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Bergeron Davila v. Winsel

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

April 24, 2019



          J. P. Stadtmueller, U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Raymond J. Bergeron Davila 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 #5). Due to Plaintiff's indigence, the Court waived payment of an initial partial filing fee (“IPFF”) in his case. (Docket #7).[1] The Court proceeds to screen the complaint.

         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. County 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)).

         Defendants are employees of the Racine County Jail (the “Jail”). Plaintiff has been regularly housed at the Jail in connection with various state criminal cases pending against him. Plaintiff alleges that on October 22, 2018, he cut the inside of his mouth with a razor blade he obtained from another inmate. (Docket #1). As an inmate with a history of self-harming conduct, Plaintiff was housed in a unit specifically intended for suicidal inmates. Id. He states that he should not have been allowed to come into contact with non-suicide-status inmates, which would have prevented him from obtaining the blade. Id. Plaintiff then used the blade to cut himself in the presence of each Defendant. Id. None of them did anything to stop Plaintiff's self-harming activity until he was taken to the hospital some hours later. Id. Plaintiff insists that his conduct was founded on genuine suicidal ideations, although he refused medical treatment for his injuries at the hospital. Id.

         Plaintiff may proceed against Defendants for their deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.[2] Claims for deliberate indifference to an inmate's suicide risk are legion in federal courts, and so extensive case law has developed to interpret them. The basic formulation of the claim involves an objective and a subjective component. Collins v. Seeman, 462 F.3d 757, 760 (7th Cir. 2006). First, Plaintiff must show that the harm (or potential harm) was objectively, sufficiently serious and a substantial risk to his health. Id.; Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). “It goes without saying that ‘suicide is a serious harm.'” Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Estate of Cole by Pardue v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 261 (7th Cir. 1996)). It is not clear that Plaintiff's cutting could have actually led to his death. Further, Plaintiff's refusal of medical care makes the Court skeptical of the seriousness of his injuries. Nevertheless, in light of the low level of scrutiny applied at the screening stage, the Court can infer that the risk of harm was sufficiently serious.

         Second, Plaintiff must establish that Defendants displayed deliberate indifference to his risk of suicide. Collins, 462 F.3d at 761; Sanville, 266 F.3d at 733. This, in turn, requires a dual showing that Defendants (1) subjectively knew that Plaintiff was at substantial risk of committing suicide and (2) were deliberately indifferent to that risk. Matos ex rel. Matos v. O'Sullivan, 335 F.3d 553, 556 (7th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff's allegations, viewed generously, can support each showing. From those allegations, the Court can infer that Defendants could have either stopped Plaintiff from obtaining the blade, or could have taken it out of his mouth while he was cutting himself, but that they chose to do nothing.[3]

         Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff may proceed on the following claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b): Deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious medical needs on October 22, 2018, in violation of the Eighth Amendment, by all Defendants.

         Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's first motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma pauperis) (Docket #5) be and the same is hereby GRANTED;

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff's second motion for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma pauperis) (Docket #8) be and the same is hereby DENIED as moot;

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the United States Marshal shall serve a copy of the complaint and this order upon Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4. Plaintiff is advised that Congress requires the U.S. Marshals Service to charge for making or attempting such service. 28 U.S.C. § 1921(a). The current fee for waiver-of-service packages is $8.00 per item mailed. The full fee schedule is provided at 28 C.F.R. §§ 0.114(a)(2), (a)(3). Although Congress requires the Court to order service by the U.S. Marshals Service precisely because in ...

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