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Greiner v. County of Oceana

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

December 13, 2019

JARED T. GREINER, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF OCEANA et al., Defendants.


          Janet T. Neff United States District Judge

         This is a civil rights action brought by Jared T. Greiner, who is the Personal Representative of the Estate of Gary Greiner, a pretrial detainee in the Oceana County Jail, 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. § 1915A; 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c). The Court must read Plaintiff's 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 against Defendants County of Oceana, Sheriff Craig Mast, and Lieutenant Louis Herremans. The Court will serve the complaint against Defendants Deputy Treven Padilla and Deputy Brad Fritcher.


         I. Factual allegations

         At the time of his death, Plaintiff's decedent, Gary Greiner was confined at the Oceana County Jail. Plaintiff alleges that Gary was arrested by the Oceana County Sheriff's Department on November 3, 2018. Deputy Sheriff Young conducted the booking process at approximately 10:30 p.m. The Medical Assessment form shows that Gary had been hospitalized for psychiatric care approximately one month prior and that Gary was contemplating suicide. Consequently, Gary was placed on suicide watch.

         On November 4, 2018, at approximately 4:00 a.m., Deputy Young called Community Mental Health. Deputy Young performed checks on Gary every fifteen minutes from 10:35 p.m. on November 3, 2018, until 6:00 a.m. on November 4, 2018. Later that day, Community Mental Health worker Bart Theodore Dawson, LLPL, came to see Gary and formulated a Mental Health Management Plan. The plan included specific recommendations to be implemented by jail staff, including a restriction on sheets and blankets, thirty minute cell checks, and continuous video observation. The plan specified behaviors to observe and report as “Suicidal statements; preparatory actions (i.e. searching for sheets, preparing his own garments in a fashion to hang himself).” (ECF No. 1, PageID.5.) For staff interventions, the plan stated “Jail protocol as needed.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff's decedent, Gary, was dressed in “blues” and was placed in cell 13B. In the Jail Activity Report for November 4, 2018, Defendant Fritcher noted that he was on duty from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and performed cell checks on Gary at 2:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. Deputy Young was on duty beginning at 6:00 p.m. and working until 6:00 a.m. on November 5, 2018. Deputy Young performed cell checks at 6:04 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m., 10:00 p.m., 10:30 p.m., 11:00 p.m., 12:00 a.m., 12:30 a.m., 1:00 a.m., 1:30 a.m., 2:00 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 3:30 a.m., 4:30 a.m., and 5:30 a.m. Deputy Hay performed checks on 3:00 a.m., 4:00 a.m., and 5:00 a.m.

         Defendants Padilla and Fritcher were both on duty from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on November 5, 2018. Defendant Fritcher was assigned to “booking” and did not perform any cell checks on Plaintiff's decedent, Gary, on November 5, 2018. Defendant Padilla noted in the Jail Activity Report that he performed cell checks on Gary at 6:30 a.m., 7:00 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 8:30 a.m. (via camera), 9:05 a.m. (via camera), and 9:38 a.m. Plaintiff asserts that review of the video footage shows that Gary engaged in preparatory actions from 9:00 a.m. to 9:14 a.m. on November 5, 2018, when he paced repeatedly around the cell, inspected the inmate visitation kiosk, moved a trash can further from the kiosk, wrapped the cord to the handset of the visitation kiosk around his neck, and lowered himself to the floor with the cord wrapped around his neck. Plaintiff states that video footage also shows that Gary was hanging from a phone cord, motionless, with his head slumped forward from 9:14 a.m. until 9:38 a.m.

         Plaintiff alleges that jail security monitors were readily visible in the booking office of the jail and in the Correction Officers' office in the housing area. Plaintiff states that it is clear that Defendants Padilla and Fritcher failed to check on Gary during the time that he was hanging with a phone cord around his neck, a period of 24 minutes. At 9:38 a.m., while returning inmate laundry, Defendant Padilla found Gary with the cord around his neck and radioed Defendant Fritcher for assistance. Defendant Padilla lifted Gary's body while Defendant Fritcher removed the cord from his neck. A 911 called was placed from the jail at 9:39 a.m. and EMS arrived at 9:46 a.m. Plaintiff reportedly had a pulse before he was transported to the hospital. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital by EMS on 10:08 a.m. on November 5, 2018. Plaintiff was pronounced dead on November 16, 2018.

         Plaintiff contends that Defendants conduct violated Gary Greiner's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks damages.

         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 claims that Defendants violated his decedent Gary's rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Eighth Amendment itself does not apply to pretrial detainees such as Plaintiff's decedent. See Richko v. Wayne Cty., Mich., 819 F.3d 907, 915 (6th Cir. 2016). Instead, the Fourteenth Amendment grants analogous rights to adequate medical treatment to pretrial detainees. Id. (citing Roberts v. City of Troy, 773 F.2d 720, 723 (6th Cir. 1985)).[1] The Eighth Amendment obligates prison authorities to provide medical care to incarcerated individuals, as a failure to provide such care would be inconsistent with contemporary standards of decency. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 102, 103-04 (1976). The ...

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