United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
P. JORDAN III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Denzell Watts was allegedly attacked while being held as a
pretrial detainee in Warren County, Mississippi. He therefore
sued the county and its sheriff Martin Pace. Defendants have
filed two motions seeking judgment on the pleadings under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) as to Watts's
federal and state-law claims against them. For the following
reasons, both motions [7, 9] are granted, but Watts will be
given an opportunity to seek leave to amend as to the federal
Facts and Procedural History
December 24, 2017, Watts “entered the Warren County
Detention Center [(‘WCDC')] for an alleged criminal
offense.” Am. Compl.  ¶ 8. While he was being
held as a pretrial detainee at the WCDC, Watts “was
violently attacked and assaulted by several inmates.”
Id. ¶ 11. Watts avers, upon information and
belief, that the WCDC “has a history of numerous
disturbances that have occurred in the common area
where” he was assaulted, as well as “a history of
being understaffed, overcrowded and routinely failing to
provide adequate inmate supervision.” Id.
December 21, 2018, Watts sued Warren County and Sheriff Pace
in his official capacity. In the Amended Complaint, he
asserts claims for violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights under § 1983, as well as state-law
claims for negligence; negligence per se; gross negligence;
negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress;
reckless disregard for his rights and safety; breach of
fiduciary duty; respondeat superior; negligent hiring,
retention, supervision, training, and/or control; assault;
battery; and res ispa loquitor. Am. Compl. . Defendants
answered  and filed two motions under Rule 12(c) for
judgment on the pleadings-one aimed at the federal claims,
and the other aimed at the state-law claims.
standard for dismissal under Rule 12(c) is the same as that
for dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule
12(b)(6).” Johnson v. Johnson, 385 F.3d 503,
529 (5th Cir. 2004). When considering a motion under Rule
12(b)(6), the “court accepts ‘all well-pleaded
facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff.'” Martin K. Eby Constr. Co. v.
Dall. Area Rapid Transit, 369 F.3d 464, 467 (5th Cir.
2004) (quoting Jones v. Greninger, 188 F.3d 322, 324
(5th Cir. 1999) (per curiam)). But “the tenet that a
court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in
a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)). To overcome a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff must
plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570. “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level, on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555
(citations and footnote omitted).
difficult to list the federal claims Watts pursues.
Throughout his Amended Complaint, he asserts in different
ways that Defendants allowed the attack to occur and thereby
violated “a) the right to be free from unreasonable
searches and seizures; b) the right not to be deprived of
life without due process of law; and c) the right not to be
deprived of liberty without due process of law.” Am.
Compl.  ¶¶ 27, 35, 42. He also references Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id. ¶ 5.
Defendants observe, there are no facts suggesting a Title VII
employment claim, a Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure
claim, or a claim based on the deprivation of life-Watts is
still alive. Watts makes no effort to address these claims in
his response to Defendants' motion, so if Watts intended
to plead those meritless claims, he has abandoned them.
See Black v. N. Panola Sch. Dist., 461 F.3d 584, 588
n.1 (5th Cir. 2006) (“[Plaintiff's] failure to
pursue this claim beyond [the] complaint constituted
abandonment.”). Claims based on Title VII, the Fourth
Amendment, and deprivation of life are therefore dismissed as
to both Defendants.
appears then that Watts pursues claims under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for failure to protect and failure to train and/or
supervise. As to the first, Watts says Defendants violated
his due- process rights by allowing him “to be brutally
assaulted by other inmates while at the detention
center.” Pl.'s Mem.  at 1.
first argue that Watts failed to state a failure-to-protect
claim because there has been no loss of life or liberty.
See Defs.' Reply  at 4. The problem with
this argument is that Watts has identified a cognizable
constitutional theory. As the Supreme Court stated in
DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social
when the State by the affirmative exercise of its power so
restrains an individual's liberty that it renders him
unable to care for himself, and at the same time fails to
provide for his basic human needs-e.g., food, clothing,
shelter, medical care, and reasonable safety-it transgresses