United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON District Judge
plaintiff Fredrick Andrew Morris, a prisoner at Columbia
Correctional Institution, has filed this lawsuit against
defendant Jason T. Zeimer, a correctional officer, alleging
that he violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by
ignoring his complaints of suicidal thoughts and requests for
help, and then recklessly allowing him to harm himself.
Plaintiff has made an initial partial payment of the filing
fee in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), so his
complaint is ready for screening under 28 U.S.C. §§
1915(e)(2) and 1915A. Plaintiff has failed to adequately
explain how defendant's actions caused, allowed, or could
have stopped his self-imposed injury. However, I will give
plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint that
states a viable claim.
complaint contains the following allegations, which, at this
stage and for present purposes, I accept as true and read in
the light most favorable to him. Perez v. Fenoglio,
792 F.3d 768, 774 (7th Cir. 2015).
March 8, 2016, plaintiff Fredrick Andrew Morris, a prisoner
at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin,
told correctional officer Jason T. Zeimer that he was feeling
suicidal and needed to see or speak with prison health or
psychological staff. Defendant Zeimer told plaintiff Morris
to “write a green slip to see PSU sometime, ” and
walked away. Defendant returned later with evening
medications. Plaintiff received his meds and put them in a
cup “with 66 other pills” of various kinds and
doses, and took all of them together, apparently attempting
to kill himself. He experienced a drug overdose and was taken
to the Divine Savior Hospital where he had to be kept
overnight before his condition was stabilized.
alleges that defendant “let me attempt to kill myself
when he knew” that plaintiff was in a depressed and
suicidal emotional state. In so doing, plaintiff claims that
defendant acted with both deliberate indifference in
violation of the Eight Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,
and negligence in violation of Wisconsin state law.
prison official can be held liable under the Eighth Amendment
for self-inflicted harms committed by a prisoner if the
official “subjectively knew” of a specific risk
of self-harm, but intentionally disregarded that risk.
Collins v. Seaman, 462 F.3d 757, 761 (7th Cir.
2006). This standard is part of the broader standard called
“deliberate indifference” to serious medical
needs. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05
(1976). The prison official's failure to prevent harm
(including self-harm) violates the Constitution only when the
official “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to
inmate health or safety.” Gevas v. McLaughlin,
798 F.3d 475, 482 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994)). See also Brown
v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 915-16 (7th Cir. 2005) (to state
a claim upon which relief can be granted, plaintiff must
allege that defendant's conduct disregarding specific
known risk caused substantial harm to inmate). The prisoner
must also show that the injury would not have occurred if the
prison official had not disregarded the risk. Henderson
v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 848 (7th Cir. 1999).
has alleged adequately that he suffered an injury by
overdosing on drugs, which caused him physical and
psychological pain and suffering, emotional distress, and
serious medical injury which required an overnight stay in
the hospital to stabilize. He has not, however, alleged
adequately that defendant knew of and intentionally ignored a
specific, excessive risk that plaintiff would harm himself by
overdosing on drugs (or otherwise suffer serious injury).
infer liberally from the complaint that defendant knew that
plaintiff was at some risk of harming himself generally, and
that he essentially ignored that risk, at least for a period
of time during that day. But plaintiff does not explain how
he came into possession of the “66 other pills”
that he took with his own medication to overdose. He does not
allege that defendant's actions (or failure to act)
allowed him to obtain these pills, nor does he allege that
defendant was aware that he had them. Therefore, there is no
basis to infer that defendant knew plaintiff had the means to
harm himself and posed a specific, excessive risk of doing so
at that time.
therefore dismissing plaintiff's complaint without
prejudice, and giving him an opportunity to submit an amended
complaint that contains allegations sufficient to state a
claim and otherwise complies with the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Plaintiff may have until February 24, 2017 to do
so. Specifically, if plaintiff wishes to proceed with this
claim, he should say how he obtained the pills, what
defendant knew about them and when, what defendant did to
enable him to take the pills or how he could have stopped
him, and he should put forth any other factual allegations
regarding how defendant's actions (or inaction)
contributed to his injury by allowing him to harm himself.
Plaintiff Fredrick Andrew Morris complaint, dkt. #1, is
DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to provide notice of