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Menting v. Humphreys

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 19, 2016

WILLIAM J. MENTING, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN ROBERT HUMPHREYS, WILLIAM MCCREEDY, DR. WILLIAM KELLEY, SGT. SCHMIDT, CINDY O'DONNELL, and DR. HANNULA, Defendants.

          ORDER

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

         The plaintiff, who is incarcerated at Stanley 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 the plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket #5). The plaintiff has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $33.33. 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)); see 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, 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)).

         The plaintiff alleges that in 2010, as the result of a traffic accident, his leg was amputated. (Docket #1 at 4). Throughout the relevant period, the stump was apparently painful and bled regularly. Id. at 7-8. Though his allegations are not clear, the plaintiff's primary complaint is that prison officials failed to appropriately address this handicap. As best the Court can discern, the plaintiff was moved to Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution (“KMCI”) in mid-2013 or early 2014. Id. at 5-6. While at KMCI, the plaintiff was allegedly prohibited from using a wheelchair but was instead required to use crutches. Id. The plaintiff showed Sgt. Schmidt (“Schmidt”) what he claims are orders from his physician that he must use a wheelchair. Id. at 6. Schmidt apparently ignored that document. Id. Schmidt also seems to have refused to follow medical orders to deliver the plaintiff's meals to him in his cell. (Docket #1-6).

         The plaintiff further alleges that the other defendants ignored his “calls for help, ” which appear to be prison grievance filings and requests for medical service. (Docket #1 at 7). Additionally, KMCI warden Robert Humphreys (“Humphreys”) was allegedly “told repeatedly about the actions of his subordinates[, ] [a]nd he repeatedly refused to act[.]” Id. at 1. The plaintiff accuses William McCreedy (“McCreedy”), the Health Services Unit manager at KMCI, of acting in concert with the other defendants to deny him a wheelchair. Id. at 2. Dr. William Kelley (“Kelley”) also received complaints from the plaintiff and did nothing. Id. It is not clear whether Kelley is a state employee, an independent contractor employed by the state, or a private physician.

         Cindy O'Donnell (“O'Donnell”), deputy secretary of the Department of Corrections, ruled on at least one of the plaintiff's grievance appeals. (Docket #1-9). The plaintiff alleges that she failed to intervene to stop the other defendants' constitutional violations and did not adequately investigate his complaints. (Docket #1 at 2-3). Finally, Dr. Hannula (“Hannula”), a physician at the plaintiff's current institution, apparently denied him orthopedic shoes. Id. at 3.

         As currently presented, the plaintiff's complaint states only one viable claim for relief. His first cause of action is asserted against all of the defendants for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Id. at 10. The Gayton case outlines the elements of the claim:

[T]he plaintiff must show that: (1) [he] had an objectively serious medical condition; (2) the defendants knew of the condition and were deliberately indifferent to treating [him]; and (3) this indifference caused [him] some injury. An objectively serious medical condition is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention. A medical condition need not be life-threatening to be serious; rather, it could be a condition that would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if not treated.
With regard to the deliberate indifference prong, 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. Simply put, an official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference. Even if a defendant recognizes the substantial risk, he is free from liability if he responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted. ...

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