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Locke v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 12, 2019

ADAM A. LOCKE, Plaintiff,


          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Adam Locke, a pro se plaintiff currently incarcerated at Leavenworth U.S. Penitentiary (Leavenworth), commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. The court screened Locke's complaint and allowed him to proceed on a deliberate indifference claim against unknown employees of Correctional Healthcare Companies (now identified as Correct Care Solutions, LLC, or Correct Care) and Dodge County Detention Facility (DCDF) whom Locke claims ignored his requests for medical care while he was confined at DCDF. Although the court found that Locke only stated claims against these Doe defendants, Correct Care and Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt remained as defendants in the case to help Locke identify the Correct Care nurses and DCDF officers or staff who allegedly ignored his treatment requests.

         In its screening order, the court directed Correct Care and Sheriff Schmidt to identify and send to Locke the names of the individuals who received Locke's treatment requests during his time at DCDF within thirty days of service of the complaint and the screening order. The court also directed Locke to file an amended complaint naming the Doe defendants within thirty days after receiving the identifications. Sheriff Schmidt and Correct Care provided the required information on November 28, 2019, and December 6, 2018, respectively. On January 14, 2019, Locke filed a motion for extension of time to file an amended complaint naming the Doe defendants. The court granted Locke's motion and imposed a deadline of February 15, 2019, for Locke to file an amended complaint.

         On February 20, 2019, Correct Care filed a motion to dismiss Locke's complaint with prejudice due to his failure to file an amended complaint by the February 15, 2019 deadline. In his brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss and in subsequent motions for extension of time, Locke insists that he filed an amended complaint on or about the end of January 2019. Dkt. Nos. 31 at 2, 35 at 1, 36 at 2. Locke claims that he requested a copy of this case's docketing sheet the same day that he received a copy of Correct Care's motion to dismiss. Upon receipt of the docketing sheet copy, Locke noticed that the court never received the amended complaint he allegedly filed; he surmises that Leavenworth U.S. Penitentiary must have misplaced it. On April 1, 2019, Locke filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint with an attached proposed amended complaint.

         The Seventh Circuit has stated that, when faced with a pro se complaint, “it is incumbent on [the court] to take appropriate measures to permit the adjudication of pro se claims on the merits, rather than to order their dismissal on technical grounds.” Donald v. Cook Cty. Sheriff's Dep't, 95 F.3d 548, 555 (7th Cir. 1996). Part of this responsibility includes assisting pro se plaintiffs in determining the identities of unnamed defendants and allowing plaintiffs to amend their complaints to properly name the defendants. Id. In some circumstances, the court may appoint counsel for the limited purpose of assisting a plaintiff in amending the complaint. Id. at 556.

         Here, the court directed the defendants to identify the recipients of Locke's treatment requests while he was housed at DCDF, and they did so. The court granted Locke an extension of time to February 15, 2019, to file an amended complaint, and Locke failed to meet the extended deadline. Correct Care and Sheriff Schmidt, who later joined and adopted Correct Care's position, argue that Locke's noncompliance warrants dismissal, while Locke claims that he previously filed an amended complaint that did not make it to the court for some unknown reason. Whether Locke in fact filed a complaint at the end of January 2019 is unclear, but it would be an abuse of discretion at this stage to dismiss his claims with prejudice given the court's “special responsibility . . . to allow ample opportunity for amending the complaint when it appears that by so doing the pro se litigant would be able to state a meritorious claim.” Id. at 555; see also Phillips v. Ill. Dep't of Fin. & Prof'l Regulation, 718 Fed.Appx. 433, 436 (7th Cir. 2018). Locke has only been granted one previous extension to file an amended complaint, and based on the allegations in the original complaint and in the proposed amended complaint, his allegations are not “patently without merit.” See Williams v. Wahner, 731 F.3d 721, 734 (7th Cir. 2013). Accordingly, Locke's motion for leave to amend his complaint will be granted, Correct Care's motion to dismiss will be denied, and the court will proceed to screen Locke's amended complaint.

         Screening of the Complaint

          The court is required 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 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. 28 U.S.C. § 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).

         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). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court accepts the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Nevertheless, 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).

         Allegations of the Amended Complaint

         Locke's allegations concern his time at DCDF from September 22, 2016, through October 16, 2016. Locke claims that he was transferred to DCDF from Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI) on or about September 22, 2016, and that, upon arrival, he completed a medical questionnaire stating that he sustained a number of injuries in a car accident that were being treated at GBCI. Locke reported that he had a spinal cord injury, neck and back pain, and muscle spasms and cramps, which interfered with his sleep and his ability to stand up straight for an extended period. These injuries were previously treated through use of a foam roller and physical therapy, though Locke noted that physical therapy did not help. Locke also wrote that a physician at GBCI recommended that he request an MRI once transferred.

         The next day, on September 23, nurse Kassie Knoll responded, stating that an MRI could not be conducted until Locke saw a DCDF physician, who would determine whether to order an MRI after reviewing Locke's medical file. Knoll told Locke to ask medical staff during the day for a medical release of information form to sign so that DCDF could obtain his medical records. Knoll also told Locke that it can take 1-2 weeks to be seen by medical staff and that DCDF does not issue foam rollers.

         Locke filed a medical request on September 24, stating that he is in constant pain, unable to sleep, and experiencing neck and back spasms. Locke asked for an additional mattress given that DCDF does not issue foam rollers. Knoll responded the following day, September 25, informing Locke that she cannot provide him with an additional mattress, that he did not bring medical papers with him to explain his pain, that he needed to sign the medical release of information form, and that he could request Tylenol up to three times per week. Locke filed another medical request on September 26, asking to be sent the release of information form. He alleges this request was ignored.

         On September 29, Locke filed another medical request, stating that his medical conditions were being ignored and that he requested but had not received a release of information form. Locke alleges that he asked several DCDF staff for the form but was told that the sheets were not on the medicine cart. Later the same day, Locke received and signed a medical release of information form. On October 2, Locke inquired in another request why the process of his medical records being transferred took so long, and he noted that he was in constant pain. ...

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