McCoy v. Newton County, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104616 (S.D. Miss., Aug. 10, 2015)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

MISSISSIPPI – U.S. Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball held that for pre-trial detainee Timothy Allen McCoy had potentially valid claims to have been subjected to unconstitutional conditions while detained at Newton County Jail, refusing to grant summary judgment to the defendants on some of the claims. McCoy was arrested on sexual battery charges and detained in the county jail while awaiting trial. He informed jail officials that he was HIV positive and was taking prescription drugs, but pursuant to the usual policy followed by correctional institutions, they did not allow him to bring medication into the facility. He alleges that during the first six months of his detention, he was denied HIV meds and placed into segregation, denied any out-of-cell recreational activity. He was allowed to shower only once or twice every two weeks, he claims, and denied soap, deodorant, a toothbrush or toothpaste. He alleges there was no intercom in his cell, guards only checked on him every eight hours on shift changes, and that he was not allowed to use a phone except to call his lawyer.

Magistrate Ball found that it was legitimate for the prison to place an HIV-positive detainee who had been arrested for sexual battery into segregation in order to protect other inmates and prevent the spread of HIV, and that the denial of out-of-cell recreation was not unconstitutional. However, he found that denying medication to an inmate with a serious medical condition could state a claim, as could denying various hygienic necessities, in the absence of any legitimate, non-punitive purpose for failing to meet adequate personal hygiene requirements. However, the court rejected McCoy’s statutory claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act, finding that McCoy had not alleged “that his HIV status was the reason for the conditions under which he was housed or Defendant’s failure to provide him with his medication.”

The court dismissed as against certain of the individual defendants on the grounds that they did not bear personal responsibility for McCoy’s mistreatment, but refused to dismiss as against the sheriff and the jail administrator. Since the sheriff is the final policymaker on administration of the county jail, the court found that if the sheriff is ultimately held to have violated McCoy’s constitutional rights, the county would be liable as well. The court also rejected an attempt by the defendants to assert qualified immunity, finding that they had not made any argument that they are entitled to qualified immunity because the right claimed by McCoy was not clearly established. (Summary provided by September 2015 Lesbian / Gay Law Notes).