United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
EDWINIA G. SCOTT, Plaintiff,
A.O. SMITH, Defendant.
STADTMUELLER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Edwinia G. Scott, proceeding pro se, filed a
complaint in this matter and a motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. (Docket #1, #4). In order to
allow a plaintiff to proceed without paying the $400 filing
fee, the Court must first decide whether the plaintiff has
the ability to pay the filing fee and, if not, whether the
lawsuit states a claim for relief. 28 U.S.C. §§
question of indigence, although Plaintiff need not show that
she is totally destitute, Zaun v. Dobbin, 628 F.2d
990, 992 (7th Cir. 1980), it must be remembered that the
privilege of proceeding in forma pauperis “is
reserved to the many truly impoverished litigants who, within
the District Court's sound discretion, would remain
without legal remedy if such privilege were not afforded to
them, ” Brewster v. N. Am. Van Lines, Inc.,
461 F.2d 649, 651 (7th Cir. 1972). Plaintiff avers that she
is unemployed, married, and has no dependents. (Docket #4 at
1). She does not know her monthly income and states that
“God” is her employer. Id. at 2. She
claims that her total monthly expenses are around $800 and
that she has less than $100 in the bank. Id. at 3.
sworn statements regarding her income, assets, and expenses
are somewhat incoherent, leaving the Court unsure about her
true financial circumstances. But because she appears to have
averred that her expenses exceed her income, and because she
has almost no money or other assets, the Court finds that she
is indigent. She will be granted leave to proceed in
forma pauperis and will not be required to prepay the
filing fee in this action.
the payment of any filing fee, however, when a plaintiff asks
leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the Court must
screen the complaint and dismiss it or any portion thereof if
it 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. §
1915(e)(2)(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); Hutchinson ex
rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997).
The Court may 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.
state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading
system, a plaintiff is required to provide a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that [she] is entitled
to relief[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). It is not necessary
to plead specific facts; rather, the plaintiff's
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 allegations
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
complaint falls short of even this low bar. She has sued her
former employer, A.O. Smith, a manufacturer of water heaters.
(Docket #1 at 3). She says that she worked there in 1974 as a
welder and injured her back while on the job. Id.
She was referred to a specialist by her doctor and received
treatment. Id. Apparently it did not assuage her
pain or injuries, as Plaintiff complains that “A.O.
Smith did nothing for 12 years” and she filed a
complaint against them. Id.
it is not entirely clear what she complained about at that
time. She says her present suit is “because I have been
treated unfair and have not been told the right thing to do
for over 30 years.” Id. Does Plaintiff mean
that she was treated unfairly with respect to her back
injury? If so, she gives no particulars as to what A.O. Smith
did or failed to do that harmed her. Later, she asserts that
“A.O. Smith, the union, doctors and police all worked
together” to harm her, suggesting perhaps that she
sought worker's compensation for her injury and was
denied. Id. at 4.
continues, noting that she has been in pain for many years
and wants A.O. Smith to pay her medical bills, including for
time spent at “the crazy hospital.” Id.
She claims she has lost money and her job because of
“the unfair treatment.” Id. No lawyer
will take her case because she cannot pay for their
final page of Plaintiff's complaint takes a sharp left
turn and includes some allegations about her husband's
death. Id. at 5. She says that he was severely
burned in June 2015 and passed away in August 2017
“because of the unfair treatment.” Id.
It is unclear whether she means he received poor medical
treatment, or because the injury he received had something to
do with A.O. Smith, or because she and her late husband were
subjected to “senior abuse.” See Id.
Again, she reports that she filed a complaint-with whom and
about what exactly, she does not say-and “nothing was
cites no basis for the Court's subject-matter
jurisdiction over her claims. A federal court's
jurisdiction is generally limited to two types of suits: (1)
those between citizens of different States, called
“diversity” jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332; and (2) those involving causes of action arising
under federal law, known as “federal question”
jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Plaintiff is a Milwaukee resident, and A.O. Smith is
headquartered in Milwaukee. Because Plaintiff and A.O. Smith
are both citizens of the same State,  there can be no diversity
jurisdiction in this case. Strawbridge v. Curtiss, 7
U.S. (3 Cranch) 267 (1806); McCready v. eBay, Inc.,
453 F.3d 882, 891 (7th Cir. 2006).
there is no federal cause of action raised by any of
Plaintiff's allegations. If she has a claim for
worker's compensation against A.O. Smith, her exclusive
remedy is the Wisconsin Worker's Compensation Act,
Wis.Stat. § 102.03 et seq. Likewise, if she
takes exception to her medical treatment, a medical
malpractice claim would be governed by Wisconsin state law.
See Id. § 655.001 et seq. Further, her
bare suggestion that she was “treated unfairly”
does not plausibly implicate any federal employment or
disability discrimination law, nor does it appear she timely
complied with the administrative exhaustion process that must
precede a suit under such laws, or that she timely filed suit
after the conclusion of that process, assuming it in fact
occurred. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)-(f).
Finally, to the extent she seeks to recover for her deceased
husband's injuries or death, such claims must also be
made under state law, as there appears to be no conceivable
violation of federal law under the circumstances.
sure, there are numerous other problems with Plaintiff's
complaint, including the incoherence of her allegations and
the probability that her state-law claims are long since
barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. But because
the Court has found that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction
over this action, it must end its analysis without addressing
these questions. See Garry v. Geils, ...