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Grovogel v. Racine County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 9, 2018



          HON. PAMELA PEPPER, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert D. Grovogel is representing himself, and was a prisoner when he filed his complaint under 42 U.S.C. §1983, challenging various aspects of his confinement at the Racine County Jail. Dkt. No. 1. On March 8, 2018, the court screened the amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. §1915A, and told the plaintiff that if he wanted to proceed, he needed to file a second amended complaint limited to his claim that the jail failed to treat his shoulder injury. Dkt. No. 18 at 4. On April 6, 2018, the court received the plaintiff's second amended complaint, which the court now has reviewed under 28 U.S.C. §1915A.

         I. Screening the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

         A. Federal Screening Standard

         The law requires the court to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint if the plaintiff raises claims that are legally “frivolous, malicious, ” or 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. §1915A(b).

         To 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 Atlantic 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).

         To state a claim 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. Cty. 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 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, 106 (1976)).

         B. The Plaintiff's Allegations

         The plaintiff has sued the Racine County Jail and two nurses at the jail whose names he does not know: RN Jane Doe and LPN Jane Doe. As the court instructed him, the plaintiff has limited his second amended complaint to his allegations related to the treatment of his shoulder injury.

         The plaintiff was in the Racine County Jail for just shy of a year, from June 20, 2015 through June 18, 2016. Dkt. No. 19 at 2. The plaintiff alleges that on May 16, 2016, he fell at the jail, felt a “pop, ” and could not move his shoulder as he could before the fall. Id. at 2-3. He wrote a “request” to the “jailer” for a “nurses request, ” and two days later, nurse staff saw the plaintiff. Id. at 3. They took the plaintiff's “vitals” and told him that nothing was wrong. Id.

         The plaintiff subsequently complained that he could not bear weight on his left shoulder. Id. The nurse saw him and said that all he needed was “an anti-inflammatory/mild steroid.” Id. The plaintiff took this medication for two days, but his shoulder pain worsened, “not because of the meds., but because the diagnosis was incorrect.” Id. The plaintiff states that, “[k]nowing that I was not going to be given correct treatment, I just lived with the pain.” Id.

         For relief, the plaintiff seeks compensatory damages. Id. at 4.

         C. The Court's Analysis

         Before moving to the plaintiff's substantive claims, the court notes that the plaintiff cannot sue the Racine County Jail under §1983. Section 1983 allows a plaintiff to sue a “person” who, acting under color of law, violates his constitutional rights. The Racine County Jail is not a person-it is not an individual subject to suit under §1983. It is true that under some circumstances, a municipality-which is not a person-may be sued under §1983. See Monell v. Dep't of Social Serv's of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). But Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(b) says that a defendant in a federal lawsuit must have the legal capacity to be sued. State law determines whether an entity has that capacity. Webb v. Franklin Cty. Jail, Case No. 16-cv-1284-NJR, 2017 WL 914736 at *2 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 8, 2017). In Wisconsin, the jail is an arm of the sheriff's department. Under Wisconsin law, the sheriff's department is an arm of the County. See Abraham v. Piechowski, 13 F.Supp.2d 870, 877-79 (E.D. Wis. 1998). This means that neither the jail nor the sheriff's department are ...

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