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Gillum v. Armor Health Care

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 11, 2018




         Plaintiff Michael L. Gillum, who is incarcerated at the Milwaukee House of Correction (“HOC”), proceeds in this matter pro se. He filed a complaint alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional rights. (Docket #1). This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff's petition to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma pauperis). (Docket #2). Due to Plaintiff's indigence, the Court waived payment of an initial partial filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).

         The court shall 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).

         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 mere “labels and conclusions” or a “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 (citation 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. Section 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)).

         At all times relevant, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the HOC. (Docket #1 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that in the early morning hours of January 5, 2018, he awoke shaking “after trying to b[ear] the extremely cold climate.” Id. He eventually began vomiting and having diarrhea. Id. Plaintiff was sent to the health center, which determined that he had a fever of 109 degrees and a low heart rate. Id. Defendant Alyssa Sekadio (“Sekadio”), identified as his healthcare provider, ordered Plaintiff quarantined and placed on medical observation. Id.

         Rather than being sent to a medical unit or a hospital, Plaintiff was placed in the disciplinary housing unit. Id. Plaintiff says that those cells are usually fouled by other inmates' urine and feces, but does not state whether his cell was in such a condition. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff asked the guard on duty, Defendant C.O. Nash (“Nash”), to take a shower, as Plaintiff had “bio matter and feces on [his] person.” Id. at 3. Nash denied Plaintiff's repeated requests for a shower throughout her shift, though other inmates in the unit were permitted to shower. Id. Plaintiff also complained that his cell was cold, but that issue was not remedied either. Id. Finally, Plaintiff asked for a meeting with “psych services, ” but Nash told him that she could not get a response from them. Id. When the next guard took over after Nash, Plaintiff was allowed to take a shower and was provided with extra blankets. Id. at 3-4. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff was moved to a different unit. Id. at 4.

         Plaintiff filed grievances about his treatment. Id. The remainder of Plaintiff's allegations are directed at the grievance process. Id. at 4-5. In sum, Plaintiff contends that his grievances were not appropriately handled, first by Nash, and then by Defendants Lt. Millicca (“Millicca”) and Captain Sullivan (“Sullivan”). Id. at 4. As to Nash, Plaintiff complains that she made misstatements in her response to his grievances. Id. As to Millicca and Sullivan, Plaintiff says that they deliberately hindered the grievance process by delaying the processing of the grievances and by altering dates on the forms. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff further alleges that he filed a grievance against Defendant Armor Health Care (“Armor”) for “sending me to . . . segregation cells for medical observation[.]” Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff seeks monetary damages of $1, 000, 000.00 “due [to] the fact that my life was placed in danger, that I was forced to sit in a segregation cell that was not built or equipped or suitable for a person to be sent for medical observation.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff also complains that his requests for care were ignored by Nash. Id. He claims that his life was in danger “because of me being ill and placed in a[n] unhabitial [sic] climate.” Id.

         Plaintiff's allegations fail to state a claim for relief against any of the named defendants. Defendant HOC is not a suable entity. See Smith v. Knox Cnty. Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th Cir. 2012). Armor is not liable simply because it, through its employees, generally provides medical services at the HOC, and neither has Plaintiff alleged a policy claim against Armor. Maniscalco v. Simon, 712 F.3d 1139, 1145 (7th Cir. 2013); McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 616 (7th Cir. 2011).

         Plaintiff's claims against the individual defendants also fail. The Eighth Amendment proscribes the use of cruel and unusual punishment. Plaintiff's allegations invoke two recognized variations of that rule. One is that prisoners are entitled to a minimal level of healthcare while in custody. Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2016). The Eighth Amendment is violated when the prisoner shows that they “suffered from an objectively serious medical condition, ” and that “the individual defendant was deliberately indifferent to that condition.” Id. at 728. The term “[d]eliberate indifference”

is a subjective standard. To demonstrate deliberate indifference, a plaintiff must show that the defendant acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind, something akin to recklessness. A prison official acts with a sufficiently culpable state of mind when he knows of a substantial risk of harm to an inmate and either acts or fails to act in disregard of that risk. Deliberate indifference is more than negligence and approaches intentional wrongdoing. In other ...

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