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Reed v. Gober

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Pine Bluff Division

November 7, 2019

CORTEZ REED #661395 PLAINTIFF
v.
MARK GOBER, Sheriff, Drew County, et al. DEFENDANTS

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         The following Recommended Disposition has been sent to United States Chief District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. You may file written objections to all or part of this Recommendation. If you do so, those objections must: (1) specifically explain the factual and/or legal basis for your objection; and (2) be received by the Clerk of this Court within fourteen (14) days of the date of this Recommendation. If you do not file objections, Judge Marshall can adopt this Recommendation without independently reviewing all of the evidence in the record. By not objecting, you may waive the right to appeal questions of fact.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Cortez Reed (“Reed”) filed this pro se § 1983 Complaint and Amended Complaint alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights while he was a pretrial detainee in the Drew County Jail (“DCJ”). Docs. 2 & 6.[1] Before Reed may proceed with this case, the Court must screen his claims.[2]

         II. Discussion

         Reed alleges that, for four weeks, he requested DCJ employees to repair a light in his cell. Eventually, “they” came in and put tape around the exposed wires, presumably in an effort to fix the problem with the light.

         On March 14, 2019, two other inmates allegedly broke a water sprinkler and flooded Reed's cell. Reed said he “felt a slight shock” when the water hit his feet and, ten minutes later, he and his cellmate were moved to another cell. Doc. 2 at 4 & 6; Doc. 6 at 4.

         Reed also alleges that, on March 2 and 14, 2019, he asked a John Doe Defendant, who worked as a “transporter and maintenance” officer at the DCJ, to take him to the doctor because he had “heart problems” and had gotten “sick” from mold in the shower. This John Doe Defendant “took his time” and failed to take Reed to the doctor. Reed states that, on March 15, 2019, he was transferred to the Ashley County Detention Center (“ACDC”), where he received medical attention for chest pains and high blood pressure. Doc. 2 at 2, 4 & 6; Doc. 6 at 2, 4 & 6.

         Reed seeks compensatory damages for his “pain and suffering” resulting from Defendants' “not doing their job [to] fix things [and] take [him] to a doctor.” Although Reed has only named Defendants in their official capacity, the Court has liberally construed his claims as also seeking damages from Defendants, in their individual capacity. See Doc. 2 at 2, 4-6; Doc. 6 at 2, 4-6.

         A. Reed's Official-Capacity Claims

         As a matter of law, Reed's “official capacity” claims against Defendants must be construed as claims against Drew County. Brewington v. Keener, 902 F.3d 796, 800 (8th Cir. 2018). Drew County cannot be held vicariously liable, in a § 1983 action, for the acts of its employees. Id. at 800-01 (citing Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978)). Instead, it can only be held liable if its policies, customs, and practices caused Reed's injury. Brewington, 902 F.3d at 801-02; Corwin v. City of Independence, Missouri, 829 F.3d 695, 699-700 (8th Cir. 2016).

         Because Reed does not allege that a Drew County policy, custom or practice caused his injury, he has failed to plead viable official-capacity claims against Defendants. Accordingly, those claims should be dismissed.

         B. Reed's Conditions of Confinement Claims Against Defendants, in Their Individual Capacity

         Liberally construed, Reed alleges only that “someone” inadequately repaired the light fixture in his cell, and it caused him to experience a brief “shock” when his cell was later flooded by other prisoners. It appears Reed believes these facts are sufficient to support an unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim.

         To plead a viable § 1983 claim, based on allegedly unconstitutional conditions of confinement, Reed must allege facts demonstrating that: (1) objectively, there was a “substantial risk of serious harm” to his health or safety; and (2) subjectively, Defendants were “deliberately indifferent” to that risk.[3]Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). An official is “deliberately indifferent” only when he or she “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of ...


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