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Montanez v. Armor Medical

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

June 11, 2018

ALFREDO DANIEL MONTANEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ARMOR MEDICAL, NURSE PRACTIONER MERCY, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER SCREENING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL

          NANCY JOSEPH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Alfredo Daniel Montanez, a prisoner who is representing himself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants violated his civil rights while he was confined at the Milwaukee County Jail. This matter is before me on Montanez's motions to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, motion to appoint counsel, and for screening of his complaint.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         The Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) applies to this case because Montanez was incarcerated when he filed his complaint. The PLRA gives courts discretion to allow prisoners to proceed with their lawsuits without prepaying the $350 filing fee, as long as they comply with certain requirements. 28 U.S.C. § 1915. One of those requirements is that the prisoner pay an initial partial filing fee.

         On May 4, 2018, I ordered Montanez to pay an initial partial filing fee of $62.00. He paid that fee on May 21, 2018. Accordingly, I will grant his motion to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee. Montanez must pay the remainder of the filing fee over time in the manner explained at the end of this order.

         Screening of the Complaint

         Federal law requires that I 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). 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). I will give 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)).

         Montanez improperly brings unrelated claims in a single case. First, he alleges that defendant Armor Medical did not respond to his complaints about defendant Nurse Practitioner Mercy's failure to treat his severe back pain. I will refer to that set of allegations as Case #1. Next, he alleges defendant John Doe healthcare staff failed to address his requests for mental health treatment. I will refer to that set of allegations as Case #2.

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 18(a) allows a plaintiff to “put in one complaint every claim of any kind against a single defendant, ” but a plaintiff may “present claim #1 against Defendant A, and claim #2 against Defendant B, only if both claims arise ‘out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences.' Rule 20(a)(2)(A).” Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(2)(B) states that persons may be joined in a case as defendants only if there are questions of law or fact common to “all” defendants.

         Montanez appears to have done what the Seventh Circuit, and Rules 18 and 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, state that he cannot do. The events and defendants related to Case #1 are distinct from the events and defendants related to Case #2. The only thing that all of the individuals he sues have in common is that he came into contact with them as a result of his incarceration. That, however, is not a sufficient basis for me to conclude that his claims are all related or that there are questions of law or fact common to all of the defendants.

         If Montanez wants to proceed, he must file an amended complaint that complies with Fed.R.Civ.P. 18 and 20. In other words, he must pick either Case #1 or Case #2. If he wants to proceed on both, he must do so in separate complaints. His amended complaint must include the docket number assigned to this case and must be labeled “Amended Complaint.” An amended complaint will take the place of his original complaint, so any allegations not included in the amended complaint are, in effect, withdrawn. See Duda v. Bd. of Educ. of Franklin Park Pub. Sch. Dist. No. 84, 133 F.3d 1054, 1056 (7th Cir. 1998). If plaintiff files an amended complaint, it will become the operative complaint in this case, and I will screen it in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

         I remind Montanez that he must include enough facts in his amended complaint to allow me to reasonably infer that the defendants did what he asserts they did. Legal conclusions (such as, “she was deliberately indifferent”) will be insufficient on their own to state a claim. His complaint must include facts that allow me to understand who was involved and what they did or did not do to violate his constitutional rights.

         He should also remember that “[p]ublic officials do not have a free-floating obligation to put things to rights . . . .” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 595 (7th Cir. 2009). This is because “public employees are responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone else's.” Id. The mere fact that someone denied a prisoner's complaint, or agreed with another employee's recommendation on an inmate complaint, does not mean that individual violated a prisoner's constitutional rights. Employers are not liable for the misconduct of their employees, supervisors are not liable for the misconduct of their subordinates, and employees are not liable for the misconduct of their co-workers. See Id. In other words, Montanez should name as defendants only those individuals who were personally involved in or responsible for the alleged constitutional violation.

         The court is enclosing with this order a guide for pro se prisoners that explains how to file a complaint that the court can effectively screen. The court also will include a blank prisoner complaint form. The court will require Montanez to use that form to file his amended complaint. See Civil L. R. 9 (E.D. Wis.). If, after crafting his allegations in clear, concise, “who, what, when, where, why” language, ...


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