United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE.
before this court is Defendants' motion to dismiss, (Doc.
8), Plaintiff Charles Hill's complaint alleging a
violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(Complaint (“Compl.”) Doc. 2.) Pro se
Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Randolph County Jail and
alleges that he was improperly refused medical treatment and
injured during several confrontations with prison staff and
other inmates. (Id. at 5.) Defendants move to
dismiss these claims, arguing first that neither Defendant
Randolph County Sheriff Dept. nor Defendant Randolph County
Jail are entities capable of being sued. (Defs.' Br. in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. 9) at 4-5.) Defendants further
assert that Plaintiff fails to state a claim as to Defendant
Graves. (Id. at 6.) Because this court finds that
Plaintiff has failed to plead a viable claim against any
named Defendant, this court with grant Defendants' motion
STANDARD OF REVIEW
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
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)). In other words, the plaintiff must plead facts that
“allow the court to draw the reasonable inference
that the defendant is liable” and must demonstrate
“more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678
(citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, this court must accept the
complaint's factual allegations as true. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. Further, “the complaint, including all
reasonable inferences therefrom, [is] liberally construed in
the plaintiff's favor.” Estate of
Williams-Moore v. All. One Receivables Mgmt., Inc., 335
F.Supp.2d 636, 646 (M.D. N.C. 2004) (citation omitted).
Despite this deferential standard, a court will not accept
mere legal conclusions as true, and “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, [will] not suffice.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
se plaintiffs are subject to a relaxed pleading
standard. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976) (stating that pro se complaints must be
“liberally construed”); see also Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). However, these
plaintiffs must still plead facts that fairly put the
defendant on notice of the nature of the claims and
“contain more than labels and conclusions.”
Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 304 & n.5
(4th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Randolph County Sheriff Dept. and Randolph County
sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. (Doc. 2) at 3.) It
is well-established that 42 U.S.C. § 1983 generally
permits suits only against state officials in their
individual capacities, not against “States or
governmental entities that are considered arms of the
State.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989). While a governmental
entity may be liable under § 1983 for instituting an
official policy to commit ongoing constitutional injury,
“‘a municipality cannot be held liable solely
because it employs a tortfeasor or, in other words, a
municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a
respondeat superior theory.'” Avery v. Burke
Cty., 660 F.2d 111, 114 (4th Cir. 1981) (quoting
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658,
“[s]tate law dictates whether a governmental agency has
the capacity to be sued in federal court. . . . [and] [t]here
is no North Carolina statute authorizing suit against a
county's sheriff's department.” Efird v.
Riley, 342 F.Supp.2d 413, 419-20 (M.D. N.C. 2004). North
Carolina federal courts have also repeatedly held that county
jails are not subject to suit under § 1983. See, e.g.,
Tate v. Franklin, No. 1:09CV230, 2010 WL 2266995, at
*1, *2 (M.D. N.C. June 3, 2010); Flores v. Henderson
Cty. Det. Ctr., No. 1:07CV120-01-MU, 2007 WL 1062973, at
*1 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 4, 2007).
extent that Plaintiff seeks to challenge an organization-wide
policy of inflicting constitutional injury on prison inmates,
the correct defendant is Randolph County itself. See, e.g.,
Monell, 436 U.S. at 694; Post v. City of Ft.
Lauderdale, 750 F.Supp. 1131, 1132 (S.D. Fla. 1990)
(collecting cases demonstrating that the city or county
itself is the proper defendant, and that a police or
sheriff's department is “merely the vehicle through
which the city government fulfills its policing
functions”). For a § 1983 claim based on
Plaintiff's individualized grievances, the proper
defendant is Sheriff Graves in his individual capacity.
Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a proper §
1983 claim against either Defendant Randolph County Sheriff
Dept. or Defendant Randolph County Jail. Therefore,
Defendants' motion to dismiss these claims will be
prison official is liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only
when he both “knows of and disregards an excessive risk
to inmate health or safety.” Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); see also
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303 (1991). In other
words, the prison official must have subjective knowledge of
the risk of harm to a prisoner and “consciously
disregard” that known risk. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 839
(the inquiry is “focus[ed] on what a defendant's
mental attitude actually was (or is), rather than what it
should have been (or should be)”); see also
Anderson v. Kingsley, 877 F.3d 539, 546 (4th Cir. 2017)
(applying the deliberate indifference standard in the context
of a § 1983 claim).
Plaintiff fails to allege any facts that suggest Defendant
Graves had subjective knowledge of Plaintiff's injuries
or alleged mistreatment. Plaintiff does not mention any
actions by Defendant Graves in either his initial complaint,
(see Compl. (Doc. 2)), or in his response to
Defendants' motion to dismiss. (See Doc. 11.) In a
supplemental filing, Plaintiff again fails to identify any
facts suggesting that Defendant Graves had knowledge of these
issues. Plaintiff instead alleges in a conclusory fashion
that Graves must have known about the incidents because he
“was the boss of ALL the staff of the jail and Sheriff
Dept.” (Doc. 13 at ...