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Patterson v. Bowens

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 17, 2018

WILLIAM LEWIS PATTERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY BOWENS, BRIAN FOSTER, FOFONA, and JUDY SMITH, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. P. Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated while he was incarcerated at Oshkosh Correctional Institution. (Docket #1). He has since been released from confinement. (Docket #8). This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket #2). Plaintiff has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $11.50. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1).

         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. Id. § 1915A(a).[1] 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); Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773, 774 (7th Cir. 2002). 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; Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “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 (7th Cir. 2003); Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d 702, 705 (7th Cir. 2011).

         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; 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)); Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). 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. The complaint allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.

         In considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should first “identif[y] 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 “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. § 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. County of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009); Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court is obliged to give 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)).

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately different to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Docket #1). However, his allegations at present fail to plausibly state such a claim.

         To state a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, the inmate must allege that (1) he had an objectively serious medical condition; (2) the defendants knew of the condition and were deliberately indifferent to treating it; and (3) this indifference caused him some injury. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010). An objectively serious medical condition is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention. Id. It need not be life-threatening. Id. It suffices if the condition would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if not treated. Id.

         To show deliberate indifference to such a medical need, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the prison officials in question (1) had subjective knowledge of the risk to the inmate's health and (2) disregarded that risk. Id. Negligence cannot support a claim of deliberate indifference, nor is medical malpractice a constitutional violation. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976); Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011). Moreover, even if a defendant recognizes the substantial risk, he is free from liability if he responded reasonably to the risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted. Gayton, 593 F.3d at 620.

         Plaintiff's allegations do not satisfy any of the elements of his sought-after claim. He says that he had a serious medical condition that “caused [him] being unable to eat solid foods” and which required specialist care, but he does not explain what the condition actually was. (Docket #1 at 2). Further, he claims that he received inadequate care over a period of two years, in the form of being denied treatment and pain medication. Id. These allegations might state a claim for deliberate indifference, but Plaintiff does not clearly explain what each Defendant did or failed to do and when. Indeed, he does not actually mention any of the Defendants in his substantive allegations. Other than a general sense that the named Defendants are primarily medical staff at the prison, the Court is left in the dark as to why they are named in this case and what constitutional violations each allegedly undertook. The lack of any meaningful detail about the who, what, and when of his allegations means that he cannot proceed on the complaint in its present form. See Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995) (prison officials generally are liable under Section 1983 only for their personal conduct, not the conduct of others or of those they supervise).

         The Court will allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint to correct these deficiencies. If he chooses to offer an amended complaint, Plaintiff must do so no later than May 8, 2018. If he does not do so, this action will be dismissed. Plaintiff should be aware that an amended complaint supersedes the prior complaint and must be complete in itself without reference to the original complaint. See Duda v. Bd. of Educ. of Franklin Park Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 84, 133 F.3d 1054, 1056-57 (7th Cir. 1998). In Duda, the Seventh Circuit emphasized that in such instances, the “prior pleading is in effect withdrawn as to all matters not restated in the amended pleading[.]” Id. at 1057 (citation omitted); Pintado v. Miami-Dade Housing Agency, 501 F.3d 1241, 1243 (11th Cir. 2007) (“As a general matter, ‘[a]n amended pleading supersedes the former pleading; the original pleading is abandoned by the amendment, and is no longer a part of the pleader's averments against his adversary.'”) (quoting Dresdner Bank AG, Dresdner Bank AG in Hamburg v. M/V OLYMPIA VOYAGER, 463 F.3d 1210, 1215 (11th Cir. 2006)). If an amended complaint is received, it will be screened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Docket #2) be and the same is hereby GRANTED;

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that on or before May 8, 2018, Plaintiff shall file an amended pleading or this action will be dismissed; and

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall submit all ...


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