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Prince v. Van Buren County Jail

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

May 10, 2019

CHAD PRINCE, Plaintiff,
v.
VAN BUREN COUNTY JAIL, Defendant.

          OPINION

          GORDON J. QUIST, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action brought by a pretrial detainee under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996) (PLRA), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff’s pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff’s allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint for failure to state a claim.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Chad Prince is presently detained at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, Illinois. However, the events about which he complains occurred while he was detained at the Van Buren County Jail in Paw Paw, Michigan. Plaintiff sues the Van Buren County Jail.

         Plaintiff alleges that he suffered two seizures while detained at the Van Buren County Jail, and a nurse at the jail put him on anti-seizure medication and a bottom-bunk restriction. For three days, he was forced to sleep on the floor in the booking department at the jail. After that, he was moved to the general population unit and was told by jail officials to sleep on a top bunk because there was no bottom bunk available for him. He pushed the emergency button in his cell to tell jail officials that he had been placed on a bottom-bunk restriction for medical reasons. An officer told him that the emergency button was for emergencies only and that only top bunks were available.

         While sleeping on the top bunk, he had a seizure and fell onto the floor, resulting in a head concussion, head wounds, and severe back and body pain.

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks damages for treatment of future pain, and an order requiring the Van Buren County Jail to “enforce better policies of housing inmates with medical needs to avoid future inc[i]dents that could easily be avoided.” (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.5.)

         II. Failure to state a claim

         A complaint may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it fails “‘to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff’s allegations must include more than labels and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”). The court must determine whether the complaint contains “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Although the plausibility standard is not equivalent to a “‘probability requirement,’ . . . it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here 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 ‘show[n]’-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)); see also Hill v. Lappin, 630 F.3d 468, 470-71 (6th Cir. 2010) (holding that the Twombly/Iqbal plausibility standard applies to dismissals of prisoner cases on initial review under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(b)(1) and 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)).

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or laws and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Street v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 102 F.3d 810, 814 (6th Cir. 1996). Because § 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights, not a source of substantive rights itself, the first step in an action under § 1983 is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly infringed. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994).

         Plaintiff does not state a claim against the Van Buren County Jail because the jail is a building; it is not a person or entity capable of being sued.

         Assuming Plaintiff meant to sue Van Buren County, he does not state a claim for other reasons. A municipality like Van Buren County may only be liable under § 1983 when its policy or custom causes the injury, regardless of the form of relief sought by the plaintiff. Los Angeles Cty. v. Humphries, 562 U.S. 29, 35-37 (2010) (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1974)). In a municipal liability claim, the finding of a policy or custom is the initial determination to be made. Doe v. Claiborne Cty., 103 F.3d 495, 509 (6th Cir. 1996). The policy or custom must be the moving force behind the constitutional injury, and the plaintiff must identify the policy, connect the policy to the governmental entity and show that the particular injury was incurred because of the execution of that policy. Turner v. City of Taylor, 412 F.3d 629, 639 (6th Cir. 2005); Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 815 (6th Cir. 2003); Doe, 103 F.3d at 508-509. It is the court’s task to identify the officials or governmental bodies which speak with final policymaking authority for the local government in a particular area or on a particular issue. McMillian v. Monroe Cty., 520 U.S. 781, 784-85 (1997).

         In matters pertaining to the conditions of the jail and to the operation of the deputies, the sheriff is the policymaker for the county. Mich. Comp. Laws § 51.75 (sheriff has the “charge and custody” of the jails in his county); Mich. Comp. Laws § 51.281 (sheriff prescribes rules and regulations for conduct of prisoners); Mich. Comp. Laws § 51.70 (sheriff may appoint deputies and revoke appointments at any time); Kroes v. Smith, 540 F. Supp. 1295, 1298 (E.D. Mich. 1982) (the sheriff of “a given county is the only official with direct control over the duties, responsibilities, and methods of operation of deputy sheriffs” and thus, the sheriff “establishes the policies and customs described in Monell”). Thus, the court looks to ...


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