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Robbins v. Waupun Correctional Institution

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 11, 2016

SHANE T. ROBBINS, Plaintiff,
v.
WAUPUN CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION, WILLIAM POLLARD, ANN SCARPITA, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER

          LYNN ADELMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The plaintiff, Shane T. Robbins, who is incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution, is representing himself. He filed a complaint alleging that the defendants violated his constitutional rights. This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's petition to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma pauperis). He has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $21.61. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         The court shall screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). The court may, therefore, dismiss a claim as frivolous where it is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Plaintiff need not plead specific facts and his statement need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint that offers mere “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). To state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should follow the principles set forth in Twombly by first, “identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations. Id. If there are well-pleaded factual allegations, the court must, second, “assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and (2) the deprivation was visited upon him by a person or persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Village of North Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The court is obliged to give the plaintiff's pro se allegations, “however inartfully pleaded, ” a liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         Complaint's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 22, 2015, defendant Officer John Doe gave him another inmate's medication. According to plaintiff, he suffered serious side effects from the medication including a massive headache, ringing in his head, and red, veiny hands. Since the September 22, 2015 incident, correctional staff have given plaintiff the wrong medication three times, but he did not take the medications because he noticed they were wrong. Plaintiff also states that, since all of the recent complaints, officers have gotten better about showing inmates their medications before disbursing them.

         Plaintiff asserts that he would not have received the wrong medication if health services staff, instead of officers, distributed medication to inmates. Plaintiff claims that the negligence of non-medical personnel disbursing medication and giving the wrong medication put his health and life in jeopardy and violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

         For relief, plaintiff would like to see medical personnel disburse medication, to minimize errors in handing out the wrong medication, and to minimize inmates not receiving their medication. Plaintiff also seeks declaratory relief. He further asserts that defendant Scarpita should be held accountable for her part in refusing to look into all the claims of inmates receiving wrong medication. He states that William Pollard should be held accountable for his part in refusing to look into inmates receiving wrong medication.

         Discussion

         To establish liability under the Eighth Amendment, a prisoner must show: (1) that his medical need was objectively serious; and (2) that the official acted with deliberate indifference to the prisoner's health or safety. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Chapman v. Keltner, 241 F.3d 842, 845 (7th Cir. 2001); see also Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976); Zentmyer v. Kendall County, Ill., 220 F.3d 805, 810 (7th Cir. 2000). Assuming that the plaintiff's ingestion of the wrong medication constitutes a serious medical need, a prison official acts with deliberate indifference when “the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; see also Norfleet v. Webster, 439 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2006); Chapman, 241 F.3d at 845 (a finding of deliberate indifference requires evidence “that the official was aware of the risk and consciously disregarded it nonetheless”). Negligence does not meet this standard and “even admitted medical malpractice does not give rise to a constitutional violation.” Norfleet, 439 F.3d at 396 (quoting Walker, 293 F.3d at 1037); see also Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106.

         As an initial matter, plaintiff has named Waupun Correctional Institution as a defendant. State agencies, including the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC), are not “persons” or suable entities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Ryan v. Ill. Dep't of Children and Family Servs., 185 F.3d 751, 758 (7th Cir. ...


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