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Hardy v. Thomas

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

December 9, 2014

KEON HARDY, Plaintiff,
v.
KIM THOMAS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

R. DAVID PROCTOR, District Judge.

This case is before the court on Defendants Kim Thomas, Willie Thomas, John Hutton, and Felicia Ford's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14), filed July 28, 2014. For the reasons outlined below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14) is due to be granted. Count V is due to be dismissed as to Defendants Kim Thomas, Willie Thomas, and John Hutton. Because they are entitled to state-agent immunity, Count VI is due to be dismissed as to Defendants Kim Thomas, Willie Thomas, John Hutton, and Felicia Ford. Additionally, because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted against Defendants Kim Thomas and Willie Thomas, the claims against these two Defendants are due to be dismissed as well.

I. Facts

In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court assumes the factual allegations in the complaint are true and gives the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable factual inferences. Hazewood v. Found. Fin. Grp., LLC, 551 F.3d 1223, 1224 (11th Cir. 2008). A plaintiff's allegations may or may not be the "actual facts" in a case, but they are accepted as true for purposes of evaluating a motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the facts set out herein are those alleged in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 13).

In or around October 2011, Plaintiff Keon Hardy ("Plaintiff") was transferred to Bibb County Correctional Facility ("Bibb County" or the "Prison") to be housed as an inmate in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections. (Doc. 13, Amended Compl. ¶ 10). Beginning in or around November 2012, Plaintiff was repeatedly forced to engage in oral sex with Defendant Phillip Bryant, a correctional officer working at the Prison. ( Id. ¶ 11).

On the first occurrence, Plaintiff was taken by a white guard, whose name he cannot recall, to an area of the prison where Bryant was working, and was forced by Bryant to perform oral sex on Bryant. ( Id. ). Bryant threatened and intimidated Plaintiff and caused Plaintiff to fear for his life if he should report the sexual abuse. ( Id. ). The sexual assaults of Plaintiff by Bryant continued, and Bryant threatened Plaintiff on almost a daily basis to keep him from telling anyone. ( Id. ).

In or around December 2011, Plaintiff submitted a written request to Defendant John Hutton, a Captain at the Prison responsible for the development and implementation of policies and procedures at the Prison and the training, and supervision of guards, jailers, and officers under his command. ( Id. ¶ 12). In that request, Plaintiff notified Hutton of the sexual assaults by Bryant and asked him for help. ( Id. ). Approximately one week after he submitted the request, Plaintiff saw Hutton on rounds and asked if Hutton had received the letter. ( Id. ). Hutton responded by saying, "I am not thinking about your letter. You are just trying to get out of lockup." ( Id. ). Plaintiff claims the formal complaint made to Hutton "was made known to" Defendants Felisha Ford, Warden Willie Thomas, and Commissioner Kim Thomas. ( Id. ¶ 18).

At some point in time, Bryant began providing contraband for Plaintiff including a cell phone, drugs (cocaine, marijuana, pills, etc.) and food. ( Id. ¶ 13). Bryant forced Plaintiff to sell this contraband for the benefit of Bryant and others involved in his criminal enterprise under direct threat of reprisals and physical assault. ( Id. ). Between December 2011 and February 2012, Bryant sent Plaintiff sexually explicit text messages on the cell phone which Bryant provided to Plaintiff detailing Bryant's sexual desires and describing the sex acts which Bryant planned to perform with Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 14). Bryant also sent photographs of his penis with the text messages. ( Id. ). This cell phone containing this graphic content was confiscated by prison officials including Defendants during a later investigation. ( Id. ).

Bryant was emboldened by the lack of action by his superiors, and he recruited other guards to assist him in his systematic rape of Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 19). In or around February 2012, Bryant summoned Plaintiff to the infirmary where he was stationed. ( Id. ¶ 15). An Officer Edwards came to Plaintiff's cell and told him that Bryant wanted to see him in the infirmary. ( Id. ). When Plaintiff refused to voluntarily go, he was forcibly taken to the infirmary by Edwards. ( Id. ). Once there Edwards locked him in the bathroom where he remained until Bryant entered and forced Plaintiff to perform oral sex on him. ( Id. ). On another occasion, Officer Derrick Johnson masturbated in front of Plaintiff. ( Id. ).

While Bryant was subjecting Plaintiff to this continued sexual assault, Bryant commented to other correctional officers that when Plaintiff got out of prison, he was going to be Bryant's "man" and that "nobody should f____k with him." ( Id. ¶ 16). On at least one occasion, Bryant made these comments in the presence and hearing of Defendant Felisha Ford, a Lieutenant at the Prison. ( Id. ). In or around March 2012, Ford directly asked Plaintiff if he and Bryant had sexual contact. Plaintiff told her that they had. ( Id. ). No action was taken and no report was made by Ford. Thereafter, Ford referred to Plaintiff as Bryant's "husband." ( Id. ).

In or around May 2012, the last sexual assault on Plaintiff occurred. ( Id. ¶ 17). Bryant came to Plaintiff's cell in "lockup" and again forced Plaintiff to perform fellatio on him. ( Id. ). Approximately three days later, Plaintiff reported the assault to a Sergeant Cameron. An investigation was then undertaken by prison officials. ( Id. ). Immediately, Plaintiff was taken and his mouth was swabbed for DNA. ( Id. ). Plaintiff had made a concerted effort in the intervening three days to preserve the DNA in his mouth, and the test was positive for Bryant's DNA. ( Id. ).

Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Ford, Warden Thomas, and Commissioner Thomas were aware of the potential for abuse - and the actual abuse - of other inmates by way of complaints made by Plaintiff at the Prison and by other inmates at other correctional facilities. Specifically, Plaintiff points to complaints of sexual abuse made by inmates at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama, the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, and the Draper Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. Based upon these complaints from other facilities, he claims that Defendants were on notice of the abuse Plaintiff suffered. ( Id. ¶ 28 (citing Washington v. Albright, 814 F.Supp.2d 1317 (M.D. Ala. 2010); Oliver v. Brewer, Nos. 13-0315-WS, 13-0254-WS, 2013 WL 3465188 (S.D. Ala. June 19, 2013); Barley v. Jamison, 2013 WL 802914 (M.D. Ala. Feb. 25, 2013)).

A number of state laws and regulations make it unlawful for any employee of the Department of Corrections to engage in sexual conduct with a person who is in the custody of the Department of Corrections. ( Id. ¶ 20-24 (citing Ala. Code § 14-11-31(a); Admin. Reg. Nos. 208, 228, 318, 454). Nevertheless, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Ford, Hutton, Warden Thomas, and Commissioner Thomas failed to train guards, jailors, and officers regarding these rules and regulations. He also contends they took no action to enforce the rules and regulations when they had direct knowledge of violations. ( Id. ¶ 26). Plaintiff claims this failure has caused (or led to) a custom and practice of tolerance of sexual abuse of inmates by other inmates on the part of Ford, Hutton, Warden Thomas, and Commissioner Thomas and other prison staff. ( Id. ¶ 27).

II. Standard of Review

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require only that the complaint provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Still, the complaint must include enough facts "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that contain nothing more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" do not meet Rule 8 standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely upon "labels and conclusions" or "naked assertion[s]" without supporting factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, '" the complaint must demonstrate "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. A plausible claim for relief requires "enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence" to support the claim. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

The Supreme Court has recently identified "two working principles" for a district court to use in applying the facial plausibility standard. First, in evaluating motions to dismiss, the court must assume the veracity of well-pleaded factual allegations; however, the court does not have to accept as true legal conclusions when they are "couched as... factual allegation[s]." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Second, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 679.

Application of the facial plausibility standard involves two steps. Under prong one, the court must determine the scope and nature of the factual allegations that are well-pleaded and assume their veracity; and under prong two, the court must proceed to determine the claim's plausibility given the well-pleaded facts. That task is context specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must permit the court based on its "judicial experience and common sense... to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Id. If the ...


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