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More v. Michek

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

September 8, 2017

CAROLINE PAULA MORE, Plaintiff,
v.
IOWA COUNTY SHERIFF STEVE MICHEK, IOWA COUNTY DEPUTIES, MEDICAL STAFF EMPLOYED AT SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT OF IOWA COUNTY, STATE OF WISCONSIN JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, STATE OF WISCONSIN, UPLANDS HILLS HEALTH, TELLURIAN, and WINNEBAGO MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Caroline Paula More contracted clostridium difficile (C. Diff.), an intestinal infection, while she was in custody following her arrest. More alleges that her illness was caused by medicine provided to her during her custody.

         More is not a prisoner, but she is proceeding in forma pauperis, so I will screen her proposed complaint and dismiss any portion that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law cannot be sued for money damages. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). I must construe More's pro se complaint generously. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972) (per curiam). With these principles in mind, I conclude that More fails to state a claim. But I will allow More to amend her complaint to address the problems discussed in this order.

         ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

         I draw the following facts from the allegations in More's complaint, Dkt. 1, and accept them as true for purposes of this preliminary screening of the complaint.

         On May 24, 2014, defendant Steve Michek, a deputy sheriff for Iowa County, arrested More for an unidentified reason. Michek went through More's belongings and found some prescription medicine that belonged to More. According to More, Michek:

proceeded to give pills to Uplands Hills Health (hospital) and they in turn provided various prescriptions to Tellurian Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Furthermore, the prescriptions were transferred to Winnebago Mental Health Institute, with More.

Id. at 2. I take More to mean that Michek sent More's medicine to defendant Uplands Hills Health, and based on the pills provided, some medical professional at Uplands prescribed either the same medicine or some other medicine for More to take while she stayed at defendants Tellurian and Winnebago Mental Health Institute. I also infer that Uplands was a medical care provider for More while she was in custody.

         More contracted C. Diff. after ingesting the medicine prescribed by Uplands and suffered physical and mental injuries as a result. She was treated for C. Diff. for several months, and one of her medical care providers told her that “she was a treatment failure.” Id. at 3.

         ANALYSIS

         More indicates that she is bringing claims against defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 “does not establish a system of vicarious liability, ” and defendants in Section 1983 cases are not liable for acts or omissions committed by others. Aguilar, 2017 WL 2784561, at *2. Instead, a plaintiff must show that a defendant personally participated in the constitutional deprivation at issue. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 781 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Here, More does not allege any personal involvement by any defendant other than an unnamed medical professional at Uplands. More alleges that defendant Michek went through More's belongings, found the prescription drugs Mores already had, and sent them to Uplands. More does not explain why she believes that these actions violated her rights or led to her injuries. Nor does More explain how she was wronged by Michek's deputies, medical staff employed at the Iowa County Sherriff's Department, the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Justice Department, Tellurian, and Winnebago Mental Health Institute.

         More's claim against Uplands requires a slightly different analysis. I take More to mean that medical care provided by an Uplands employee was deficient. But under the Seventh Circuit's precedents, an employer is not liable for acts or omissions of its employees under Section 1983. See Collins v. Al-Shami, 851 F.3d 727, 734 (7th Cir. 2017). So More cannot proceed against Uplands under the theory of vicarious liability. More does not name any medical professional at Uplands as a defendant, but I have considered whether More states a claim against a potential Doe defendant at Uplands. I conclude that she does not.

         Because More was a pretrial detainee, the Fourteenth Amendment governs More's claim against a medical professional at Uplands. Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a plaintiff may challenge a state actor's medical care in two ways. One way is the familiar deliberate-indifference claim imported from Eighth Amendment cases: a plaintiff must to show that a defendant was deliberately indifferent to her objectively serious medical condition. Pittman ex rel. Hamilton v. County of Madison,746 F.3d 766, 775 (7th Cir. 2014). More fails to state a ...


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