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Alderson v. Concordia Parish Correctional Facility

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

February 9, 2017

LARRY DUPREE ALDERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CONCORDIA PARISH CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; WARDEN LANCE MOORE; GEORGE BYRNES, Chief of Security; SHEILA SPINNER, Administrative Assistant; CAPTAIN KELLY MOORE; CAPTAIN JACKIE JOHNSON; DEBRA COWAN, Administrative Assistant; LIEUTENANT HARVEY BRYANT, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana

          Before ELROD, SOUTHWICK, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         Appellant Larry Alderson, a pretrial detainee, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility and several of its department heads and employees. He alleged that the defendants provided him inadequate security and impermissibly delayed medical care. Alderson, who represented himself in forma pauperis, amended his complaint pursuant to the instructions of a magistrate judge. The magistrate judge then recommended that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendation over Alderson's objections. Alderson now appeals in part the district court's dismissal of his amended complaint. We AFFIRM in part the district court's judgment except as to dismissal of the claims of inadequate medical care against Lieutenant Harvey Bryant. We REVERSE in part the district court's judgment dismissing the claim that Bryant was deliberately indifferent to Alderson's need for medications prescribed by the hospital following an incident in which Alderson was assaulted by Concordia Parish Correctional Facility inmates. We REMAND for further consideration both of this claim and of the claim that Bryant impermissibly delayed Alderson's initial medical evaluation.

         I.

         Alderson alleges that he was brutally attacked in the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility (CPCF) on the morning of December 22, 2014.[1] The attack took place in G Dorm, where Alderson, a pretrial detainee, was housed with Department of Correction (DOC) inmates due to a misclassification by Chief of Security George Byrnes and Administrative Assistant Sheila Spinner. Alderson's assailants were two DOC inmates whom he did not know. They stabbed him and stomped on him in an attack that lasted at least three to five minutes. When Alderson raised concerns about his safety and his medical condition after the attack, Lieutenant Harvey Bryant sent him to lockdown in a cell with DOC inmates. It was not until after Alderson and his family made numerous complaints to staff that Bryant returned to the cell, took pictures of Alderson's injuries using his own cell phone instead of the investigative camera used for documenting incidents, and then left Alderson for an hour before taking him to the hospital.

          Alderson was prescribed antibiotics and painkillers after being diagnosed with bruised or broken ribs and multiple puncture wounds to his face, head, and body. When Alderson asked Bryant for the medications that he had been prescribed to prevent infection and to alleviate pain, Bryant told him, "Man up & wait til [sic] medical staff returns from the Christmas holiday."[2] Alderson did not receive his medications until January 2, 2015, which caused him to risk infection and to suffer "a tremendous amount of pain for over a week." Alderson's amended complaint states, "My only injury during that time was [an] excruciating amount of pain." Alderson also states that, since the events described above, he has suffered from mental instability, has been on psychiatric medications, and has been "in constant fear for my life from inmates & staff."

         The magistrate judge recommended that Alderson's amended complaint be denied and dismissed with prejudice under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A for failure to state a claim. With respect to Alderson's claims against CPCF, the magistrate judge determined that CPCF is not a juridical person subject to being sued. With respect to Alderson's claims against the individual defendants, the magistrate judge determined that Alderson did not specifically allege any actionable misconduct. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendation after an independent review of the record, including Alderson's objections. However, the district court did not expressly analyze Alderson's objections. Alderson now appeals the judgment dismissing his claims.[3]

          II.

         A district court's dismissal under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A for failure to state a claim is reviewed de novo under the same standard applied to dismissals pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Legate v. Livingston, 822 F.3d 207, 209-10 (5th Cir. 2016); Ruiz v. United States, 160 F.3d 273, 275 (5th Cir. 1998). Thus, we review the district court's dismissal "taking the facts alleged in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to" the plaintiff. Atkinson, 623 F.3d at 280. In doing so, we construe pro se pleadings liberally. United States v. Riascos, 76 F.3d 93, 95 (5th Cir. 1996). The question before us is whether the facts alleged by the plaintiff are sufficient to support a reasonable inference that the defendants are liable under § 1983. See Legate, 822 F.3d at 210.

         Pretrial detainees are protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Cupit v. Jones, 835 F.2d 82, 84-85 (5th Cir. 1987). To succeed in a § 1983 action based on "episodic acts or omissions" in violation of Fourteenth Amendment rights, a pretrial detainee must show subjective deliberate indifference by the defendants. Hare v. City of Corinth, 74 F.3d 633, 643 (5th Cir. 1996) (en banc).[4] That is, the plaintiff must show that the official knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm. Domino v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, 239 F.3d 752, 755 (5th Cir. 2001). "Actions and decisions by officials that are merely inept, erroneous, ineffective, or negligent do not amount to deliberate indifference." Alton v. Tex. A & M Univ., 168 F.3d 196, 201 (5th Cir. 1999). To reach the level of deliberate indifference, official conduct must be "wanton, " which is defined to mean "reckless." Johnson v. Treen, 759 F.2d 1236, 1238 (5th Cir. 1985). Under § 1983, officials are not vicariously liable for the conduct of those under their supervision. Mouille v. City of Live Oak, 977 F.2d 924, 929 (5th Cir. 1992). Supervisory officials are accountable for their own acts of deliberate indifference and for implementing unconstitutional policies that causally result in injury to the plaintiff. Id.

         A.

         The district court correctly dismissed Alderson's failure-to-protect claims against Chief of Security George Byrnes, Administrative Assistant Sheila Spinner, Warden Lance Moore, Captain Kelly Moore, and Captain Jackie Johnson. When the state deprives an individual of the freedom to act on his own behalf, the Fourteenth Amendment imposes on the state a duty to protect that individual. Hare, 74 F.3d at 639. "The confinement of pretrial detainees indiscriminately with convicted persons is unconstitutional unless such a practice is reasonably related to the institution's interest in maintaining jail security or physical facilities do not permit their separation." Jones v. Diamond, 636 F.2d 1364, 1374 (5th Cir. 1981).

         Even assuming that Alderson should not have been housed with DOC detainees as he alleges, we nevertheless hold that Alderson has failed to state a claim against Byrnes and Spinner for misclassifying him. To state a claim against Byrnes and Spinner, Alderson must allege that their misclassification of him was due to deliberate indifference. That is, he must allege that they knew of and disregarded a substantial risk of serious harm. See Domino, 239 F.3d at 755. Alderson alleged, "[T]his institution was informed that there was concerns for my safety." He explained that, although he did not personally make his safety concerns known to anyone at CPCF prior to the attack, his transfer to the facility was prompted by recognition that he faced special danger due to the nature of the charges on which he was arrested. Alderson's allegation that CPCF had knowledge of his danger is not a sufficient allegation that any specific defendant had knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm to Alderson based upon his classification. Because he has not alleged that Byrnes and Spinner had knowledge of such a risk, Alderson has not linked their alleged misclassification to deliberate indifference toward that risk. Accordingly, Alderson has failed to state a claim based on their misclassification.[5]

         Alderson has similarly failed to state a claim for supervisory liability against Byrnes, Spinner, Lance Moore, Kelly Moore, and Johnson. To hold any of these defendants liable as supervisory officials under § 1983, Alderson must allege either that they participated in acts that caused constitutional deprivation or that they implemented unconstitutional policies causally related to his injuries. See Mouille, 977 F.2d at 929. It is unclear whether Alderson seeks to rely on participation in acts that caused constitutional deprivation, implementation of unconstitutional policies, or both. We recognize that a plaintiff may plead these theories in the alternative and, accordingly, consider both possibilities. See Estate of Henson, 795 F.3d 456. However, Alderson has not stated a claim under either theory ...


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