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Hagwood v. The Salvation Army

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 27, 2018

T.J. HAGWOOD, ID # 1709960, Plaintiff,
v.
THE SALVATION ARMY, Defendant.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION

          IRMA CARRILLO RAMIREZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         By Special Order 3-251, this pro se prisoner case has been automatically referred for full case management. Based on the relevant filings and applicable law, the complaint should be DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         T.J. Hagwood (Plaintiff), currently an inmate in the Dallas County Jail, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Salvation Army (Defendant), which operates a halfway house where he had been ordered to stay as a result of a criminal case. (doc. 3 at 4.) He contends that on the morning of February 8, 2017, he went to the restroom on the second floor. (Id.) The floor was wet, and he slipped and fell and hit his head. (Id.) His injury required a visit to the emergency room, where he received five stitches for a cut over his right eye. (Id.) He seeks compensation for his pain and suffering. (Id.) No process has been issued.

         II. PRELIMINARY SCREENING

         Plaintiff is a prisoner who has been permitted to proceed in forma pauperis. As a prisoner seeking redress from a governmental entity or an officer or employee of a governmental entity, his complaint is subject to preliminary screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, known as the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA).[1] See Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, 579-80 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam). Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, his complaint is also subject to screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Both § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915A(b) provide for sua sponte dismissal of the complaint, or any portion thereof, if the Court finds it is frivolous or malicious, if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         A complaint is frivolous when it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A claim lacks an arguable basis in law when it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Id. at 327. A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it fails to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

         III. SECTION 1983

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That section “provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of a citizen's ‘rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws' of the United States” and “afford[s] redress for violations of federal statutes, as well as of constitutional norms.” Livadas v. Bradshaw, 512 U.S. 107, 132 (1994). To state a claim under § 1983, Plaintiff must allege facts that show (1) he has been deprived of a right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation occurred under color of state law. See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 155 (1978); Cornish v. Corr. Servs. Corp., 402 F.3d 545, 549 (5th Cir. 2005).

         A. Respondeat Superior

         Because they are performing a government function, private corporations that contract with the state to house state prisoners and their employees may be sued under § 1983. See Rosborough v. Management & Training Corp., 350 F.3d 459, 461 (5th Cir.2003) (holding that private prison-management corporations and their employees are state actors under § 1983); White v. Soto, No. 3:12-CV-372-M-BH, 2012 WL 1969658, at *1 (N.D.Tex. Apr. 20, 2012) (addressing the merits of a § 1983 suit filed by a state prisoner against an employee of a halfway house); McKinney v. Hallman, No. 4:09-CV-151-Y, 2009 WL 1574577, *2 (N.D.Tex. June 4, 2009) (same); Clerkley v. Correctional Services Corp., No. 4:05-CV199Y, 2005 WL 1025785 (N.D.Tex. Apr. 29, 2005) (same).

         “‘The test to determine liability for a private prison-management corporation under § 1983 is more or less identical to the test employed to determine municipal or local government liability.'” Burleson v. Medical Provider at LaSalle Southwest Corrections, No. 3:16-CV-2534-B, 2017 WL 3053072, at *2 (N.D.Tex. June 19, 2017), quoting Carter v. LaSalle Southwest Corrections, No. 3:15-CV-2072, 2015 WL 6442751, at *2 (W.D. La. Sept. 28, 2015). Plaintiffs must allege “a policymaker; an official policy; and a violation of constitutional rights whose ‘moving force' is the policy or custom.” Cox v. City of Dallas, 430 F.3d 734, 748 (5th Cir. 2005). The official policy requirement means that municipal liability under § 1983 is limited to action for which the municipality is actually responsible.” Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 479-80 (1986). Section 1983 does not allow a municipality to be held vicariously liable for its employees' actions on a theory of respondeat superior. See Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997); Monell v. N.Y. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691-95 (1978). Likewise, “a private corporation cannot be deemed vicariously liable under § 1983 for its employees' deprivations of others' civil rights.” Carter, 2015 WL 6442751, at *2.

         Here, Plaintiff appears to sue Defendant based on the actions of its personnel. He fails to state a claim under the theory of respondeat superior.[2] As discussed below, he has also fails to sufficiently allege a violation of a constitutional right.

         B. Constituti ...


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