United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
JEFFREY S. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
STATE OF WISCONSIN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
Jeffrey Wright, who is incarcerated at the Kettle Moraine
Correctional Institution, proceeds in this matter pro
se. He filed a complaint alleging that Defendant
violated his constitutional rights. (Docket #1). This case
was originally assigned to Magistrate Judge David E. Jones,
but because not all parties have had the opportunity to
consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction, the case was
randomly reassigned to a District Court judge for screening
of the complaint.
addition to filing a complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion for
leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee.
(Docket #2). The Prison Litigation Reform Act
(“PLRA”) gives courts discretion to allow
prisoners to proceed with their lawsuits without prepaying
the $350 filing fee, as long as they comply with certain
requirements. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. One of those
requirements is that the prisoner pay an initial partial
filing fee. On October 16, 2017, Magistrate Jones ordered
Plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $9.87.
(Docket #5). Plaintiff paid that fee on November 2, 2017.
Accordingly, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion to
proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee. He is
required to pay the balance of the filing fee over time in
the manner explained at the end of this order.
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. Id. § 1915A(b).
state a claim, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, “that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows a court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
proceed 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
defendant was acting under color of state law.
Buchanan-Moore v. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824,
827 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Kramer v. Vill. 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
gives a pro se plaintiff's 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,
alleges that he works in his institution's kitchen as a
dishwasher. (Docket #1 at 3). A cook ordered him to go into a
different area of the kitchen, where he is not assigned.
Id. at 2. While there, an oven rack fell on him and
burned his arm. Id. It is not clear from the
complaint whether the oven rack fell on Plaintiff because of
his own actions or because of a problem with the oven rack
itself. Plaintiff explains that he was seen by health
services and given cream to apply to the burn. Id.
at 3. He asserts that the burn is now infected. Id.
Plaintiff seeks money damages and asks that the oven rack be
fixed. Id. at 4.
fails to state a claim under § 1983 against the only
named defendant, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections
(“DOC”). For a defendant to be liable under
§ 1983, it must have participated directly in the
violation of a plaintiff's constitutional rights.
Hildebrandt v. Ill. Dept. of Natural Res., 347 F.3d
1014, 1036 (7th Cir. 2003). The DOC cannot be held liable for
the actions of its employees. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Because Plaintiff fails to allege
that a DOC policy violated his constitutional rights, he
fails to state a claim against the DOC.
Plaintiff named a proper defendant-that is, a state actor who
participated directly in the violation of Plaintiff's
constitutional rights- his complaint would approach
sufficiency to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment for
deliberate indifference to his safety and to his medical
needs, but, at this stage, his complaint would still fall
Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual
punishment protects prisoners from the “unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain” by the state. Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992) (citation and internal
quotations omitted). The state violates this proscription
when it “so restrains an individual's liberty that
it renders him unable to care for himself, and at the same
time fails to provide for his basic human needs.”
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993);
Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 881-82 (7th Cir.
2004). This includes failing to take reasonable measures to
ensure an inmate's safety from physical surroundings and
failing to attend to an inmate's serious medical needs.
state a claim premised on a prison official's failure to
protect him from harm, an inmate must allege that a prison
official knew of and disregarded an “excessive
risk” to his “health and safety.”
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). A
sufficiently serious risk, evaluated on an objective basis,
is one that society considers so grave that to expose
any unwilling individual to it would offend
contemporary standards of decency. Helling, 509 U.S.
at 36; see also Bagola v. Kindt, 39 F.3d 779, 780
(7th Cir. 1994) (dangerous machinery, which caused inmate
injury leading to amputation, posed sufficiently serious risk
of harm); Jones v. Morris, 777 F.2d 1277, 1280 (7th
Cir. 1985) (dangerous scaffolding, which caused inmate's
fall, posed sufficiently serious risk of harm). The question
of the defendant's culpability is subjective; the
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. Farmer,
511 U.S. at 832. Negligence, or even gross negligence, is
insufficient to state a constitutional claim. See Rosario
v. Brown, 670 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2012); Watkins
v. Lancor, 558 Fed.Appx. 662, 665 (7th Cir. 2014).
alleges that he was injured while working near an oven rack.
Although his prayer for relief requests that the oven rack be
fixed, he has not alleged that it was broken at the time he
was injured, or that its disrepair led to his injury.
Further, even if the oven rack posed a dangerous risk at the
time Plaintiff was directed to work near it, Plaintiff has
not alleged that any prison official knew of the danger. Even
under the generous standard to which pro se
litigants are entitled at the screening stage, these
allegations are not sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment
claim for deliberate indifference to his safety due to
dangerous prison conditions.
deliberate indifference claim premised on medical needs also
has both an objective and subjective component. “To
determine if the Eighth Amendment has been violated in the
prison medical context, we perform a two-step analysis, first
examining whether a plaintiff suffered from an objectively
serious medical condition, and then determining whether the
individual defendant was deliberately indifferent to that
condition.” Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722,
727-28 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at
834). Here, even assuming Plaintiff's burn was
sufficiently serious to satisfy the objective element of an
Eighth Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to a
serious medical need, Plaintiff's allegations do not
suggest that medical personnel were deliberately indifferent
to his needs. Plaintiff alleges that, upon his request,
health services personnel evaluated his burn and treated it
with cream. Although Plaintiff states that the burn is now
infected, he does not allege that health services personnel
are failing to treat the infection. As such, Plaintiff's
complaint, as it stands, fails to state a medical deliberate
Plaintiff has not named a proper defendant and has not
adequately alleged claims for deliberate indifference to his
safety or medical needs. The Court will permit Plaintiff to
file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies in the
original complaint as described herein. The amended complaint
must be filed on or before December 29,
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 ...