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Perritt v. J. Reuben Long Detention Center

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 24, 2019

Micheal Wayne Perritt, Plaintiff,
v.
J. Reuben Long Detention Center; Mediko, Defendants.

          ORDER REGARDING AMENDMENT OF COMPLAINT

          PAIGE J. GOSSET, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Micheal Wayne Perritt, a self-represented state pretrial detainee, brings this civil rights action. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and § 1915A. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the Complaint in accordance with applicable law, the court finds this action is subject to summary dismissal if Plaintiff does not amend the Complaint to cure the deficiencies identified herein.

         1. Factual and Procedural Background

          Plaintiff, an inmate in the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway, South Carolina, indicates that he slipped and injured a bone in his left foot in January 2019. (Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2, 6-7.) He claims that despite his numerous requests for medical attention, the jail medical department run by Mediko did not x-ray his foot until six to seven weeks after the fall. (Id. at 8.) The medical staff determined that Plaintiff's bone was cracked, but Plaintiff was later taken to an outside doctor who determined that the bone was broken. (Id.) The outside doctor also determined that because the break went untreated, it had already started to heal, causing permanent damage. (Id.) Plaintiff now brings this action for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff names the J. Reuben Long Detention Center and Mediko as defendants in the caption of the Complaint. (Id. at 1.) However, Plaintiff also lists “Mediko (Nurses)” as a named defendant in the body of the Complaint. (Id. at 3.)

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se Complaint pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), including 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Complaint has been filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the administrative costs of proceeding with the lawsuit, and is also governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which requires the court to review a complaint filed by a prisoner that seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. See McLean v. United States, 566 F.3d 391 (4th Cir. 2009). Section 1915A requires, and § 1915 allows, a district court to dismiss the case upon a finding that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may 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).

         In order to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the plaintiff must do more than make mere conclusory statements to state a claim. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, the complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. The reviewing court need only accept as true the complaint's factual allegations, not its legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         This court is required to liberally construe pro se complaints, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         A legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 allows “a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief.” City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 707 (1999). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege: (1) that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         However, Defendant J. Reuben Long Detention Center is not a “person” amenable to suit under § 1983 because it is an inanimate facility and not a person. It is well-settled that only “persons” may act under color of state law; therefore, a defendant in a § 1983 action must qualify as a “person.” See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (noting that for purposes of § 1983 a “person” includes individuals and “bodies politic and corporate”). Courts have held that inanimate objects such as buildings, facilities, and grounds are not “persons” and do not act under color of state law. See Nelson v. Lexington Cty. Det. Ctr., C/A No. 8:10-2988-JMC, 2011 WL 2066551, at *1 (D.S.C. May 26, 2011) (finding that the plaintiff failed to establish that the Lexington County Detention Center, “as a building and not a person, is amenable to suit under § 1983”); see also Brooks v. Pembroke City Jail, 722 F.Supp. 1294, 1301 (E.D. N.C. 1989) (“Claims under § 1983 are directed at ‘persons' and the jail is not a person amenable to suit.”). Because the J. Reuben Long Detention Center is not an individual or corporate body amenable to suit under § 1983, this defendant is subject to summary dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[1]

         Also, to the extent Plaintiff intends to name the company Mediko as a defendant, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to state a claim against Mediko upon which relief can be granted. Usually, a private company that provides medical services to a publicly-run prison or jail is a state actor under § 1983. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 54 (1988) (holding a physician employed by a state to provide medical services to state prison inmates was a state actor for § 1983 purposes when he treated prisoners' injuries). But, to hold a private company (rather than an individual who works for that company) liable under § 1983, a Plaintiff must plead and show that an official policy or custom of the company caused the alleged deprivation of a federal right. See Austin v. Paramount Parks, Inc., 195 F.3d 715, 728 (4th Cir. 1999) (“[A] private corporation is liable under § 1983 only when an official policy or custom of the corporation causes the alleged deprivation of federal rights.”). Here, Plaintiff provides no facts plausibly showing that the injury to his foot from the purported lack of adequate medical treatment was caused by an official policy or custom of Mediko. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Accordingly, Plaintiffs claim against Mediko as currently pled is subject to summary dismissal.

         Consequently, Plaintiffs Complaint is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b)(ii) and § 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff is hereby granted twenty-one (21) days from the date this order is entered (plus three days for mail time) to file an amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) that corrects the deficiencies identified above.[2] If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint ...


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