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Hunt v. Jones

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

April 18, 2018

KENNETH HUNT, Plaintiff,
v.
D. JONES, WAYNE CO. JAIL, Defendants.

          Anthony P. Patti Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER OF SUMMARY DISMISSAL

          LAURIE J. MICHELSON U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Kenneth Hunt filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Hunt asserts that, after a fellow jail inmate spat on him near the dining area in the Wayne County Jail, he asked Officer Jones for a new uniform, medical attention, and that the affected area be cleaned and sanitized. But Officer Jones did not follow up to ensure that Hunt's requests were met. Hunt also asserts that the inmate who spat on him has since verbally threatened him and the jail has failed to address Hunt's safety concerns.

         Having reviewed the complaint, the Court concludes that it must be summarily dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         I.

         Plaintiff was granted in forma pauperis status under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). (R. 3.) Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), the Court is required to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint before service if it determines that the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The failure-to-state-a-claim standard found in §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the standard set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010). And although a pro se litigant is entitled to a liberal construction of his pleadings and filings, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         To state a claim under § 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 the color of state law.” Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006). And while it is not entirely clear whether Hunt is a pretrial detainee or convicted prisoner (under “prisoner status, ” Hunt wrote, “Prisoner waiting to go to” on the “other” line (R. 1, PID 5)), his status ultimately will not change the legal analysis.[1] Indeed, “[the Sixth Circuit] has made clear that, under the Fourteenth Amendment, pretrial detainees are ‘entitled to the same Eighth Amendment rights as other inmates.'” See Richko v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 819 F.3d 907, 915 (6th Cir. 2016), cert. dismissed, 138 S.Ct. 34, 198 L.Ed.2d 761 (2017)) (citing Thompson v. Cty. of Medina, Ohio, 29 F.3d 238, 242 (6th Cir.1994)). “Thus, Supreme Court precedents governing prisoners' Eighth Amendment rights also govern the Fourteenth Amendment rights of pretrial detainees.” Ruiz-Bueno v. Scott, 639 Fed.Appx. 354, 358 (6th Cir. 2016); see also Richmond v. Huq, 885 F.3d 928, 937 (6th Cir. 2018).

         II.

         A.

         Hunt names the Wayne County Jail as a defendant in this action. (R. 1, PID 1, 3.) But a county jail is “not a legal entity susceptible to suit.” Watson v. Gill, 40 Fed.Appx. 88, 89 (6th Cir. 2002); see also Gonzales v. Ingham County Jail, No. 15-13735, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176793, *2 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 9, 2015) (finding “Plaintiff's allegations are frivolous and fail to state a plausible claim for relief because jails are not legal entities susceptible to suit.”). Hunt's claims against the county jail must therefore be dismissed.

         Because a jail is a department of the county, the county is the appropriate party to address Plaintiff's claims. Watson, 40 Fed.Appx. at 89. But to prevail against the County, Hunt must show that his “injuries were the result of an unconstitutional policy or custom of the County.” Matthews v. Jones, 35 F.3d 1046, 1049 (6th Cir. 1994). And Hunt has made no such allegations.

         B.

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