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Walther v. Hastings

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

April 5, 2018

DR. UNKNOWN HASTINGS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Shawn Michael Walther 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 to grant the motion, and assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.11. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, the Court will dismiss defendants Hastings, Halibower, Raymond, Bradford, Arnold, Simpson, Childress, and Syler, and will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process upon defendants Reed, Traschel, Habtemariam, and Gonzalas in their individual capacities.

         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 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 inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $15.58, and an average monthly balance of $14.04. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $3.11, which is twenty percent of plaintiff s average monthly deposit.

         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.

         Pro se complaints must be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). However, they still must allege sufficient facts to support the claims alleged. Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004); see also Martin v. Aubuchon, 623 F.2d 1282, 1286 (8th Cir. 1980) (even pro se complaints are required to allege facts which, if true, state a claim for relief as a matter of law). Federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint." Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15. In addition, giving 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. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113(1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis County Justice Center. He brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twelve defendants: Dr. Unknown Hastings, Corrections Officer Habtemariam, Lieutenants Reed, Raymond, Bradford, Arnold, and Simpson, Captain Traschel, Superintendent Julia Childress, Unit Manager Syler, and nurses Kristy Gonzalas and Ashley Halibower. The complaint spans 44 pages, and contains four counts. Plaintiff sues all of the defendants in an individual capacity.

         According to the complaint, plaintiff has suffered from bursitis and sciatica in his left hip since 2012. He has chronic back, left knee, and foot pain, and he also suffers from insomnia and depression.

         The allegations in Count I stem from events that occurred from approximately February 2015 through June of 2017. However, plaintiff prefaces Count I with the statement that, when he arrived at the jail on October 20, 2014, he told an unidentified nurse that he needed hip replacement surgery, and that he should be given Vicodin five times per day and should also be given Xanax and Depakote. However, plaintiff was instead given medication to address withdrawal symptoms and hypertension.

         In February or March of 2015, plaintiff was seen by a physician's assistant, who prescribed medication. Plaintiff objected to being seen by a physician's assistant and asked for an appointment with a physician, and was seen by Dr. Hastings in March of 2015. Plaintiff complained that his current medication was ineffective, and he told Dr. Hastings that he needed immediate hip replacement surgery. Dr. Hastings told him he had to keep taking his current medication. Plaintiff alleges that Dr. Hastings continued "her methods of treatment for about four more months, " but plaintiff was still in pain and had shortness of breath, and so his medications were adjusted. (Docket No. 1 at 12).

         In June or July of 2015, plaintiff told Dr. Hastings he was in constant pain, and was depressed. Dr. Hastings prescribed an anti-depressant and exercise, and performed an x-ray. She then sent plaintiff to St. Louis University Hospital ("SLUH"), where another x-ray was performed. Someone at SLUH told plaintiff he needed a hip replacement, ...

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