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Goodvine v. Fond Du Lac County

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 21, 2017




         Plaintiff Christopher Goodvine, who is incarcerated at the Dodge Correctional Institution, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court for screening Plaintiff's complaint and on his petition to proceed in forma pauperis. Plaintiff lacks the funds to pay the partial filing fee. Therefore, the court waives the initial partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).

         The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or 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); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997). 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. “Malicious, ” although sometimes treated as a synonym for “frivolous, ” “is more usefully construed as intended to harass.” Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109-10 (7th Cir. 2003) (citations omitted).

         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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). 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's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted).

         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. 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). 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)).

         On January 31, 2017, Plaintiff was booked into the Fond du Lac County Jail. Plaintiff's fiancé informed the booking officer, John Doe 1, that Plaintiff was a cutter, could not tolerate isolation, and needed his medications. On February 5, 2017, Plaintiff alleges he informed Sergeant Jane Doe 2 that he was despondent and that being placed in isolation would result in him attempting suicide, but she placed him in isolation without taking any precautions. He asserts that he told John Doe 3 that he was suicidal and was going to cut himself very badly. John Doe 3 indicated he would notify Sergeant Jane Doe 2. At some unspecified time, Plaintiff cut his right arm. He was taken to the emergency room where he was treated. Plaintiff alleges that hospital staff “urged” Sergeant Jane Doe 2 to complete paperwork for a Chapter 51 emergency detention to place Plaintiff in a stabilized mental health facility. He asserts Jane Doe 2 did not complete this paperwork until February 7, 2017.

         Plaintiff returned to the Fond du Lac County Jail on February 5, 2017 where he was placed in a “dungeon-like” cell. Plaintiff claims he should have been monitored by John Does 2 through 6 but was not. He asserts he informed Jane and John Does 4 and 5 that he was going to cut himself again but they did not take any action. As a result, Plaintiff cut his left arm. He was again taken to the emergency room to be treated.

         Plaintiff returned to the Jail on February 8, 2017. He was again placed in a “dungeon-like” cell without any further precautions regarding his self-harm. He complained to Sergeant John Doe 7 about the lack of precautions for approximately one hour. He alleges that after he told John Doe 7 that he would sue him, Plaintiff was placed in a restraint chair for eight to nine hours. John Doe 7 noted that Plaintiff was placed in the restraint chair because he tampered with and picked at his cuts. Plaintiff alleges that when he showed John Doe 7 his arms, his cuts and bandages were in tact. Plaintiff alleges John Doe 7's reasoning for putting him in the restraint chair was pretext and that he put him in the restraints in retaliation of Plaintiff's threat to sue him. Plaintiff asserts Sergeant John Doe 7 and Sergeant John Doe 8 refused to remove him from the chair or call a medical professional to triage him.

         On February 9, 2017, Plaintiff informed John and Jane Does 9 through 12 as well as Jane Doe clinician that he was suicidal. He alleges that as a result of their failure to monitor him, he eventually cut his left wrist and required hospitalization. Plaintiff returned to the Jail on February 10, 2017.

         The Eighth Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments” and imposes a duty on prison officials to take reasonable measures to guarantee an inmate's safety and to ensure that inmates receive adequate medical care. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). Prison officials violate the Constitution if they are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Id. (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976)). A prisoner's claim for deliberate indifference must establish both an objectively serious medical condition existed, and that the defendants were subjectively aware of and consciously disregarded the prisoner's medical need. Id. at 837. Under this standard, Plaintiff has at least stated a colorable cause of action and may proceed on his deliberate indifference claim against John/Jane Does 2 through 6 and 9 through 12 as well as Jane Doe clinician. However, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against John Doe 1. He has not demonstrated that John Doe 1 disregarded Plaintiff's medical need. Accordingly, the court will dismiss him as a defendant.

         Moreover, Plaintiff cannot proceed on his deliberate indifference and retaliation claims against John Does 7 and 8. To assert an Eighth Amendment claim, a plaintiff must allege an objectively serious medical condition and that defendants acted with deliberate indifference to that condition. See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Plaintiff's complaint concerning his placement in restraints fails to satisfy both requirements. First, eight to nine hours in restraints, while uncomfortable, does not implicate the Eighth Amendment. See Cunningham v. Eyman, 17 F. App'x 449, 454 (7th Cir. 2001). Further, Plaintiff's actions gave rise to the use of restraints. Plaintiff alleges he complained to John Doe 7 for an hour about being in the “dungeon-like” cell and about the Jail's lack of precautions regarding his self-harm. When John Doe 7 ultimately placed Plaintiff in the restraint chair, it was because Plaintiff was tampering with and picking at his cuts. By restraining Plaintiff, John Does 7 and 8 were responding to Plaintiff's medical condition. It therefore follows that they were not deliberately indifferent.

         Plaintiff also claims that John Doe 7 retaliated against him by putting him in the restraint chair because Plaintiff threatened to sue him. To prevail on a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must specify a retaliatory action, name the appropriate defendants, and assert a constitutionally-protected activity, the exercise of which caused the retaliatory action. Hoskins v. Lenear, 395 F.3d 372, 375 (7th Cir. 2005). While Plaintiff attempts to meet this standard, he has instead pleaded himself out of court by alleging facts which clearly demonstrate that the actions complained of were not in retaliation of his constitutionally-protected conduct but rather in response to his suicidal ideation. A prisoner cannot transform such actions into a federal lawsuit simply by adding the conclusory allegation that, in taking such actions, the guards were also retaliating against him for other, constitutionally-protected conduct. Under ...

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