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J.M. v. Management & Training Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

August 21, 2017

J.M. PLAINTIFF
v.
MANAGEMENT & TRAINING CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT D.H.'S

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT are Defendant D.H.'s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [80], and Plaintiff J.M.'s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [76], asking the Court to enter an Order finding Defendant D.H. liable as a matter of law. These Motions are fully briefed. After due consideration of the Motions [76], [80] the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that both Motions [76], [80] should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Management & Training Corporation (“MTC”) is a private prison company operating under a contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) for the management and oversight of the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (“WGCF”) in Walnut Grove, Mississippi. Am. Comp. [15] at 2. According Plaintiff J.M. (“Plaintiff”), while he was incarcerated at WGCF on March 7, 2015, Defendant D.H., [1] an MTC officer, sexually assaulted him and his cellmate. Id. at 3. Plaintiff claims that D.H. threatened him and his cellmate with violence and/or recriminations following the assault in order to prevent the men from exposing D.H.'s conduct to prison officials or discussing the assault with anyone. Id. Plaintiff alleges that despite the threats, on March 30, 2015, he filed a grievance with WGCF officials. Id.

         Plaintiff also alleges that D.H. had engaged in prior similar conduct of which MTC supervisors were aware. Id. at 4. According to Plaintiff, “MTC was generally aware of allegations regarding improper sexual conduct between correctional officers and inmates prior to the incident.” Id. However, Plaintiff maintains that after he filed his grievance with officials, they took no corrective measures nor commenced any disciplinary action against D.H. Id. at 3.

         On November 19, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Complaint [1] against MTC, asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for negligent and/or grossly negligent hiring and supervision, and for respondeat superior. Compl. [1] at 4-6. With leave of Court, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint [15] on April 4, 2016, against MTC and individual Defendant D.H. The First Amended Complaint [15] advances claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against MTC and D.H. and claims for negligent and/or grossly negligent hiring and supervision and respondeat superior/vicarious liability against MTC. Id. at 4-6. Plaintiff maintains that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Id. at 1, 4.

         On the March 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [76], asserting that “there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether D.H. sexually assaulted J.M. As such, J.M. is entitled to partial summary judgment on liability as to his claims against D.H.” Mem. [77] at 1. Plaintiff seeks “an Order finding the Defendant, D.H., liable as a matter of law.” Id. at 5. D.H. responds that Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint [15] “is completely void of sufficient factual matter stating any claim against [D.H.], and therefore fails to state any claim against [D.H.] upon which relief can be granted.” Mem. [96] at 2. D.H. alternatively argues that genuine issues of material fact exist which preclude summary judgment. Id.

         Also on March 24, 2017, D.H. filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [80] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). D.H. argues that, as to each of Plaintiff's claims, his “First Amended Complaint, on its face, is completely void of sufficient factual matter stating a claim against D.H., and D.H. should therefore be dismissed from this cause of action.” Mot. [80] at 2-3. Plaintiff responds that D.H. ignores portions of the First Amended Complaint, that this pleading states a valid claim for relief against D.H., and that the Motion should be denied. Resp. [90] at 3-4.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. D.H.'s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings [80] should be denied.

         1. Relevant legal authority

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that the standard applicable to a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is the same as that for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Bosarge v. Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, 796 F.3d 435, 439 (5th Cir. 2015). “To 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.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). A pleading is not sufficient, however, if it offers mere labels and conclusions, a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. Id.

         Plaintiff advances claims against D.H. under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. “Section 1983 liability results when a ‘person' acting ‘under color of' state law, deprives another of rights ‘secured by the Constitution' or federal law.” Doe v. United States, 831 F.3d 309, 314 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). “A Section 1983 claim requires that a plaintiff (1) allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) demonstrate that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Doe v. Columbia-Brazoria Indep. Sch. Dist. by & through Bd. of Trustees, 855 F.3d 681, 687 (5th Cir. 2017) (quotation omitted).

         “[T]he Eighth Amendment's prohibition of ‘cruel and unusual' punishments necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a sort ‘repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'” Copeland v. Nunan, 250 F.3d 743, 2001 WL 274738, at *2 (5th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 9-10 (1992)). In an unpublished opinion, however, the Fifth Circuit has held that “sexual assaults against inmates by prison guards without lasting physical injury may be actionable under the Eighth Amendment as acts which are ‘offensive to human dignity.'” Id. (quoting Schwenk v. Hartford, 204 F.3d 1187, 1196-97 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         2. The First Amended Complaint states a claim for ...


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