Richardson v. Plaquemines Parish Detention Center, 122520 LAEDC, C. A. 19-10926

Docket NºCivil Action 19-10926
Case DateDecember 25, 2020
CourtUnited States District Courts, 5th Circuit, Eastern District of Louisiana




Civil Action No. 19-10926

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 25, 2020




Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. No. 17) filed by the defendants, CorrectHealth Plaquemines, LLC, and Annette Logsdon seeking dismissal of plaintiff's claims against them under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The motion and underlying matter were referred to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct a hearing, including an evidentiary hearing, if necessary, and to submit proposed findings and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), § 1915, and § 1915A, and as applicable, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1) and (2). Upon review of the record, the Court has determined that this matter can be disposed of without an evidentiary hearing.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

When this complaint was filed, the plaintiff Craig E. Richardson was an inmate housed in the Plaquemines Parish Detention Center (“PPDC”) in Point-a-la-Hache, Louisiana.1 Richardson filed this pro se and in forma pauperis complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendants, the PPDC, PPDC Warden Denise Narcisse, Plaquemines Parish President Kirk Lapine, CorrectHealth Plaquemines, LLC, Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Gerald A. Turlich, and Annette Logsdon, RN, alleging that he was denied adequate medical care for a urinary tract infection.

Richardson alleges in his complaint that, in October of 2018, he contracted a urinary tract infection while housed in the PPDC.2 He claims that he was not given timely medical care or antibiotics or taken to the hospital. He also alleges that he urinated blood and the condition lasted until November of 2018.

Richardson also indicated in the complaint that he named Annette Logsdon and CorrectHealth as defendants because they run the medical unit at PPDC and provide the medical care within the jail. He also named Denise Narcisse because she is the warden and was aware of his condition. He named Kirk Lapine because he is responsible for the prison operations. He named Sheriff Turlich as a defendant because he supervises the employees at the jail. As relief, he seeks compensation for his pain and suffering and punitive damages for his unspecified handicap condition.

II. Standards of Review

A. Frivolousness Review

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c), the Court is required to sua sponte dismiss cases filed by prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis upon a determination that they are frivolous. The Court has broad discretion in determining the frivolous nature of the complaint. See Cay v. Estelle, 789 F.2d 318, 325 (5th Cir. 1986), modified on other grounds, Booker v. Koonce, 2 F.3d 114 (5th Cir. 1993). However, the Court may not sua sponte dismiss an action merely because of questionable legal theories or unlikely factual allegations in the complaint.

Under this statute, a claim is frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Talib v. Gilley, 138 F.3d 211, 213 (5th Cir. 1998). “A [claim] lacks an arguable basis in law if it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, such as if the complaint alleges the violation of a legal interest which clearly does not exist.” Harper v. Showers, 174 F.3d 716, 718 (5th Cir. 1999) (quoting Davis v. Scott, 157 F.3d 882, 889 (5th Cir. 1998)). It lacks an arguable factual basis only if the facts alleged are “clearly baseless, ” a category encompassing fanciful, fantastic, and delusional allegations. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32-33 (1992) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327-28). Thus, the Court must determine whether plaintiff's claims are based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or clearly baseless factual allegations. Reeves v. Collins, 27 F.3d 174, 176 (5th Cir. 1994); Jackson v. Vannoy, 49 F.3d 175, 176-77 (5th Cir. 1995); Moore v. Mabus, 976 F.2d 268, 269 (5th Cir. 1992).

B. Motions Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court may dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead in the complaint “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The Court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. In re Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co., 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010); Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007).

The Supreme Court, however, has declared that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citation omitted). Moreover, “‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, '” and “[t]he plaintiff must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Guidry, 512 F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 570). The United States Supreme Court has explained: A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.

Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and quotation marks omitted).

To determine whether a complaint states a claim that is plausible on its face, the Court “draw[s] on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Thus, as stated above, to avoid dismissal, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 570). For a claim to be plausible at the pleading stage, the complaint need not strike the reviewing court as probably meritorious, but it must raise “more than a sheer possibility” that the defendant has violated the law as alleged. See id.

The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that, when reviewing pro se complaints, the court must employ less stringent standards while still guided by the Iqbal pleading requirements. High v. Karbhari, 774 Fed.Appx. 180, 182 (5th Cir. Jun. 12, 2019). “A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). In Taylor v. Gibson, 529 F.2d 709 (5th Cir.1976), the Court further explained this standard in the prisoner context: It is the responsibility of the courts to be sensitive to possible abuses [in the prison systems] in order to ensure that prisoner complaints, particularly pro se complaints, are not dismissed prematurely, however unlikely the set of facts postulated. An opportunity should be provided [to] the prisoner to develop his case at least to the point where any merit it contains is brought to light.

Id., at 713-14. Because of this, before dismissing a prisoner complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), a district court ordinarily should give the pro se litigant an opportunity to amend. Bazrowx v. Scott, 136 F.3d 1053, 1054 (5th Cir. 1998); Eason v. Thaler, 14 F.3d 8, 9 (5th Cir. 1994); accord Bruce v. Little, 568 Fed.Appx. 283, 285 (5th Cir. 2014).

III. Frivolousness Review

A. Plaquemines Parish Detention Center

Richardson named the PPDC as a defendant because that is where he was housed when he allegedly was denied adequate medical attention. However, the jail itself is not a proper defendant, and the claims against it must be dismissed as frivolous.

Section 1983 imposes liability on any “person” who violates someone's constitutional rights under color of law. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see Will v. Mich. Dep't of St. Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989). Under federal law, a county or parish prison facility simply is not recognized as a “person” within the meaning of the statute. Douglas v. Gusman, 567 F.Supp.2d 877, 892 (E.D. La. 2008) (Order adopting Report and Recommendation) (citing United States ex rel. Arzonica v. Scheipe, 474 F.2d 720, 721 (3rd Cir. 1973)); Cullen v. DuPage County, No. 99-1296, 1999 WL 1212570, at *1 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 14, 1999); Whitley v. Westchester County Corr. Facility Admin., No. 97-0420, 1997 WL 659100, at *6 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 22, 1997); Powell v. Cook County Jail, 814 F.Supp. 757, 758 (N.D. Ill. 1993); Hancock v. Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office, 548 F.Supp. 1255, 1256 (E.D. Mich. 1982).

In addition, a parish prison is not a proper defendant because it lacks capacity to sue or be sued as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). An entity's capacity to be sued is determined by reference to the law of the state in which the district court sits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b). Although the Louisiana courts have not ruled on the issue of whether a parish jail is a suable entity, this Court must look to Louisiana law to determine if a jail can itself be sued.

To possess such a capacity under Louisiana law, an entity must qualify as a...

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