United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
DAVID E. SIERRA-LOPEZ, Plaintiff,
JOHN DOE DIRECTOR/COMMISSION OF THE STATE OF WI, MICHAEL DITTMAN, GOHDE, JESSE BEAVER, DONNA, DETERS, ANDERSON, MAGGY, SCHMIDT-KNECHT, MITCHELL, BATES, DITTMANN, BENNIGER, YAHNKEE, JOHN DOE NURSE, WEBER, JOHN DOE SECURITY DIRECTOR, LINDSAY WALKER, MEEKER and JOHN DOE DOCTOR, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB District Judge
proposed civil complaint, pro se plaintiff David E.
Sierra-Lopez contends that prison staff at the Columbia
Correctional Institution violated his constitutional rights.
Because plaintiff is incarcerated, his complaint must be
screened under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. However, I cannot
conduct the required screening because plaintiff's
complaint violates Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil
prohibits litigants from bringing unrelated claims against
different defendants in a single action. As explained in more
detail below, plaintiff's complaint contains three,
unrelated claims against different defendants. Accordingly,
plaintiff must choose which lawsuit he wishes to pursue as
Case No. 18-cv-60-bbc. Once plaintiff has made his selection,
I will then screen that claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
The other, unrelated claims will be dismissed without
prejudice, which means that plaintiff may bring them in new,
Civ. P. 20 prohibits a plaintiff from asserting unrelated
claims against different defendants or sets of defendants in
the same lawsuit. Multiple defendants may not be joined in a
single action unless the plaintiff: (1) asserts at least one
claim to relief against each defendant that arises out of the
same transaction or occurrence or series of transactions or
occurrences; and (2) presents questions of law or fact common
to all. George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir.
2007). Plaintiff's complaint includes at least three
claims against different sets of defendants concerning denial
of medical care for different ailments.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 18 allows a party to join unrelated claims
against defendants in a single suit, this rule applies only
after Rule 20's requirements for joinder of parties have
been satisfied. Intercon Research Assn., Ltd. v. Dresser
Ind., Inc., 696 F.2d 53, 57 (7th Cir. 1983). This means
that the core set of allowable defendants must be determined
under Rule 20 before a plaintiff may join additional
unrelated claims against one or more of those same defendants
under Rule 18. Fed.R.Civ.P. 18(a).
Rules 18 and 20 to plaintiff's complaint, his allegations
may be grouped into three possible, separate lawsuits
consisting of the following claims:
#1: Plaintiff's claims that several individuals
failed to provide him acetaminophen after his tonsils were
removed in March 2017.
#2: Plaintiff's claims that prison staff failed
to provide treatment for his depression and failed to prevent
him from harming himself in May 2017.
#3: Plaintiff's claim that he was given the
wrong heart medication in June 2017.
plaintiff may believe that all of his claims are related
because they concern medical care, a review of the claims
shows that there is no clear connection among them that would
satisfy Rule 20. A review of the claims shows that there are
no overlapping questions of law or fact among them.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 20 (joinder of defendants permissible only if
there is a “question of law or fact common to all
defendants”). Instead, the claims in each of
plaintiff's three possible lawsuits involve distinct
incidents that occurred at different times and places and
involved different individual defendants. Moreover, plaintiff
has alleged no facts to support a conclusion that the
individual defendants were involved in the same transaction,
occurrence or series of transactions. Finally, it is not
enough that plaintiff has named the warden and health
services manager as defendants on each claim, as his
allegations are not sufficient to state a claim against the
warden and health services manager. Supervisors may be liable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 only if they are
“personally responsible for the deprivation of the
constitutional right.” Chavez v. Illinois State
Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting
Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir.
1995)). Plaintiff's allegations do not suggest any basis
for holding these supervisory officials personally
responsible for alleged constitutional violations that form
the basis of his claims.
Rule 20 prohibits plaintiff from proceeding with all of his
claims in the same lawsuit, he will have to choose which of
these distinct claims he wants to pursue in this lawsuit. The
court will then assign that lawsuit to this case number and
apply to it the initial, partial payment that plaintiff has
already made. Plaintiff may choose to pursue his other claims
as well, but must do so separately, paying a separate filing
fee for each additional lawsuit he chooses to pursue. In
addition, plaintiff may be subject to a separate
“strike” under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) for any
such lawsuit that is dismissed for failure to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted. (Once a prisoner receives
three strikes, he is not able to proceed in new lawsuits
without first paying the full filing fee, except in very
narrow circumstances. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g).)
Alternatively, plaintiff may choose to dismiss one or more of
his other possible lawsuits. If he chooses this route, he
will owe no additional filing fee and he will not face a
strike for filing these lawsuits. A lawsuit dismissed
voluntarily would be dismissed without prejudice, so
plaintiff would be able to bring it at another time, so long
as he files it before any applicable statute of limitations
it is not clear at this time which of his separate lawsuits
plaintiff will pursue, he should be aware that I have not
reached any opinion about the merits of any claims raised in
any of the lawsuits outlined above. Once plaintiff identifies
the suit or suits he wants to continue to litigate, I will
screen those claims as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Because plaintiff faces filing fees and potential strikes for
each lawsuit pursued, he should consider carefully the merits
and relative importance of each of his potential lawsuits
before informing the court how he chooses to proceed with
respect to some or all of them. If plaintiff disagrees with
the way the court has grouped his claims or if he believes
the court has left out claims he intended to assert or that
it has included claims he did not intend to assert, he may
also raise those objections in his ...