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Joiner v. Mississippi Department of Corrections

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

September 5, 2019

CASANDRA JOINER and MYRON POWELL, individually and as the wrongful death beneficiaries of TYMARIO JOINER, deceased, and the estate of TYMARIO JOINER, by and through its representative CASANDRA JOINER PLAINTIFFS
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, SOUTH MISSISSIPPI CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, GREENE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, and GREENE COUNTY SOLID WASTE DEPARTMENT, DIVISIONS OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, and JOHN DOES 1-10 DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION [11] TO REMAND AND GRANTING DEFENDANTS MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND SOUTH MISSISSIPPI CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION'S MOTION [4] TO DISMISS

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are two Motions: 1) a Motion [11] to Remand filed by Plaintiffs Casandra Joiner, Myron Powell, and the estate of Tymario Joiner (collectively, “Plaintiffs”); and 2) a Motion [4] to Dismiss filed by Defendants Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”) and the South Mississippi Correctional Institution (“SMCI”).

         After review of the parties' motions, the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that Plaintiffs pled in their First Amended Complaint a federal claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, State Ct. R. [1-1] at 16, such that removal was proper and this Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Plaintiffs' Motion [11] to Remand should be denied.

         Next, the Court finds persuasive the argument set forth in the Motion [4] to Dismiss filed by Defendants MDOC and SMCI. Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint is subject to dismissal as to these two Defendants, because MDOC and SMCI are not “persons” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, Plaintiffs' state law claims against these Defendants should be dismissed because the State of Mississippi has not waived sovereign immunity for claimants who were incarcerated at the time at which the claim arose. The Court will grant the Motion [4] to Dismiss the claims against Defendants MDOC and SMCI.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         On March 7, 2017, Tymario Joiner (“Tymario”) was an incarcerated inmate participating in the public work service program at SMCI. State Ct. R. [1-1] at 19. The program was operated by Defendant SMCI. Id. Unfortunately, at 10:30 am, as Tymario was performing his duties as a participant in the program, a garbage truck struck him.[1] Id. Plaintiffs allege that MDOC and Greene County officials notified SMCI of the incident, Id. at 20, and that about 20 minutes later, they transported Tymario to SMCI where they questioned him regarding his injuries. Id. After approximately one and a half hours, an ambulance arrived and transported Tymario to the hospital. Id. He sustained numerous injuries from the incident and was pronounced dead at the hospital at 3:57 pm. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed a Complaint on September 7, 2018, in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Mississippi, Notice of Removal [1] at 1, followed by a First Amended Complaint on December 17, 2018, Id. at 2. The First Amended Complaint advances causes of action against Defendants under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-1, et seq., and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. State Ct. Record [1-1] at 22. Process was served on Defendants Greene County and Greene County Solid Waste Department on December 27, 2018, Notice of Removal [1] at 2, and on January 11, 2019, Defendants Greene County and Greene County Solid Waste Department filed a Notice of Removal in this Court, Id. at 1. Defendants MDOC and SMCI joined the Notice of Removal on January 16, 2019. Joinder of Notice of Removal [3] at 1.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiffs' Motion [11] to Remand

         Plaintiffs argue that this case should be remanded to the Circuit Court of Greene County, Mississippi, because the claims are “largely based on violations of state law.” Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Remand [12] at 1. They contend that the issues of state law are complex and predominate over the federal law claims. Id. at

         1. Legal Standard

         28 U.S.C. § 1441 provides for the removal of civil actions brought in a state court when the district courts have original jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal district courts are granted original jurisdiction over civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A suit arises under federal law only when a plaintiff's statement of his own cause of action in the complaint shows that the action is based upon federal law. Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 60 (2009). Under the well-pleaded complaint rule, “unless the plaintiff's complaint establishes that the case arises under federal law, ” a defendant may not remove a case to federal court based on federal question jurisdiction. Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Constr. Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983) (emphasis in original).

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, when district courts have original jurisdiction in a civil action, they also have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims over which the court has original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Claims form part of the same case or controversy when they arise from a “common nucleus of operative fact” such that a plaintiff “would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial ...


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