United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
OPINION & ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge.
Dionte Burford brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against one defendant, the Dane County Jail. Burford claims
that the conditions at the Dane County Jail violate his
constitutional rights. The complaint is now before the court
for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. After
review, the court concludes that while plaintiff has
articulated an Eighth Amendment claim related to the water at
the jail, he will be required to file an amended complaint
that names a proper defendant to avoid dismissal.
Burford has been an incarcerated at the Dane County Jail
since April 6, 2019. He alleges that since his arrival the
water has had a heavy metallic taste and leaves a residue in
his sink, which he believes to be lead and other
contaminants. Burford further alleges that drinking the water
has caused severe abdominal pains and headaches. To address
his concerns about the water, Burford filed a grievance and
complained to deputies Peabody and Walker, but the conditions
have not improved. Burford also alleges that the ventilation
systems are clogged, there is mold in the shower areas and
plaintiff alleges that he has been “incarcerated”
at the jail since April of 2019, the court infers that he is
a prisoner, meaning that he has been convicted of a crime and
is serving a sentence, rather than a pre-trial detainee.
Therefore, the Eighth Amendment governs his constitutional
claims related to his conditions of confinement. Smith v.
Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 309-10 (7th Cir. 2015). To screen
this claim, the court considers whether the defendant was
aware that he was subjecting the plaintiff to a substantial
risk of serious harm and was consciously refusing to take
reasonable steps to prevent the plaintiff from being harmed.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 842 (1994);
Rosario v. Brawn, 670 F.3d 816, 82122 (7th Cir.
2012); Santiago v. Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 756 (7th
Cir. 2010). Another way of saying this is that a prison
official may not deprive a prisoner of “the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities.”
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981).
allegations that the water tastes metallic and has caused him
severe discomfort support a reasonable inference that the
water puts him at substantial risk of serious harm. Likewise,
jail employees' failure to take any steps to address his
concerns gives rise to a reasonable inference of deliberate
indifference. Yet plaintiff may not proceed at this time
because he has not identified a proper defendant. The
“Dane County Jail” is not a suable entity for
purposes of § 1983 since a jail is a building and cannot
be sued because it cannot accept service of the complaint.
Smith v. Knox Cty. Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1040 (7th
the court is dismissing plaintiff's complaint without
prejudice. Since the court lacks the authority to amend
plaintiff's complaint for him to substitute a proper
defendant, see Myles v. United States, 416 F.3d 551,
551 (7th Cir. 2005), if plaintiff wants to proceed on his
claims in this lawsuit, he will need to file an amended
complaint that identifies a proper defendant. Such a
defendant would include any jail employee (likely Peabody
and/or Walker) that knew that plaintiff did not have access
to clean and safe water and failed to take reasonable steps
to ensure he had access to clean water. Minix v.
Canarecci, 597 F.3d 824, 833-34 (7th Cir. 2010)
(“[I]ndividual liability under § 1983 requires
personal involvement in the alleged constitutional
plaintiff should be aware that his stray allegation about
ventilation, mold and bugs does not support an Eighth
Amendment claim, at least as currently pled. Indeed,
plaintiff has not provided any details about how ventilation
actually reduces breathable air, how much mold he sees in the
showers, or how pervasive the insects or mold has been. If,
for example, he saw a few bugs in his cell every day, that
would not give rise to a reasonable inference that he was
subjected to objectively unreasonable conditions of
confinement. Compare Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304,
312-13 (7th Cir. 2015) (“[T]he mere presence of a
laundry list of pests, without more, is not sufficient to
state a constitutional claim.”) with Sain v.
Wood, 512 F.3d 886 (7th Cir. 2008) (while unpleasant,
allegation of cockroach infestation spanning six years,
including being bitten twice, did not constitute a
constitutional violation), and Antonelli v. Sheahan,
81 F.3d 1422, 1431 (7th Cir. 1996) (prisoner stated claim
under the Eighth Amendment by alleging that
“cockroaches were everywhere, crawling on his body
(along with mice) and constantly awakening him, and causing
the environment to be unsanitary”) (internal quotations
omitted). Plaintiff should keep these standards in mind in
determining whether he wishes to pursue claims related to the
ventilation, mold and/or bugs.
Plaintiff Dionte Burford's complaint is DISMISSED without
prejudice for failure to identify a proper defendant.
Plaintiff may have until October 3, 2019, to submit
an amended complaint that identifies a suable person or
entity for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. If plaintiff
fails to respond by that deadline, then this case will be
dismissed with prejudice for failure to prosecute.