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Gasparac v. Milwaukee County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 19, 2016



          J.P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Prairie Du Chien Correctional Institution, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. (Docket #1). This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket #2). Plaintiff has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $7.00. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).

         The Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or an 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); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). 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; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “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 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted); accord Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2011).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the 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). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to 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)); Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers “labels and conclusions” or “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 allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted); Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.

         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 “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. Cnty. 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)).

         Plaintiff complains that he was arrested (for reasons not stated in the complaint) on March 28, 2016. (Docket #1 at 2). He was admitted to the West Allis Memorial Hospital that same day. Id. While there, he was diagnosed with a meningioma, which is a tumor formed in the meninges. Id. He was released into the Milwaukee County Jail (the “Jail”) on March 30, 2016. Id. He was then sent to the Milwaukee County House of Corrections (the “House of Corrections”) sometime later. Id. He alleges that officials at the House of Corrections failed to take him to follow-up medical appointments, apparently related to his meningioma, which were scheduled for April 20, 2016 and June 2, 2016. Id. at 2-3. After this occurred, Plaintiff alleges, a judge ordered the Jail and the House of Corrections to reschedule those appointments and then ensure Plaintiff attended them. Id. at 3. He was then taken from the House of Corrections back to the Jail. Id. The Jail never complied with the judge's order “because of negligence.” Id. Plaintiff “seeks damages for violating his rights and refusing him medical treatment.” Id.

         Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted for a number of reasons. First, while he claims that his “rights” were violated, he does not state with specificity which rights he believes were violated. In particular, if Plaintiff is seeking to recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for Defendant's inadequate medical care, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment, he should so state. If he has some other theory for recovery, he should make that clear. Without tying his case to a particular cause of action, the Court has no way to analyze Plaintiff's claims.

         Second, assuming Plaintiff is in fact seeking to hold Defendant liable under Section 1983 for constitutionally inadequate medical care, he fails to allege facts sufficient to state such a claim. To state a claim of deliberate indifference to serious medical need, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, Plaintiff must allege: (1) an objectively serious medical condition; (2) that Defendant knew of the condition and was deliberately indifferent in treating it; and (3) this indifference caused Plaintiff some injury. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010). “With regard to the deliberate indifference prong, ” the Gayton court instructs that:

the plaintiff must show that the official acted with the requisite culpable state of mind. This inquiry has two components. The official must have subjective knowledge of the risk to the inmate's health, and the official also must disregard that risk. Evidence that the official acted negligently is insufficient to prove deliberate indifference. Rather, “deliberate indifference” is simply a synonym for intentional or reckless conduct, and that “reckless” describes conduct so dangerous that the deliberate nature of the defendant's actions can be inferred.

Id. Plaintiff fails to allege what injury he suffered as a result of Defendant's failure to reschedule his follow-up medical appointments. Further, although Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to comply with a court order to reschedule his follow-up medical appointments, he claims that this occurred “because of negligence.” Mere negligence cannot support a claim of deliberate indifference. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105-06; Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011).

         Third, even if Plaintiff had stated a claim for deliberate indifference to his medical needs, he has sued the wrong entity. The Milwaukee County Jail is not itself a suable entity. Smith v. Knox Cnty. Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th Cir. 2012); Maier v. Wood Cnty. Courthouse, No. 07-C-580-C, 2007 WL 3165825, at *2 (W.D. Wis. Oct. 24, 2007). He must name a proper defendant, such as the individual Jail officials who deprived him of his constitutional rights.

         Despite these deficiencies, the Court will permit Plaintiff to amend his complaint. If he wants to proceed, Plaintiff must file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies in the original complaint as described herein. The amended complaint must be filed on or before January 9, 2017. Failure to file an amended complaint within this time period may result in dismissal of this action. Plaintiff is advised that the amended complaint must bear the docket number assigned to this case and must be labeled “Amended Complaint.” Plaintiff is further advised that a successful complaint ...

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