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Greene v. County of Durham Office of Sheriff Department

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

October 28, 2014

ALONZO GREENE, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF DURHAM OFFICE OF THE SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CATHERINE C. EAGLES, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by a retired sheriff of Durham County, the current sheriff of Durham County, and several detention officers at the Durham County jail. (Doc. 11.) The plaintiff has sued each defendant in his or her official and individual capacity. The Court will dismiss all official capacity claims. All individual capacity claims except those against the current sheriff and the former sheriff are sufficient to state a claim and may proceed.

FACTS

According to the complaint, [1] the plaintiff, Alonzo Greene, was a pretrial detainee in the Durham County Detention Facility. (Doc. 2 at p. 3 ¶ 2.) At approximately 8:30 p.m. on August 21, 2011, detention officers searched Mr. Greene's jail cell and destroyed or damaged legal and religious materials while various other officers searched him outside his cell. ( Id. at ¶¶ 4-7.) When officers returned Mr. Greene to his cell, he could not find his "Islamic Ramadan" dinner tray, which was there before the search. ( Id. at ¶ 8.) He asked Sergeant Holloway who had "trashed" his cell and taken his food and tray. ( Id. at ¶ 9.) Sergeant Holloway said his dinner had been thrown away and denied his requests to replace the tray. (Doc. 2 at p. 4 ¶ 11.)

Soon after, several detention officers entered his cell and began threatening and physically assaulting Mr. Greene, while using profanity and taunting him. (Doc. 2 at pp. 4-6 ¶¶ 13-20.) Sergeant Holloway and other detention officers looked on and did not intervene. ( Id. ) Over the next several hours, detention officers hit, kicked, choked, and threatened Mr. Greene, all while directing profanity and verbal taunts towards him. (Doc. 2 at pp. 6-9 ¶¶ 21-31.) Officers ignored Mr. Greene's requests for medical care during these assaults. (Doc. 2 at pp. 5-8, ¶¶ 17, 21, 27, 28.)

Eventually, one officer dragged Mr. Greene out of his cell, down the stairs, and to the elevator, ignoring Mr. Greene's statements that he could not breathe, threatening Mr. Greene, and telling him to be quiet. (Doc. 2 at p. 9 ¶¶ 32-34.) Officers placed Mr. Greene in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), also called "the hole." ( Id. at ¶ 36.) Despite his obvious injuries, officers ignored his requests for his asthma inhaler and medical care. (Doc. 2 at p. 10 ¶¶ 37-38.) One hour later, officers took Mr. Greene to the medical area, where the attendant on duty smirked and made physical gestures and verbal comments of disbelief in response to Mr. Greene's statements about the assaults. (Doc. 2 at pp. 11-12 ¶¶ 43-46.) The attendant refused to examine Mr. Greene and did not provide any medical care beyond giving him an ice pack, despite visible bumps, cuts, scrapes, and blood coming from his nose and mouth. ( Id. at ¶¶ 44-47.) Detention officers returned Mr. Greene to the SHU and placed him in a cell without clothes, a blanket, or a mattress. (Doc. 2 at pp. 12-13 ¶ 51.)

Mr. Greene continued to seek medical care and was finally seen by a doctor on September 8, 2011, where he was diagnosed with a concussion. (Doc. 2 at pp. 16-18 ¶¶ 69-71, 74.) He continues to experience blurred vision and other eye problems. (Doc. 2 at pp. 6-7 ¶ 23.)

PROCEDURAL STATUS

Mr. Greene has sued, inter alia, former Sheriff Hill, the "Office of the Sheriff, " and numerous detention officers, asserting a due process claim under Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979), (Doc. 2 at p. 20 ¶ 87), an excessive force claim, (Doc. 2 at pp. 21-22 ¶ 91), a supervisory liability claim, (Doc. 2 at p. 22 ¶ 92), a claim for failure to timely provide adequate medical care, ( id. at ¶ 94), and a First Amendment claim. (Doc. 2 at p. 26 ¶ 116.) Mr. Greene has sued each defendant in his or her official and individual capacity. (Doc. 2-1 at 1.) Former Sheriff Worth Hill, current Sheriff Michael D. Andrews, and detention officers Minor, Johnson, Jones, Holloway, Collier, Rome, Moore, and Brown move to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based on Eleventh Amendment immunity and qualified immunity and for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. (Doc. 11.)

ANALYSIS

1. Former Sheriff Hill

Former Sheriff Hill moves to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The only specific allegations related to Sheriff Hill come in three paragraphs of the complaint.

In paragraph 67, Mr. Greene alleges that on or about August 24, 2011, he submitted a "grievance/complaint form Personally [and] directly to Def. Sheriff Worth L. Hill (over-seer of DCDF), and requested a prompt investigation into the unwarranted, unjustified, and excessive beatings, false confinement, bogus disciplinary charges, and denial of medical treatment, " and that Sheriff Hill took no action in response. (Doc. 2 at pp. 15-16 ¶ 67.)[2] At paragraph 104, he alleges that "the Sheriff, and the office of the sheriff, who's responsible for DCDF [and] its staff/defs., knew or should have known of the patterns, and common practices of wrongs that its employees/defs. have been committing, yet failed, refused, and deliberately turned its' heads to correct same...." (Doc. 2 at p. 24 ¶ 104.) At paragraph 107, he alleges that "the mentioned acts/wrongs are not isolated ones, and are acts that the defs. are continuously committing, and were brought to the attention of the Sheriff (Hill)... to no avail...." ( Id. at ¶ 107.)

The doctrine of respondeat superior generally may not be invoked to impose liability on a supervisor. See, e.g., Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994) (holding that a plaintiff must show three things to establish supervisory liability under § 1983: the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that the subordinate was engaged in conduct posing a pervasive risk of constitutional injury, an inadequate response to that knowledge, and causation between the supervisor's inaction and the injury). In his complaint, Mr. Greene does not mention any other specific incident preceding the events at issue, much less any incident that involved the same detention officers and of which the Sheriff was aware. See Wilkins v. Montgomery, 751 F.3d 214, 226-27 (4th Cir. 2014) (noting that the subordinate's conduct must be "pervasive" and "widespread"); Shaw, 13 F.3d at 799. Mr. Greene's allegations of pervasive misconduct by detention officers are conclusory and insufficient to state a claim. ...


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