United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge
Reinaldo Acosta, an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program
Facility, brings his lawsuit alleging that he was injured
while being transported to court by van, because his seat
belt was not properly fastened. Acosta has made an initial
partial payment of the filing free as previously directed by
next step in this case is to screen the complaint. In doing
so, I must dismiss any portion that is legally frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by
law cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. §§
1915 and 1915A. Because Acosta is a pro se litigant, I must
read his allegations generously. Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per curiam).
reviewing the complaint with these principles in mind, I
conclude that Acosta may proceed with an Eighth Amendment
claim against defendant G-Four-S Transportation Services, the
company responsible for transporting him. But his allegations
against individual defendants violate Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8, so I will give him a chance to file an amended
complaint that fixes this problem.
Reinaldo Acosta is an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program
Facility, which is located in Boscobel, Wisconsin. In June
2016, Acosta was transported from WSPF to the circuit court
for Milwaukee County for a court appearance there.
Acosta's seat belt was not fastened by the officials
involved in transporting him, even though he was handcuffed,
and presumably unable to belt himself in or otherwise protect
himself. On the trip back to WSPF, the driver (who Acosta
names as “Bianchi”) stopped abruptly while
travelling “at a high rate of speed.” Dkt. 1,
at 2. Acosta was “thrown into the windshield.”
According to documents Acosta attaches to the complaint, his
neck, back, and elbow were injured in the incident. Dkt. 1-5,
at 1, Dkt. 1-7.
is proceeding under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which requires him
to show that defendants intentionally deprived him of a
constitutional right while acting under color of state law.
Cruz v. Safford, 579 F.3d 840, 843 (7th Cir. 2009).
Acosta states that he suffered serious injuries “due to
the driver's indifference, ” and he cites an Eighth
Circuit case discussing Eighth Amendment deliberate
indifference claims against correctional officers
transporting an inmate, Brown v. Missouri Dep't of
Corr., 353 F.3d 1038, 1040 (8th Cir. 2004), so I take
him to be bringing Eighth Amendment claims against
defendants. A plaintiff may prove an Eighth Amendment claim
by showing that an official is aware that the plaintiff faces
dangerous conditions but chooses to disregard them. See
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).
facts Acosta alleges could support Eighth Amendment claims
against the individuals who decided to forgo the use of a
seat belt while transporting him handcuffed. But Acosta does
not name the driver, “Bianchi, ” as a defendant.
Acosta names Matt Kennedy as a defendant, but he does not
describe Kennedy's job responsibilities or whether he was
even involved in his transport.
includes the phrase “et al.” in the caption of
his complaint, which is commonly used to stand in the place
of additional parties. This suggests that he intends to name
more individuals as defendants. But he cannot sue other
individuals without formally including each of them in the
caption of his complaint. Also, I cannot allow Acosta to
proceed on claims against any defendant, even one named in
the caption, unless he explains what that defendant did to
violate his rights. Each defendant is entitled to know what
Acosta is alleging they did to harm him. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (complaint must include “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.”).
Acosta's allegations against individual defendants do not
comply with Rule 8, I will dismiss those portions of the
complaint and give him a short time to provide an amended
complaint that explains those claims. He should draft his
amended complaint as if he were telling a story to people who
know nothing about his situation. In particular, he should
(1) name each person he wishes to sue in the caption of the
complaint; and (2) explain what each defendant did to harm
also names G-Four-S Transportation Services as a defendant. I
can infer from Acosta's allegations that this company
contracted with prison or court officials to transport him.
Acosta alleges that his seat belt was not fastened “due
to driver['s] lack of training, ” Dkt. 1, at 3. A
§ 1983 plaintiff may bring a constitutional claim
against a corporation for failing to train its employees when
that failure is the result of a custom or policy of the
corporation. See City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S.
378, 389 (1989); Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.,
436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978); Johnson v. Dossey, 515
F.3d 778, 782 (7th Cir. 2008). Construing Acosta's
allegations generously, I will allow him to proceed on an
Eighth Amendment claim against G-Four-S Transportation
Services. But at the summary judgment or trial stage, Acosta
will have to provide evidence showing that the lack of
employee training was caused by a company custom or policy. I
will direct service on G-Four-S Transportation Services after
Acosta clarifies his claims against individual defendants.