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Wilga v. Crawford

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 18, 2017

LARRY CRAWFORD, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff, a prisoner, seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Having reviewed plaintiff's financial information, the Court assesses a partial initial filing fee of $65, which is twenty percent of his average monthly deposit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Additionally, plaintiff must file an amended complaint.

         Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim for relief, a complaint must plead more than “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Id. at 679. “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. at 678. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true. Furthermore, the Court liberally construes the allegations.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action against Larry Crawford, Director of the St. Charles County Department of Corrections, an Unknown Guard (Guard), and Unknown Caseworker (Caseworker), and an Unknown Prisoner (Prisoner). The complaint alleges that Prisoner was known to be dangerous, and prison authorities had ordered that his cell door remain closed. Plaintiff alleges that sometime in mid-July 2016, Guard, disregarding orders, opened Prisoner's door and let him out of his cell while plaintiff was playing cards with some other inmates in the common area. Prisoner then grabbed a broom and hit plaintiff in the head with the handle, knocking him unconscious and lacerating his scalp. Plaintiff was taken to the hospital, where stitches and staples were used to close the laceration.

         The only allegation against Crawford is that he knowingly allowed plaintiff to be assaulted by Prisoner. The complaint provides no factual support for this conclusory allegation.

         Plaintiff also alleges that Caseworker knowingly allowed him to be assaulted without providing any factual support for the claim. Plaintiff further complains that Caseworker did not respond to his grievance.


         “Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights.” Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”); Camberos v. Branstad, 73 F.3d 174, 176 (8th Cir. 1995) (“a general responsibility for supervising the operations of a prison is insufficient to establish the personal involvement required to support liability.”); George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 609 (7th Cir. 2007) (“Only persons who cause or participate in the [constitutional] violations are responsible. Ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the violation.”). There are no factual allegations showing that defendants Crawford or Caseworker were present during the incident or had any control over Guard's decision to open Prisoner's door. As a result, plaintiff's allegations against them are frivolous.

         To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must establish that a person acting under color of state law committed the acts which form the basis of the complaint. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986). Defendant Prisoner is not a state actor, and so, plaintiff's claim against him is frivolous.

         To state a claim for unconstitutional prison conditions, a pretrial detainee must show that (1) the conditions of confinement posed a substantial risk of serious harm and (2) that the prison officials knew of but disregarded, or were deliberately indifferent to, plaintiff's health and safety. Crow v. Montgomery, 403 F.3d 598, 602 (8th Cir. 2005); see Hott v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, 260 F.3d 901, 905 (8th Cir. 2001) (applying deliberate indifference standard to pretrial detainee's conditions-of-confinement claim). Plaintiff's allegations against Guard are not specific enough to show that he was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's safety. For example, he has not alleged that Prisoner ever threatened him or was violent towards him in the past and that Guard knew of those threats or acts of violence. As a result, it does not appear that plaintiff's claim against Guard states a plausible claim for relief under § 1983. However, because plaintiff is pro se, the Court will allow him to file an amended complaint expanding on his allegations.

         Finally, fictitious parties generally may not be named as defendants in a civil action. Phelps v. United States, 15 F.3d 735, 739 (8th Cir. 1994). An action may proceed against a party whose name is unknown, however, if the complaint makes sufficiently specific allegations to permit the identity of the party to be ascertained after reasonable discovery. Munz v. Parr, 758 F.2d 1254, 1257 (8th Cir. 1985). In this case, the Court cannot order discovery because there are no named defendants who the Court can serve with ...

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