United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
ROOSEVELT M. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
MORGAN SCHMIDT, CHEF SPARROW, AIMEE WILSON, and CORY SONNTAG, Defendants.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge.
who is incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution
(“Waupun”), filed a pro se complaint
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights
were violated. (Docket #1). This matter comes before the
Court on Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma
pauperis. (Docket #2). Plaintiff has been assessed and
paid an initial partial filing fee of $6.79. 28 U.S.C. §
Court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners
seeking relief against a governmental entity or an officer or
employee of a governmental entity. Id. §
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);
Gladney v. Pendelton Corr. Facility, 302 F.3d 773,
774 (7th Cir. 2002). 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;
Gladney, 302 F.3d at 774. “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 (7th Cir. 2003); Paul v. Marberry, 658 F.3d
702, 705 (7th Cir. 2011).
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; 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)); Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d
879, 881 (7th Cir. 2004). However, a complaint that offers
“‘labels and conclusions'” or
“‘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. The complaint
allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555; Christopher, 384 F.3d at 881.
considering whether a complaint states a claim, courts should
first “identif[y] 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 “assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id.
state a claim for relief 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 deprivation was visited upon him by a person or
persons acting under color of state law. Buchanan-Moore
v. Cty. of Milwaukee, 570 F.3d 824, 827 (7th Cir. 2009);
Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980). The Court
is obliged to give 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)).
alleges that he has a medical condition that requires him to
consume a low-soy diet. (Docket #1 at 2). He claims that his
doctor ordered the low-soy diet on several occasions,
including in October 2018. Id. Nevertheless, in
early November 2018, two food service workers, Defendants
Morgan Schmidt (“Schmidt”) and Chef Sparrow
(“Sparrow”), refused to provide Plaintiff with a
special diet food tray containing low-soy food when he asked
for one. Id. at 2-3. Plaintiff then complained to a
correctional officer, Defendant Cory Sonntag
(“Sonntag”), who said Plaintiff would eat what
the kitchen staff gave him. Id. at 4. Plaintiff also
alerted Defendant Amy Wilson (“Wilson”), a food
service administrator, to the problem, and she refused to
direct that Plaintiff receive a special low-soy food tray.
Id. Plaintiff alleges that because he is not getting
the kind of food he needs, he has suffered stomach pain,
trouble swallowing, and constipation, and he has been
coughing up blood. Id. at 5.
allegations, standing alone, may be sufficient to state a
claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need
in violation of the Eighth Amendment. But Plaintiff attached
to his complaint exhibits that show he cannot possibly
succeed in proving his claim, and so it cannot proceed past
screening. To succeed on a claim of deliberate indifference
to his serious medical need, Plaintiff must show: (1) an
objectively serious medical condition; (2) that the defendant
knew of the condition and was deliberately indifferent in
treating it; and (3) this indifference caused him some
injury. Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir.
2010). The deliberate indifference inquiry has two
components. “The official must have subjective
knowledge of the risk to the inmate's health, and the
official also must disregard that risk.” Id.
Negligence cannot support a claim of deliberate indifference,
nor is medical malpractice a constitutional violation.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105-06 (1976);
Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011).
assuming that Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a serious
medical condition, his pleading demonstrates that he cannot
prove the defendants acted with deliberate indifference in
treating or responding to it. Specifically, Plaintiff's
exhibits show that after he alerted prison officials to his
desire for a low-soy diet, his request was sent to the
Department of Corrections' (“DOC”) dietician
in Madison for review, and the dietician informed Waupun
officials that the general meal plan at Waupun, which does
not contain added soy, is sufficient to accommodate a low-soy
diet. (Docket #1-3 at 3-7). It appears Plaintiff was not
satisfied with that answer, because he wants particular food
items, including certain kinds of chicken, ground beef, and
tuna. Id. at 5. But Plaintiff was told many times,
including by Defendants Schmidt and Wilson, that the DOC
dietician had approved the general menu for Plaintiff's
low-soy diet requirement. Id. at 4-7. In other
words, Plaintiff affirmatively alleges, by including exhibits
to his complaint, that Schmidt and Wilson were made aware of
Plaintiff's medical condition and took steps to ensure it
was accommodated. As to Defendants Sparrow and Sonntag, to
the extent they had any involvement in deciding what kind of
food tray Plaintiff received, they were entitled to rely on
the DOC dietician's recommendation, which had already
been communicated to Wilson, the administrator of food
service at the prison. Whether the DOC dietician's
conclusion is correct is not relevant; the point is that
Waupun officials took steps to ensure that Plaintiff was
receiving the food his condition requires. Plaintiff's
disagreement with the conclusion changes nothing about the
deliberate indifference analysis.
standard for a claim of deliberate indifference is
exceedingly high. With regard to the subjective element,
“[e]ven if a defendant recognizes the substantial risk,
he is free from liability if he responded reasonably to the
risk, even if the harm ultimately was not averted.”
Gayton, 593 F.3d at 620. Evidence that the defendant
“acted negligently is insufficient to prove deliberate
indifference.” Id. Rather, “deliberate
indifference is simply a synonym for intentional or reckless
conduct, and that reckless describes conduct so dangerous
that the deliberate nature of the defendant's actions can
be inferred.” Id.
allegations demonstrate that the Defendants acted reasonably
in response to Plaintiff's medical issue requiring low
soy intake by investigating whether the prison's meal
plan was sufficient to accommodate Plaintiff's needs.
Plaintiff cannot succeed in proving that Defendants acted
with deliberate indifference. His complaint will be dismissed
with prejudice for failure to state a claim.
the Court will also deny Plaintiff's motion to amend his
complaint. (Docket #14). In that motion, Plaintiff asks to
add a claim to this action against Karen Streekstra
(“Streekstra”), a chef at Waupun, for
retaliation. (Docket #14-1 at 2). Plaintiff claims that in
August 2019, Streekstra made Plaintiff perform a job that is
not his assigned job and issued him a conduct report, all in
retaliation for Plaintiff having filed a lawsuit against her
friends in the Waupun food service department. Id.
Even if this case were to continue, the Court would not allow
Plaintiff to amend his complaint to add this unrelated claim.
Under the controlling principle of Rule 18(a), Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure, “[u]nrelated claims against
different defendants belong in different suits” so as
to prevent prisoners from dodging the fee payment or three
strikes provisions in the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).
Specifically, Rule 18(a) provides that a “party
asserting a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party
claim may join, as independent or alternate claims, as many
claims as it has against an opposing party.” Under this
rule, “multiple claims against a single party are fine,
but Claim A against Defendant 1 should not be joined with
unrelated Claim B against Defendant 2.”
George, 507 F.3d at 607. Plaintiff's proposed
claim against Streekstra violates this rule and will not be
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion
for leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee
(Docket #2) be and the same is hereby
IS FURTHER ORDERED that this action be and the same
is hereby DISMISSED with prejudice pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) ...