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Greer v. Johnson

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

November 8, 2017

ANDREW JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Marcus James Greer, a prisoner, for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.96. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the complaint.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or her prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In support of the instant motion, plaintiff submitted an affidavit and a certified inmate account statement showing an average monthly balance of $19.81. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.96, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly balance.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), 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 under § 1983, 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, inter alia, draw upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679.

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, this does not mean that pro se complaints may be merely conclusory. Even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law. Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980); see also Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004) (federal courts are not required to “assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint”). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that his constitutional rights were violated when he was a pretrial detainee at the Ste. Genevieve County Jail. Jail Administrator Andrew Johnson, Unknown Gubel, and Unknown Carro are named as defendants. Plaintiff sues all defendants in their individual and official capacities.

         According to the complaint, the toilet in cell number 3 began leaking on June 22, 2017, and water from the leak flowed onto a walkway area. On July 15, 2017, plaintiff slipped and fell while mopping up water from the leak. Another inmate told defendants Gubel and Carro about the situation, but the defendants did not secure the area or fix the leak until July 25, 2017. Since the fall, plaintiff has suffered from headaches, back pain, and neck pain. Plaintiff also alleges that other inmates were not given slip resistant footwear. Plaintiff acknowledges that he underwent an x-ray after the fall, but he alleges that he has not seen a doctor.

         Plaintiff alleges that he “filed grievances to jail staff but they provided no relief.” Doc. 1 at 7. He attaches to the complaint copies of two grievance forms concerning the slick floor and his need for medical care. Both forms include a written response from a jail official. On the first form, a jail official wrote that plaintiff should submit a medical services request form for medical needs. On the second form, a jail official wrote that camera footage from the day and time in question did not show that plaintiff fell; plaintiff had been trying since before the alleged fall to get the medical department to give him prescription pain medication for his back; and that a doctor had determined that prescription pain medicine was not medically necessary. Plaintiff seeks “injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages from each defendant in the sum of $25, 000 each.” Doc. 1 at 8.


         The Court first addresses plaintiff's allegations concerning the water on the floor. Because plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the time in question, his claims are analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, rather than the Eighth Amendment. Owens v. Scott County Jail, 328 F.2d 1026, 1027 (8th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff's due process rights were violated if the complained-of jail condition constituted punishment. Id. Because the Fourteenth Amendment affords pretrial detainees at least as great protection as that given to convicts under the Eighth Amendment, courts have consistently applied the Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference standard to pretrial detainee claims involving prison conditions or the denial of medical care. Jackson v. Buckman, 756 F.3d 1060, 1065 (8th Cir. 2014); Butler v. Fletcher, 465 F.3d 340, 344-45 (8th Cir. 2006). Conditions of confinement claims include threats to an inmate's health and safety. Irving v. Dormire, 519 F.3d 441, 446 (8th Cir. 2008). To prevail, plaintiff must establish an ...

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