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Troy Eugene American Horse v. Pennington County

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

June 12, 2017

TROY EUGENE AMERICAN HORSE, Plaintiff,
v.
PENNINGTON COUNTY, PENNINGTON COUNTY JAIL, PENNINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, and MS. SHILOH MACNALLY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE.

         On May 5, 2017, plaintiff Troy Eugene American Horse filed a complaint against defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and moved for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dockets 1 & 2).

         28 U.S.C. § 1915, as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), governs proceedings filed in forma pauperis. When a prisoner files a civil action in forma pauperis, the PLRA requires a prisoner to pay an initial partial filing fee when possible. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). The initial partial filing fee is calculated according to § 1915(b)(1), which requires a payment of 20 percent of the greater of:

(A) the average monthly deposits to the prisoner's account; or
(B) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the 6-month period immediately preceding the filing of the complaint or notice of appeal.

Id.

         In support of his motion, Mr. American Horse provided a copy of his prisoner trust account report signed by an authorized prison official. (Docket 3). The report shows an average monthly deposit since he arrived at the institution at which he is currently incarcerated of $0.00, an average monthly balance of $0.00, and a current balance of $0.00. Id. Based on this information, the court finds Mr. American Horse is indigent and grants him leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court must review a prisoner complaint and identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This screening process “applies to all civil complaints filed by prisoners, regardless of payment of filing fee.” Lewis v. Estes, 242 F.3d 375, at *1 (8th Cir. 2000) (unpublished) (citing Carr v. Dvorin, 171 F.3d 115, 116 (2d Cir. 1999)). During this initial screening process, the court must dismiss the complaint in its entirety or in part if the complaint is “frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or . . . seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         The court may dismiss a complaint under §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1) for failure to state a claim as “the statute accords judges not only the authority to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). Because Mr. American Horse is proceeding pro se, his pleading must be liberally construed and his complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Mr. American Horse used a Civil Rights Complaint By A Prisoner form. (Docket 1). Mr. American Horse asserts the court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at p. 1.

         Mr. American Horse's complaint contains four counts. Counts 1 and 2 raise essentially the same claim. In Counts 1 and 2, Mr. American Horse alleges Pennington County violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment by failing to ensure the Pennington County Jail provided him with adequate healthcare. (Docket 1 at pp. 4-5). His allegations surround the denial of his seizure medication that he claims was prescribed to him by an outside doctor. Id. He alleges the prison medical staff chose to “override” his prescription. Id. Count 3 alleges the Pennington County Sheriff's Office failed to train its officers at the Pennington County Jail to provide adequate medical treatment to inmates. Id. at 6. Count 4 claims Shiloh MacNally violated Mr. American Horse's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by not protecting him from the other defendants and forcing him to waive his constitutional rights. Id. at 7. Mr. American Horse requests relief in the form of $1, 000, 000 in money damages from each defendant. Id. at 8.

         Mr. American Horse fails to state a claim against Pennington County and the Pennington County Sheriff's Office. “[A] local government may not be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents on a theory of respondeat superior.” Andrews v. Fowler, 98 F.3d 1069, 1074 (8th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citing Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs. of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978)).

         A county may be liable for violation of constitutional rights if the violation was caused by its customs or policies. Crawford v. Van Buren Cty., Ark., 678 F.3d 666, 669 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Rynders v. Williams, 650 F.3d 1188, 1195 (8th Cir. 2011)). Mr. American Horse does not point to any offending policy. He merely argues he was not given medication that he should have been given.

         Medical professionals in the prison do not commit an Eighth Amendment violation-as Mr. American Horse alleges-unless their actions constitute deliberate indifference. See, e.g., Meuir v. Greene Cty Jail Emps., 487 F.3d 1115, 1119 (8th Cir. 2007) (finding a plaintiff has no constitutional right to a particular course of treatment). Meuir's analysis also applies to the claims against the Pennington County ...


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