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Youngblood v. Marwitz

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 25, 2019



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

         Plaintiff Daquon Youngblood, who is incarcerated at Fox Lake Correctional Institution (“FLCI”), 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 motion to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee (in forma pauperis). (Docket #4). Plaintiff has been assessed and has paid an initial partial filing fee of $18.28. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b).

         The Court proceeds to screen the complaint, as it is required to do with 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, 352 F.3d at 1109-10 (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. Cty. 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)).

         At all times relevant to this case, Plaintiff was an inmate at FLCI, and Defendants were various correctional, healthcare, and social services personnel employed at FLCI. (Docket #1 at 1-2). Plaintiff was transferred to FLCI in December 2017. Id. at 2. Plaintiff alleges that he suffered a back injury in August 2016, but does not describe the injury in any detail, other than to say that he “broke” his back. Id. at 3. He claims that the injury makes it difficult to get in and out of a top bunk, and that he had a back brace amongst his property when he was transferred. Id.

         When he arrived at FLCI, Plaintiff told a staff member that he had a lower bunk restriction. Id. at 2. The staff member responded that the restriction was expired before Plaintiff came to FLCI. Id. Plaintiff was told that he should pursue a new lower bunk restriction if he wanted one. Id. He submitted a health services request, which was referred to the special needs committee. Id. at 2-3. In February 2018, the committee denied Plaintiff's request for a lower bunk restriction, stating that he did not meet the criteria for it. Id. at 3. He was further informed that he could seek additional treatment for his back issues if he so desired. Id.

         Plaintiff apparently did so, at least sporadically. In October 2018, Plaintiff entered physical therapy for his back pain. Id. He told the therapist that he had substantial difficulty getting in and out of the top bunk. Id. at 4. In July 2019, Plaintiff wrote another health services request seeking a lower bunk restriction. Id. That request was likewise referred to the special needs committee. Id.

         On August 3, 2019, Plaintiff fell from the top bunk in the middle of the night. Id. He lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital. Id. Doctors did not detect any broken bones, but told Plaintiff that he may have aggravated his old back injuries. Id. at 5. When he returned to FLCI, Plaintiff was confined to his room for a few days to recover. Id. He was also removed from his work assignment. Id. Plaintiff was also finally assigned to a lower bunk. Id. at 6.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Specifically, he contends that they knew of his complaints of pain, difficulty getting in and out of bed, and his medical history, and yet still did not approve his lower bunk restriction. Id. at 6.

         The Eighth Amendment provides, inter alia, that prisoners are entitled to a minimal level of healthcare while in custody. Petties v. Carter, 836 F.3d 722, 727-28 (7th Cir. 2016). This right is violated when the prisoner shows that they “suffered from an objectively serious medical condition, ” and that “the individual defendant was deliberately indifferent to that condition.” Id. at 728. The Gayton case neatly summarizes the claim:

[T]he plaintiff must show that: (1) [he] had an objectively serious medical condition; (2) the defendants knew of the condition and were deliberately indifferent to treating h[im]; and (3) this indifference caused h[im] some injury. An objectively serious medical condition is one that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention. A medical condition need not be life-threatening to be serious; rather, it ...

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