United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, CHIEF JUDGE
before the Court is Defendants Michael York's and P.
Owen's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff brought
suit against Defendants alleging violations of the state and
federal constitutions and common law negligence for failing
to protect him from physical and sexual assault by his fellow
inmates at the Western Regional Jail. Defendants, employees
of the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility
Authority (“WVJCFA”), believe they are entitled
to qualified immunity and should be dismissed from the suit.
Defendants also contend that the West Virginia Constitution
does not permit money damages. For the following reasons the
Court GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part the Motion to Dismiss.
was initially detained at Western Regional Jail
(“WRJ”) in October 2014 as a pretrial detainee.
Compl. ¶¶ 3, 12, ECF No. 1. He was housed in POD
C-1. Id. ¶ 13 During his time in C-1 a number
of inmates harassed and threatened to kill Plaintiff and one
inmate even constructed a noose out of bed sheets.
Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff notified WRJ staff about
the threats and harassment, and he was placed in protective
custody. Id. ¶ 15. At some point after he was
placed in protective custody, Plaintiff was released on bond.
February 20, 2015, Plaintiff was again detained at the WRJ
after his bond was revoked. Id. ¶¶ 11, 16.
Upon admission, Plaintiff informed Defendant John Doe #1 that
he should not be housed in POD C-1 due to the presence of the
same inmates that had threatened him during his previous stay
in C-1. Id. ¶ 17. Defendants York and Owens
were on duty as booking officers or supervisors on February
20 and 21. Id. ¶¶ 5, 6. Plaintiff alleges
that one or more of the Defendants responded to his
protestations that he “shouldn't have come back to
jail” and his safety “was a personal
problem.” Id. ¶ 19. Defendants did not
conduct a review of records related to Plaintiff's
previous stay, and Plaintiff was assigned to C-1.
Id. ¶ 20.
hours of his arrival inmates that had threatened his life
during his previous stay physically and sexually assaulted
Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 21. During their assault the
inmates rendered Plaintiff unconscious and inflicted such
injury that Plaintiff required emergency surgery to repair
his spleen. Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff also suffered a
number of broken bones and other injuries consistent with
sexual assault. Id.
filed this suit claiming Defendants violated his federal and
state constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual
punishment and Defendants negligently performed their duties
when they reassigned Plaintiff to POD C-1. Id.
York and Owens now move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's
claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Def.'s
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 1, ECF No. 9. Defendants
believe they are entitled to qualified immunity for their
conduct as WVJCFA employees and that West Virginia does not
permit recovery of money damages for violations of the state
constitution. Id. 3, 6.
considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a
court follows a two-step approach: (1) “begin by
identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth,
” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009),
and then (2) “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual
allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
first step, the complaint must provide the plaintiff's
“grounds of . . . entitlement to relief” in more
factual detail than mere “labels and
conclusions.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).
“[A] formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.” Id. at 555. “While
legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint,
they must be supported by factual allegations.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
second step, a court must take the remaining factual
allegations in the complaint as true, and view them in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555-56. The complaint must contain “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 555, 570 (internal quotation
marks omitted). Plausibility is established “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. “The plausibility standard . . . asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely
consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short
of the line between possibility and plausibility of
entitlement to relief.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).