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Dotson v. Zielieke

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 19, 2016

LANITA DOTSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CO ZIELIEKE, CO HERNANDEZ and LT CHASE, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF THE FILING FEE (DKT. NO. 2) AND SCREENING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 1)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, a Wisconsin state prisoner who is representing herself, filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §1983, alleging that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to her serious medical condition. Dkt. No. 1. She petitioned for leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee, and the court ordered her to pay an initial partial filing fee of $13.30. Dkt. Nos. 2, 5. On August 19, 2016, the plaintiff paid the filing fee in full. The case is before the court for screening of the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915A.

         I. SCREENING OF THE PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

         A. Standard for Screening Complaints

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) applies to this action because the plaintiff was incarcerated when she filed her complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Even when the plaintiff pays the filing fee in full, the PLRA requires courts to screen any complaint brought by inmates seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court may dismiss an action or portion thereof if the claims alleged are “frivolous or malicious, ” fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B).

         To state a claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff must provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [she] is entitled to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint need not plead specific facts, and need only provide “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. c Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “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).

         The factual content of the complaint must allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Indeed, allegations must “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Factual allegations, when accepted as true, must state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Federal courts follow the two-step analysis set forth in Twombly to determine whether a complaint states a claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. First, the court determines whether the plaintiff's legal conclusions are supported by factual allegations. Id. Legal conclusions not supported by facts “are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. Second, the court determines whether the well-pleaded factual allegations “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id. The court gives 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)).

         To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the defendants: 1) deprived her of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and 2) acted under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore v. Cnty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. of N. Fond du Lac, 384 F.3d 856, 861 (7th Cir. 2004)); see also Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980).

         B. Facts Alleged in the Complaint

         On July 11, 2016, the on-call psychologist at Taycheedah Correctional Institution (“TCI”) placed the plaintiff in “observation status”[1] because she was not eating, was not drinking, was not taking her prescribed psychotropic medication, and was engaging in self-harm by pulling skin off her arm. Dkt. No. 1 at 2. Around 10 or 11p.m. that night, the plaintiff asked to speak with a lieutenant or captain because she had been having “continued thoughts of wanting to self-harm.” Id. at 3. Lieutenant Chase went to the plaintiff's observation cell, and the plaintiff showed Chase her bleeding arm. Id. The plaintiff had “pull[ed] off a tattoo that was on [her] left arm” and was “putting the skin from [her] arm in a cup.” Id.

         Upon seeing the plaintiff's arm, Chase “made a gagging face” and said, “your [sic] nasty.” Id. Chase asked the plaintiff why she was pulling skin from her arm, and the plaintiff replied that “she couldn't stop self-harming and needed to be tied down in restraints for her own protection.” Id. Chase stated that he would not put the plaintiff in restraints, and he left the unit. Id. at 3-4.

         The plaintiff started crying, screaming and asking for help. Id. at 4. The plaintiff then “dug into [her] left arm which was bleeding badly [and] proceeded to write on the back wall of the observation cell with her own blood writing, ‘I WANT ICE!'” Id. The defendants did nothing. Id. The plaintiff continued to self-harm throughout the night. Id. Correctional Officers Zielieke and Hernandez conducted their routine rounds (“15 minute checks” of the observation cells) throughout the entire night, and failed to report the incident to their supervisor. Id. Neither asked the plaintiff how she was doing, though the plaintiff alleges that they clearly could see blood in her cell and all over the walls. Id.

         The next morning, the first shift officers called the nurse to examine the plaintiff's arm. Id. The nurse diagnosed the plaintiff with an infection and prescribed antibiotics for seven days. Id. While the plaintiff was gone, the janitor cleaned the blood off the wall in her ...


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