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White v. Wisconsin Department of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

December 23, 2019

MIA L. WHITE, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff, who is currently incarcerated at Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center and representing herself, filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that her civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court on Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the full filing fee and to screen the complaint.

         Motion to Proceed without Prepayment of the Filing Fee

         Plaintiff has requested leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee (in forma pauperis). A prisoner plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the $350.00 filing fee over time. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Plaintiff has filed a certified copy of her prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of her complaint, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), and has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $49.25. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed without prepaying the filing fee will be granted.

         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, 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 Complaint

         On September 13, 2018, Plaintiff was seen by Defendant Weber, a doctor at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, for severe pain in the lower lumbar region of her spine. Plaintiff alleges she had been complaining of pain for weeks and, after meeting with Defendant Weber, still did not receive a proper exam. She claims that Defendant Weber ignored her pain and denied Plaintiff an x-ray of her back and an MRI. On September 25, 2018, Plaintiff saw Defendant Lemmenes, who diagnosed Plaintiff with burtitis, but refused to order an MRI. Plaintiff received an injection into her right bursa, but her back pain persisted and Plaintiff dropped multiple slips to be seen again without results or answers. Plaintiff claims that she was told she was not receiving an x-ray or MRI because the medical staff “were professionals and knew what they were doing.”

         Plaintiff alleges that medical staff did not make a final diagnosis or take appropriate precautions. As a result, Plaintiff claims she will be in pain for the rest of her life because she fractured her back and has since gained over 50 pounds because of her injury. After this injury, Plaintiff has been taking medication due to severe depression and takes Cymbalta for severe pain and aches (prescribed by her “psyc. Doctor” because the medical staff had not been providing proper pain medication).

         Plaintiff claims that “due to the negligence of not making a proper diagnosis and ruling out anything serious by doing a[n] X-ray or MRI, [she is] stuck in pain unable to sit, stand or walk for long periods of time.” Plaintiff says she is scheduled to see a neurosurgeon as part of her discharge instructions given by the medical doctor from an emergency room visit on August 20, 2019.

         The Court's Analysis

         In Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' . . . proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” 429 U.S. 97, 103 (1976) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976) (joint opinion)). The Court was careful to point out, however, that this did not mean that every claim by a prisoner that he has not received adequate medical treatment states a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 105. In particular, the Court made clear that “in the medical context, an inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care cannot be said to constitute ‘an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' or to be ‘repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'” Id. at 105-06. The Court explicitly noted:

a complaint that a physician has been negligent in diagnosing or treating a medical condition does not state a valid claim of medical mistreatment under the Eighth Amendment. Medical malpractice does not become a constitutional violation merely because the victim is a prisoner. In order to state a cognizable claim, a prisoner must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. It is only such ...

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