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Vonneedo v. Dennis

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

May 7, 2018

RYAN DENNIS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Thomas Vonneedo 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 $1.98. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). In addition, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's claims against the Sikeston Department of Public Safety and the official capacity claims against Ryan Dennis and Unknown Dees, and direct the Clerk of Court to issue process upon the complaint as to Missouri Delta Medical Center, Dennis and Dees in their individual capacities, and Lauren Blackwelder and Randy Deprow in their official and 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 a certified inmate account statement showing an average monthly deposit of $9.92, and an average monthly balance of $5.90. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.98, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the Court is required to dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. An action is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action is malicious if it is undertaken for the purpose of harassing the named defendants and not for the purpose of vindicating a cognizable right. Spencer v. Rhodes, 656 F.Supp. 458, 461-63 (E.D. N.C. 1987), aff'd 826 F.2d 1059 (4th Cir. 1987). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         To determine whether an action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must engage in a two-step inquiry. First, the Court must identify the allegations in the complaint that are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). These include “legal conclusions” and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action [that are] supported by mere conclusory statements.” Id. at 678. Second, the Court must determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         The plaintiff is required to plead facts that show more than the “mere possibility of misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court must review the factual allegations in the complaint “to determine if they plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.” Id. at 681. When faced with alternative explanations for the alleged misconduct, the Court may exercise its judgment in determining whether plaintiff's proffered conclusion is the most plausible or whether it is more likely that no misconduct occurred. Id. at 680-82.

         Pro se complaints are to be liberally construed, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), but they still must 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). The Court must weigh all factual allegations in favor of the plaintiff, unless the facts alleged are clearly baseless. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 32 (1992). 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 v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914-15 (8th Cir. 2004).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Southeast Correctional Center, filed the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Missouri Delta Medical Center (“MDMC”), police officers Ryan Dennis and Unknown Dees, Lauren Blackwelder (a physician at MDMC), Randy Deprow (a nurse at MDMC), and the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. Plaintiff also named an indeterminate number of Doe defendants, whom he identifies as MDMC intensive care unit personnel. Plaintiff states that he sues the defendants in an official and individual capacity.

         According to the complaint, on October 5, 2015, defendants Dennis and Dees arrested plaintiff and took him into custody at the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. A strip search was performed to determine whether he had drugs hidden between his buttocks. The strip search was negative. Dennis then applied for a search warrant to locate methamphetamine inside plaintiff's body. The warrant was authorized, but it did not allow intrusive or invasive procedures.

         On that same date, an x-ray was performed at Missouri Delta Medical Center for the purpose of determining whether there was contraband in plaintiff's rectum. After the x-ray yielded inconclusive results, Dennis, Dees and Blackwelder, acting in concert, had plaintiff placed in the MDMC intensive care unit, where Blackwelder, Deprow and the Doe defendants (intensive care unit personnel) performed invasive and intrusive medical procedures to determine whether there was contraband inside plaintiff's body. These procedures included placing an IV in plaintiff's arm, administering sedatives and laxatives, ...

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