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Grant v. Hernandez

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

June 23, 2016


          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

         Plaintiff James Grant is a state of Wisconsin prisoner currently housed at the Wisconsin Resource Center (WRC), which is located in Winnebago, Wisconsin. In a January 7, 2016, order, I addressed the allegations plaintiff raised in a series of ten new lawsuits. Dkt. 4. In particular, I noted that in this lawsuit and in case no. 15-cv-667-jdp, plaintiff brought claims that he was being food poisoned by WRC staff, and concluded that those cases could be brought together in one lawsuit.

         Plaintiff has not submitted a filing fee for this lawsuit, so I construe his complaint as including a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. However plaintiff has been sanctioned by this court for filing numerous frivolous filings-he is generally barred from bringing any new lawsuits in this court, although he is allowed to bring claims that he is in imminent danger of serious physical harm. Id.

         After considering his original complaint in this case, his complaint from the ’667 case, and various other motions and documents he has filed, I conclude that his allegations of food poisoning could potentially meet the imminent danger standard. But his allegations are too vague to support claims at this point, so I will dismiss his pleadings and give him a chance to submit an amended complaint that more clearly explains the basis for his claims. I will also direct him to pay an initial partial payment of the filing fee, and deny his motions for injunctive relief.


         A. Screening plaintiff’s claims

         In screening plaintiff’s claims, I must construe the complaint liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per curiam). However, I must dismiss any claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or ask for money damages from a defendant who by law cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

         I consider both plaintiff’s original complaint in this case, Dkt. 1, and his complaint docketed from the ’667 case, Dkt. 5, to be the operative pleading. Plaintiff alleges that food services staff members at the Wisconsin Resource Center are food poisoning him. But as in plaintiff’s other recent cases before the court, his allegations are very vague and they do not tie particular defendants’ actions to the problems about which he is complaining.

         In a document filed in both this case and a case regarding food poisoning at the Waupun Correctional Institution (15-cv-420-jdp), Dkt. 6, plaintiff alleges that prison staff members made harassing comments like “Enjoy your meal, Grant?”; “How do you feel?”; and “How was it?” that suggest that the staff members may have known that something was wrong with his meals. He also states that he often vomited after eating, id., which bolsters his claims that his food had been tampered with. But he does not explain whether the named defendants were the staff members making these comments, or otherwise explain when or how often he was food poisoned. Plaintiff has continued to send documents to the court in which he discusses his claims, as well as attaching documents, some of which relate to inmate grievances about the claims and others that seem to have no bearing on the case. I cannot consider all of these additional filings as part of the complaint, and even if I did, they do not set forth a coherent picture of how plaintiff believes defendants are violating his rights.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Under Rule 8(d), “each allegation must be simple, concise, and direct.” The primary purpose of these rules is fair notice. A complaint “must be presented with intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it is.” Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merchant Serv’s, Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775 (7th Cir. 1994). I conclude that plaintiff’s pleadings do not comply with Rule 8, so I will dismiss them. However, I will give plaintiff a chance to file an amended complaint in which he names as a defendant each state official he wishes to sue and sets out his claims against each of the defendants in short and plain statements. He should draft his amended complaint as if he were telling a story to people who know nothing about his situation. Plaintiff should simply state (1) what acts he believes violated his rights; (2) what rights were violated; (3) the specific person who committed each of those acts; and (4) what relief he wants the court to provide. In particular, he should explain why he thinks that each of the named defendants are involved in tampering with his food. If plaintiff fails to submit an amended complaint by the deadline set forth below, I will dismiss this case for plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         I also note that one of the problems plaguing plaintiff’s filings is that his handwriting is sometimes very difficult to read. It is very important that plaintiff make his amended complaint as legible as possible so that this court and the defendants can understand what he is alleging.

         B. Initial partial payment

         Even if plaintiff submits an amended complaint that successfully sets out his food poisoning claims, he will also have to fulfill his obligations as a plaintiff seeking in forma pauperis status by making an initial partial payment of the filing fee as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). The initial partial payment is calculated by using the method established in § 1915 by figuring 20 percent of the greater of the average monthly balance or the average monthly deposits to the plaintiff’s trust fund account statement.

         Plaintiff did not submit a trust fund account statement with his complaint in this case, but did submit a statement in case no. 15-cv-444-jdp. Using that statement, I calculate his initial partial payment to be $1.84. If plaintiff does not have the money in his regular account to make the initial partial payment, he will have to arrange with prison authorities to pay some or all of the assessment from his release account. The only amount plaintiff must pay at this time is this initial partial payment. Plaintiff should show a ...

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