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Tennant v. Miller

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

January 27, 2014



ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

This case comes before the court on defendants' motions to dismiss. (Docs. 15, 19). The motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for decision. Defendants' motions are granted for the reasons stated herein.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In 2012, plaintiff Archie Tennant was sentenced to an unknown jail term by a district judge in Clark County, Kansas.[1] Plaintiff began serving his sentence in the Clark County jail and was then transferred to the Meade County jail. Defendant John Ketron is the sheriff of Clark County and defendant Mark Miller is the sheriff of Meade County.

Prior to his incarceration, plaintiff was prescribed Xanax and Oxycodone by his physician.[2] Plaintiff was denied his medication while incarcerated. At some point in time, and presumably while incarcerated at Meade County jail, plaintiff suffered a seizure and had to be revived. Plaintiff was hospitalized as a result of the seizure.

Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants alleging violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights due to the refusal to administer medication and failing to provide a procedure to review a medical request. Additionally, plaintiff brings state law tort claims against defendants. Defendants move for dismissal on the basis that plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim and that they are entitled to qualified immunity.

II. Legal Standard

The standards this court must utilize upon a motion to dismiss are well known. To withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain enough allegations of fact to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.[3] All well-pleaded facts and the reasonable inferences derived from those facts are viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff.[4] Conclusory allegations, however, have no bearing upon this court's consideration.[5] In the end, the issue is not whether plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether he is entitled to offer evidence to support his claims.[6]

III. Analysis

A. Section 1983 Claims

When law enforcement officers abuse their power, suits against them allow those wronged an effective method of redress.[7] Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, any person who "under color of... [law]... subjects, or causes to be subjected... any [person]... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured." Section 1983 was enacted to provide protections to those persons wronged by the misuse of power. While the statute itself creates no substantive civil rights, it does provide an avenue through which civil rights can be redeemed.[8] To state a claim for relief in a section 1983 action, plaintiff must establish that he was (1) deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law.[9] There is no dispute that defendants were acting under color of state law.

1. Eighth Amendment - Deliberate Indifference to Medical Needs

Plaintiff asserts that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to receive medical attention. A plaintiff states a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim for denial of medical attention if he "allege[s] acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs."[10] Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs encompasses two components.[11] First, there is an objective component, which requires that the medical need be sufficiently serious.[12] The objective component is met if the "harm suffered rises to a level sufficiently serious to be cognizable under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth Amendment."[13] Due to the nature of plaintiff's injury and plaintiff's hospital stay, the court finds that plaintiff has stated a serious medical need.

The second part of the deliberate indifference test involves a subjective component. The question is whether the defendant had a sufficiently culpable state of mind.[14] The subjective component is satisfied if the official "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be ...

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