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Bullock v. Franklin County Adult Detention Center

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 26, 2019

BRIAN BULLOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANKLIN COUNTY ADULT DETENTION CENTER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETIE A. BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon review of the complaint filed by pro se plaintiff Brian Bullock. Plaintiff, a prisoner at the Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center (“FRDC”) in Missouri, filed his civil rights complaint in the District of Arizona on December 4, 2018, and it was transferred to this Court on January 29, 2019. Plaintiff also filed an “Application for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ” which will be construed by the Court as a motion. ECF No. 2. Having reviewed plaintiff's financial information, the Court will grant the motion and allow plaintiff to proceed without payment of the filing fee. Furthermore, the Court will allow plaintiff the opportunity to submit an amended complaint.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. An action is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.Supp. 458, 461- 63 (E.D. N.C. 1987), aff'd 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         To determine whether an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must engage in a two-step inquiry. First, the Court must identify the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). These include “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678. Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         The plaintiff is required to plead facts that show more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint “to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681. When faced with alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its judgment in determining whether plaintiff's proffered conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 680-82.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), but they still must allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980). The Court must weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). Federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint.” Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his civil rights against five defendants: (1) the Franklin County Adult Detention Center (“FCADC”); (2) Steve Pelton (Sheriff at FCADC); (3) Stacy Carty (Sargent at FCADC); (4) Darren Vest (prisoner at FCADC); and (5) Jerry Carty (Sargent at FCADC). Plaintiff's allegations are based on an alleged incident which occurred on October 11 while he was being held at the Franklin County Adult Detention Center. After returning to his cell after video court that day, plaintiff was assaulted by another inmate, Darren Vest. Plaintiff alleges that Vest poked him in the eye with his finger and punched him in the face, breaking his orbital bone. Plaintiff asserts that defendant Sargents Stacy and Jerry Carty (husband and wife) denied him access to medical care for seventeen hours after the assault. Plaintiff states that he has “headaches all the time since this injury” and right eye pain every day.

         For relief, plaintiff wants all the criminal charges for which he is being held dismissed.[1]He also wants 45.5 million dollars in damages.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a valid claim against any of the defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Section 1983 imposes liability on government actors acting under color of state law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “Private actors may incur section 1983 liability only if they are willing participants in a joint action with public servants acting under color of state law.” Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 536 (8th Cir. 1999). “[A] plaintiff seeking to hold a private party liable under § 1983 must allege, at the very least, that there was a mutual understanding, or a meeting of the minds, between the private party and the state actor.” Mershon v. Beasley, 994 F.2d 449, 451 (8th Cir. 1993). Here, plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to give rise to the inference that Darren Vest, as a private actor, came to a mutual understanding with any state actors to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights.

         As for defendant FCADC, a detention center is not a suable entity in a § 1983 action. See White v. Utah, 5 Fed.Appx. 852, 853 (10th Cir. 2001) (“[A] detention facility is not a person or legally created entity capable of being sued.”); see also De La Garza v. Kandiyohi Cty. Jail, Corr. Inst., 18 Fed.Appx. 436 (8th Cir. 2001) ...


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