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Washburn v. Trego County Jail

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 18, 2018

ALLEN DEAN WASHBURN, Plaintiff,
v.
TREGO COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Sam A. Crow U.S. Senior District Judge

         This pro se civil rights complaint was filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by a former pre-trial detainee of the Trego County Jail. Plaintiff proceeds in forma pauperis and alleges that constitutional violations occurred during his pre-trial confinement. He sues unnamed employees of the Trego County Jail and the Trego County Sheriff's Department and seeks $1.5 million dollars, payment of his medical bills, and compensation for missed work.

         I. Procedural background

         Plaintiff initially filed suit against the Trego County Jail. (Doc. 1). Because a jail is not a person subject to suit under § 1983, however, the court directed plaintiff to file an amended complaint that names the person or persons whose acts or omissions violated his federal rights and provides detailed information specifying how and when each violation occurred, and the injury caused. (Doc. 5). In response, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against unnamed employees of the Trego County Jail and the Trego County Sheriff's Department. (Doc. 6). Because the complaint named no individual defendants, the court directed preparation of a Martinez report.[1]

         II. Allegations in the Complaint

         Plaintiff alleges that he had “major surgery” on his leg shortly before being arrested and confined to the Trego County Jail (after an initial brief confinement at the Saline County Jail), where he alleges that he was held in an unsanitary cell and was provided no cleaning supplies.

         In Count I, plaintiff claims that despite his request, jail officials refused to allow him to see a doctor or go to an emergency room for treatment of his leg, and refused to provide him with bandages or antibiotic ointment until his wound “burst” and he was “deathly ill”. Plaintiff states that he later tested positive for MRSA, which required IV antibiotic treatments and additional surgery and caused him to miss work.

         In Count II, plaintiff alleges that he wrote a letter to his personal physician which jail officials failed to send and instead placed the letter with plaintiff's personal property.

         III. Screening Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or an employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if a plaintiff has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)- (2).

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted); Northington v. Jackson, 973 F.2d 1518, 1523 (10th Cir. 1992). A court liberally construes a pro se complaint and applies “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In addition, the court accepts all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true. Anderson v. Blake, 469 F.3d 910, 913 (10th Cir. 2006). On the other hand, “when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief, ” dismissal is appropriate. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007).

         A pro se litigant's “conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). “[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The complaint's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level” and “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 555, 570.

         The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained “that, to state a claim in federal court, a complaint must explain what each defendant did to [the pro se plaintiff]; when the defendant did it; how the defendant's action harmed [the plaintiff]; and, what specific legal right the plaintiff believes the defendant violated.” Nasious v. Two Unknown B.I.C.E. Agents, 492 F.3d 1158, 1163 (10th Cir. 2007). The court “will not supply additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).

         The Tenth Circuit has pointed out that the Supreme Court's decisions in Twombly and Erickson gave rise to a new standard of review for § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) dismissals. See Kay v. Bemis, 500 F.3d 1214, 1218 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1098 (10th Cir. 2009). As a result, courts “look to the specific allegations in the complaint to determine whether they plausibly support a legal claim for relief.” Kay, 500 F.3d at 1218 (citation omitted). Under this new standard, “a plaintiff must ‘nudge his claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.'” Smith, 561 F.3d at 1098 (citation omitted). “Plausible” in this context does not mean “likely to be true, ” but rather refers “to the scope of the allegations in a complaint: if they are so general that they encompass a wide swath of ...


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