintiff states that Horvath's body was found between two mattresses on the floor of the jail cell and that, further, according to Wayne County Jail officials, at the time the body was taken from the cell, Horvath's eyes were bloody and swollen, with multiple puncture wounds around the eyes, the bridge of his nose, and his lip pushing into his teeth." Horvath also suffered from "hemorrhaging blood between the scalp and skull and into both jaws."

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint seeks relief based on the following claims for relief: Violation of the United States Constitution against Defendants Wayne County Sheriff's Department and the County of Wayne (Count I); Federal Statutory and United States Constitutional Violations Against the Individual Defendants April Williams, Deputy Mears, Jeremy Meineke, Sergeant Taylor-Beavers, Larry Cameron, and Andre Stinson (Count II); and Claim for Reasonable Costs, Disbursements and Attorney Fees in Bringing Actions Under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986 Pursuant To 42 U.S.C. § 1988 As To All Defendants (Count V). Prior to filing the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs state law claims (Count III & IV) were dismissed [Docket No. 7, April 18, 2012].

Plaintiff claims that "[a]t all material times, Defendants were the exclusive custodians of [Horvath] following his transfer into their custody and were charged with the responsibility of monitoring [Horvath] and those around him to ensure that [Horvath's] health and welfare would not be placed in jeopardy while [Horvath] was in the custody of the Defendants." Plaintiff contends that Horvath's death was "a result of the willful and wanton, grossly negligent, reckless and otherwise negligent conduct of Defendants."


Summary judgment is appropriate in cases where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. MacMillan Bloedel Containers, Inc., 503 F.2d 1086, 1093 (6th Cir. 1974). The Court must consider the admissible evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Sagan v. United States of Am., 342 F.3d 493, 497 (6th Cir. 2003).

"At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (emphasis added). To create a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmovant must do more than present "some evidence" of a disputed fact. Any dispute as to a material fact must be established by affidavits or other documentary evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "If the [nonmovant's] evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (citations omitted). Accordingly, a nonmovant "must produce evidence that would be sufficient to require submission to the jury of the dispute over the fact." Mathieu v. Chun, 828 F.Supp. 495, 497 (E.D. Mich. 1993) (citations omitted). "When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott, 550 U.S. at 380.


A. Municipal Liability Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I)

In order for a municipality to be liable under Section 1983 there must be some evidence that "execution of [the] government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury." Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). "[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor-or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory." Id. at 691. Generally, the doctrine of respondeat superior has no application in a § 1983 claim absent an allegation that the defendants were following the government's policies or customs. Dunn v. Tennessee, 697 F.2d 121, 128 (6th Cir. 1982). Rather, ...

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