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Cothran v. Russell

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

May 18, 2019

DEANDRE JEROD COTHRAN, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES RUSSELL, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), Anne Precythe, Sherie Korneman, and James Russell move to dismiss the first amended complaint filed by plaintiff De'Andre Cothran. Doc. 106. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

         I. Background

         Cothran's amended complaint, which he filed on March 4, 2019, asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Russell, in both his individual and official capacities, for excessive use of force (Count I) and against MDOC, Precythe, and Korneman, in their individual and official capacities, for deliberate indifference (Count II). Cothran's claims arise out of Russell's discharge of pepper spray into Cothran's closed cell and the aftermath. On March 6, 2019, Defendants filed the pending motion to dismiss.

         II. Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, ‘to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Zink v. Lombardi, 783 F.3d 1089, 1098 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim has facial plausibility when its allegations rise above the “speculative” or “conceivable, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007), and where “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 678. Such a complaint will be liberally construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2008).

         III. Discussion

         A. Whether Sovereign Immunity Bars the Claim Against MDOC

         Defendants argue that the claims against MDOC must be dismissed because MDOC is entitled to sovereign immunity. The doctrine of sovereign immunity provides that “an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” Employees v. Missouri Pub. Health & Welfare Dep't, 411 U.S. 279, 280 (1973).

         A suit against MDOC is, in effect, a suit against the State of Missouri, which is absolutely immune from liability under § 1983. See Lococo v. Florissant Police Dep't, No. 08-0143 ERW, 2008 WL 554254, *2 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 27, 2008) (“[A] suit against the Missouri Department of Corrections . . . is, in effect, a suit against the State of Missouri; however, the State of Missouri is not a ‘person' for purposes of a § 1983 action and is absolutely immune from liability under § 1983.” (citing Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63 (1989))).

         Cothran argues that the doctrine is “applicable only to any claim for monetary damages against the DOC.” Doc. 113 (Plaintiff Deandre Cothran's Suggestions in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss), p. 3. However, “[t]his jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought.” Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); see also Harris v. McSwain, 417 Fed.Appx. 594, 595 (8th Cir. 2011) (“[The] Eleventh Amendment bars suits against states and state agencies for any kind of relief.”). Cothran's claim against MDOC thus is barred by sovereign immunity and must be dismissed.

         B. Whether Cothran Failed to Exhaust His Administrative Remedies as to Precythe and Korneman

         Defendants argue that Cothran's claims against Precythe and Korneman must be dismissed because Cothran did not file a grievance against them, and therefore has not exhausted his administrative remedies. Doc. 107 (Defendants' Memorandum of Law), p. 5.

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) requires exhaustion of “such administrative remedies as are available . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). However, “nothing in the statute imposes a ‘name all defendants' requirement . . . .” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 217, 219 (2007). Thus, Cothran's ...


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