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Lenoir v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

August 16, 2019

LAMAR A. LENOIR, Plaintiff,

          Black, J.



         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Ohio State Penitentiary and former inmate at the Lebanon Correctional Institution, brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights by prison employees. This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) (Doc. 36) and plaintiffs response in opposition (Doc. 40).[1] This matter is also before the Court on plaintiffs "motion for an order." (Doc. 41).

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis and filed his complaint on September 22, 2017. (Complaint, Doc. 3). In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that on October 25, 2016 at 1:00 A.M., defendant Correctional Officer Ritchie entered his cell to escort him to the captain's office. (Id. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff alleges that once Ritchie arrived, Ritchie entered his cell and pushed his head against his cell wall several times when cuffing him. (Id.). According to plaintiff, defendant Spellman witnessed this action and "asked Ritchie if he wanted her to spray the Plaintiff," but Ritchie said this was unnecessary. (Id. at ¶ 6). Plaintiff claims that Ritchie and Spellman created false conduct reports in connection with the incident. (Id.).

         After leaving the captain's office, plaintiff claims defendant Ritchie took him to the C-Block and used a racial slur. (Id. at ¶ 8). Plaintiff alleges he informed defendant Green, the C-Block Supervisor, of the racial slur used by Ritchie. (Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff claims that defendant Ritchie then pushed him against a crashgate "for no apparent reason" at 1:39 A.M. on October 25, 2016. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that defendant Green was also present during this incident. (Id. at ¶ 11). Afterwards, plaintiff alleges that defendant Ritchie took him to a blind spot away from security cameras with defendant Green, struck him several times on the left side of his face, and sprayed mace. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff alleges that he responded in self-defense and tried to retreat by laying down in compliance until other officers arrived. (Id. at ¶ 14). While plaintiff was on the ground, defendant Ritchie allegedly continued to execute "unwarranted force." (Id.).

         Once he was restrained, plaintiff states that defendant Hubbard escorted him to the medical exam room. (Id. at ¶ 15). Defendant nurse Snelling stepped out of the room while defendant Hubbard and two unidentified correctional officers beat plaintiffs back and legs. (Id.), Defendant Hubbard allegedly stated, "[w]e are real racists on third shift!" (Id.). Plaintiff alleges defendant Snelling "falsified the medical documentation by claiming that the plaintiff suffered from no injuries." (Id. at ¶ 16). Plaintiff also claims that Ritchie, Green, and Hubbard falsified various reports to cover up the incident. (Id. at ¶ 17). Plaintiff claims that other nurses and doctors later verified that he suffered injuries from the above incidents, including a hole in the ear membrane that took 75 days to heal. (Id. at ¶ 18).

         On September 22, 2017, this Court conducted a sua sponte review of plaintiff s complaint and recommended that plaintiffs complaint be dismissed with the exception of his Eighth Amendment individual capacity claims against defendants Ritchie, Spellman, Green, Hubbard, Snelling, and two unidentified correctional officers. (Doc. 4 at 8). The Court recommended that plaintiffs allegations that defendants Ritchie, Spellman, and Green wrote false conduct reports against him be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Id.). The District Judge adopted the Report and Recommendation on October 30, 2017. (Doc. 12).

         II. Legal Standard

         Courts apply the same analysis to motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) as they apply to motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Warrior Sports, Inc. v. Nat 7 Collegiate Athletic Ass' n, 623 F.3d 281, 284 (6th Cir. 2010). 'Tor purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the opposing party must be taken as true, and the motion may be granted only if the moving party is nevertheless clearly entitled to judgment." JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 582 (6th Cir. 2007) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). However, the Court need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. Id. (citing Mixon v. Ohio, 193 F.3d 389, 400 (6th Cir. 1999)).

         To withstand a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, "a complaint must contain direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements under some viable legal theory." Commercial Money Ctr., Inc. v. III. Union Ins. Co., 508 F.3d 327, 336 (6th Cir. 2007). "The factual allegations in the complaint need to be sufficient to give notice to the defendant as to what claims are alleged, and the plaintiff must plead 'sufficient factual matter' to render the legal claim plausible, i.e., more than merely possible." Fritz v. Charter Twp. of Comstock, 592 F.3d 718, 722 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009)). A "legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation" need not be accepted as true, nor are recitations of the elements of a cause of action sufficient. Hensley Mfg. v. Pro Pride, Inc., 579 F.3d 603, 609 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In ruling on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Court can consider "exhibits attached thereto, public records, items appearing in the record of the case and exhibits attached to defendants'] motion [for judgment on the pleadings], so long as they are referred to in the Complaint and are central to the claims contained therein." Bassett v. Nat 'I Collegiate Athletic Ass 'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008). See also Mediacom Southeast LLC v. BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., 672 F.3d 396, 399 (6th Cir. 2012). As such, the Court will consider the state court records attached to defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings and supplemental memorandum.

         III. Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings should be granted.

         Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) on the basis that plaintiff made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his claims under Ohio Rev. Code § 2743.02(A)(1) by filing suit in the Ohio Court of Claims based on the same set of acts or omissions as this case. (Doc. 36 at 4-6). Defendants therefore argue that plaintiffs claims are barred under the Leaman doctrine of the Sixth Circuit. (Id. at 4). Alternatively, defendants argue that plaintiffs claims are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel because his claims have been adjudicated on the merits in the Ohio Court of Claims. (Id. at 6-10). Defendants attach plaintiffs complaint and supporting exhibits that were filed in the Ohio Court of Claims on April 20, 2017 to their motion. (Doc. 36-1). Defendants indicated in their motion that the Court of Claims matter proceeded to trial on September 6, 2018 and the parties were awaiting a decision, which would be provided to this Court when available. In a supplemental memorandum in support of their motion for judgment on the pleadings, defendants provide this Court with a copy of the Ohio Court of Claims November 21, 2018 decision and subsequent January 15, 2019 judgment entry. (Doc. 42-1). In that decision, a magistrate for the Ohio Court of Claims recommended that judgment be entered in favor of defendants on plaintiffs claim of excessive force occurring on October 25, 2016. (Id., ).

         Plaintiff opposes defendants' motion and argues that Ohio Rev. Code § 2743.02(A)(1) and (F) state that the Leaman waiver is void if the employee acted with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner that would take the employee manifestly outside the scope of employment. (Doc. 40 at 2). Plaintiff states that such an act takes the case out of the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims upon a determination from the Court of Claims that the act was outside the scope of employment. (Id. at 2-3). Plaintiff also argues that by allowing him to proceed on his Eighth Amendment claims, this Court rendered a decision regarding the defendant employees' actions, putting them outside of the scope of employment. (Id. at 3). In his supplemental memorandum in response to defendants' ...

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