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Martin v. State of Nebraska Medical Department Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 3, 2018

BRAD L. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL DEPARTMENT LANCASTER COUNTY ADULT DETENTION FACILITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RICHARD G. KOPF SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a pretrial detainee being held at the Lancaster County Jail, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action asserting a Fourteenth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Plaintiff has been given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Filing No. 8.) The court now conducts an initial review of the Complaint (Filing No. 1) to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A.

         I. SUMMARY OF COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and taken to jail shortly after he was in a car accident. When he entered jail, he was suffering “extreme pain in left arm and shoulder with numb hand and fingers.” (Filing No. 1 at CM/ECF p. 5 (capitalization and spelling corrected).) Plaintiff states that it took jail staff 19 days to diagnose and treat his broken neck despite his continual complaints that he was experiencing numbness and pain in his shoulder. Plaintiff sues the “State of Nebraska Medical Department Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility” for money damages, and he admits he did not file a grievance complaining about his situation.

         II. STANDARDS ON INITIAL REVIEW

         The court is required to review prisoner and in forma pauperis complaints seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity to determine whether summary dismissal is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. The court must dismiss a complaint or any portion of it that states a frivolous or malicious claim, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         Pro se plaintiffs must set forth enough factual allegations to “nudge[] their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, ” or “their complaint must be dismissed.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 569-70 (2007); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“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 essential function of a complaint under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is to give the opposing party ‘fair notice of the nature and basis or grounds for a claim, and a general indication of the type of litigation involved.'” Topchian v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., 760 F.3d 843, 848 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hopkins v. Saunders, 199 F.3d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 1999)). However, “[a] pro se complaint must be liberally construed, and pro se litigants are held to a lesser pleading standard than other parties.” Topchian, 760 F.3d at 849 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Liberally construed, Plaintiff here alleges a federal constitutional claim. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of rights protected by the United States Constitution or created by federal statute and also must show that the alleged deprivation was caused by conduct of a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Buckley v. Barlow, 997 F.2d 494, 495 (8th Cir. 1993).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Proper Defendants

         It is unclear whether the “State of Nebraska Medical Department Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility” is one defendant, or whether Plaintiff intended to sue the “State of Nebraska Medical Department” separately from the “Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility.” The court shall construe them as separate defendants since one is labeled as a state entity, and the other as a county entity.

         Whether a party has the capacity to be sued is determined “by the law of the state where the court is located.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(b)(3). Under Nebraska law, each county in Nebraska may sue and be sued in its own name, Neb. Rev. Stat. § 23-101 (Westlaw 2018), but the same is not true of county offices or departments. Parsons v. McCann, 138 F.Supp.3d 1086, 1097 (D. Neb. 2015) (collecting cases). Further, it is clear that “county jails are not legal entities amenable to suit” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Owens v. Scott County Jail, 328 F.3d 1026, 1026 (8th Cir. 2003); see also Williams v. Pulaski Cty. Det. Facility, 278 Fed.Appx. 695 (8th Cir. 2008) (unpublished) (county detention center not subject to suit under § 1983); De La Garza v. Kandiyohi Cty. Jail, Corr. Inst., 18 Fed.Appx. 436, 437 (8th Cir. 2001) (unpublished) (§ 1983 action against county jail and county sheriff's department dismissed without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because parties were not suable entities). Therefore, the Lancaster County Adult Detention Facility is not a proper defendant, and Plaintiff's claim against the facility must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         While the court is unaware of an entity known as the “State of Nebraska Medical Department, ” states or governmental entities that are considered arms of the state are not suable “persons” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989), and suits for money damages against the state or its agencies are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Monroe v. Ark. State Univ., 495 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir. 2007) (Eleventh Amendment bars suit against state agency for any kind of relief); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431-32 (8th Cir.1989) (suit brought solely against state or state agency is proscribed by Eleventh Amendment); see also Brown v. Arkansas Dep't of Human Servs., 452 Fed.Appx. 690, 693 (8th Cir. 2011) ...


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