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Littleton v. Miller

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

January 19, 2017

WILLIAM LITTLETON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL MILLER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. D AVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On December 19, 2016, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report and Recommendation (Doc. # 16), recommending that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. # 12-1) be dismissed in part without prejudice. The Magistrate Judge provided Plaintiff fourteen (14) days in which to object to the Report; no objections were filed. This action arises out of Plaintiff's arrest on the night of October 26, 2013, the medical care (or lack thereof) he received following that arrest, and the collection of a urine sample from him at the Russellville Hospital.

         I. Standard of Review

         When reviewing a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation, the court reviews those portions that are not specifically objected to under the “clearly erroneous” standard. See Liberty Am. Ins. Grp., Inc. v. WestPoint Underwriters, L.L.C., 199 F.Supp.2d 1271, 1276 (M.D. Fla. 2001).

         II. Analysis

         After careful consideration of the record in this case and the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the court concludes that the Magistrate Judge's Report is due to be adopted in part and overruled in part. Additionally, the court defers its consideration of one section of the Report pending a response from Defendant Michael Miller. Below, the court explains its rulings.

         A. Adopted Portions of the Report

         The court concurs with the Magistrate Judge's conclusions that: (1) Defendant Miller should be directed to respond to Plaintiff's excessive force claim in Count VIII;[1] (2) Defendant Miller should be directed to respond to Plaintiff's deliberate indifference claim in Count I; (3) Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Miller, Peggy Williams, and Kellon White are due to be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim; (4) Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Miller in his official capacity are due to be dismissed as redundant; and (5) Plaintiff's claims against Defendant City of Russellville are due to be dismissed without prejudice because Plaintiff has failed to plead a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim based on a custom or policy of the City. Thus, Sections III(A)(1), III(A)(2), III(A)(4), and III(B) of the Magistrate Judge's Report are due to be adopted.

         B. Analysis of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Unreasonable-Seizure Claims

         One of Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims warrants further discussion. In Count VII of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has alleged that Defendants Miller, Williams, and White violated his Fourth Amendment rights by performing an unreasonable search or seizure. (Doc. # 12-1 at 7-8). After Plaintiff was transported to the Russellville Hospital, Defendant Miller allegedly directed or ordered Defendants Williams and White to obtain bodily fluids or urine from Plaintiff. (Id. at 7). Thereafter, Williams and White instructed Plaintiff to urinate in a jar. (Id.). According to Plaintiff, Williams and White threatened to obtain a urine sample by forcefully inserting a catheter if he did not voluntarily provide a sample. (Id.).

         In the Report, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Plaintiff had stated a viable Fourth Amendment claim against Defendants Miller, Williams, and White. First, the Magistrate Judge determined that Plaintiff had raised a viable unlawful-seizure claim against Defendant Miller because his Amended Complaint indicated that the seizure of his urine did not fall within an established exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. (Doc. # 16 at 11-15 (addressing whether the seizure fell under the consent exception or the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement)). Second, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Defendants Williams and White could be classified as state actors under Section 1983 because their involvement in procuring the urine sample met the State compulsion test. (See Id. at 15-16). This latter conclusion is clear error. Moreover, the court finds it appropriate to defer review of the former conclusion until Defendant Miller has a chance to respond to the Report.

         1. Plaintiff has Not Plausibly Alleged that Williams and White were State Actors

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted). A deprivation of a plaintiff's rights is fairly attributable to the state when (1) it is “caused by the exercise of some right or privilege created by the State or by a rule of conduct imposed by the State or by a person for whom the State is responsible, ” and (2) where the party charged with the deprivation is “a person who may fairly be said to be a state actor.” Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 50 (1999) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

         In certain circumstances, a private party may be considered a state actor for purposes of Section 1983. Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127, 1130 (11th Cir. 1992); see also Lugar v. Edmonson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 938-39 (1982). The Eleventh Circuit has directed district courts to determine whether one of three conditions is ...


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