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Jefferson v. Roy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 28, 2017

Bobby Earl Jefferson, Jr., Plaintiff,
Tom Roy, Minnesota Department of Corrections, Chris Pawelk, Roy Witte, Minncorr Industries, John R. King, Bruce Reiser, 3M, Stillwater Prison Officials, Jeff Lonsky, Steve Hammer, Terry Carlson, Carol Krippner, Reena Solheid, Alice Remillard, Anthony Forchas, and Arthur Dana Dickson, Defendants.


          Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the July 28, 2017 Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau. (Dkt. 65.) The R&R recommends granting the motion to dismiss of Defendant 3M, granting the motion to dismiss of Defendants Tom Roy—in both his official and individual capacity— Minnesota Department of Corrections, MINNCOR Industries, and all individual state employees in their official capacities (collectively the State Defendants). The R&R also recommends granting the motion to dismiss of Defendant Terry Carlson in her individual capacity, and permitting Plaintiff Bobby Earl Jefferson, Jr., the opportunity to cure certain service defects. Jefferson filed timely objections to the R&R, and the State Defendants responded.[1] Because Jefferson's amended complaint states a plausible claim for relief against Defendant Roy in his individual capacity, the Court rejects the R&R's conclusion that the State Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted on that basis. The Court adopts the R&R's remaining recommendations.


         Because the R&R provides a detailed factual and procedural history, the Court briefly summarizes the background of this litigation. Jefferson worked in the metal foundry while incarcerated at the Minnesota Department of Corrections facility in Stillwater, Minnesota (DOC-Stillwater), from approximately June 1, 2015, to February 1, 2016. Jefferson alleges that he was exposed to harmful toxins while working at the metal foundry and that he suffered numerous physical injuries. According to Jefferson, Defendants were aware of the risk of exposure, conspired with one another to conceal the exposure, and continued to expose foundry workers. On September 21, 2016, Jefferson initiated this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants' actions violated the Eighth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Jefferson seeks $1 million in damages. 3M, the State Defendants, and Terry Carlson in her individual capacity move to dismiss Jefferson's complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts, when accepted as true, that state a facially plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The factual allegations need not be detailed, but they must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level” in order to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 570 (2007). When determining whether a complaint states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face, a district court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Blankenship v. USA Truck, Inc., 601 F.3d 852, 853 (8th Cir. 2010).

         I. Jefferson's Objections to the R&R

         Jefferson objects to the R&R's recommendations that the Court grant 3M's motion to dismiss and the motions to dismiss of Defendants Roy and Carlson in their individual capacities. The Court reviews these determinations de novo, see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3); Grinder v. Gammon, 73 F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam), and addresses Jefferson's objections in turn.

         A. 3M

         The R&R recommends granting 3M's motion to dismiss because Jefferson fails to plausibly allege that 3M is a state actor. Jefferson objects, arguing that he alleges “pervasive entwinement” [sic] between 3M and state actors that is sufficient to sustain his constitutional claims against 3M.

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, private parties may be liable for constitutional violations only when they willfully participate in joint activities with a state or its agents. See Youngblood v. Hy-Vee Food Stores, Inc., 266 F.3d 851, 855 (8th Cir. 2001). Without more, a contract between a private entity and a state actor is insufficient to convert a private entity's actions to those of a state actor. See Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 843 (1982). Instead, a nexus must exist between the actions of the private entity and the fulfillment of a traditional government function. See, e.g., West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 54-57 (1988) (finding nexus in circumstances in which private physician contracted to provide prison inmates medical care).

         Here, even if 3M were aware of the allegedly harmful work conditions at the metal foundry at DOC-Stillwater and provided DOC-Stillwater with 3M respirators, Jefferson fails to allege that 3M was responsible for, or had any authority to address, the work conditions at DOC-Stillwater. Although Jefferson alleges that 3M must have been aware of the harmful conditions, Jefferson alleges no facts that create a plausible nexus between 3M's actions and the fulfillment of a traditional government function such that 3M bore any responsibility for ensuring that DOC-Stillwater inmates worked in a safe environment.

         Therefore, the Court overrules Jefferson's objection to this aspect of the R&R and adopts the R&R's recommendation to grant 3M's motion to dismiss.

         B. Roy and Carlson in their ...

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