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Elston v. Collins

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

July 19, 2018

JAMES ELSTON, Plaintiff,
CARRI COLLINS, 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 plaintiffs financial information, the Court assesses a partial initial filing fee of $33.05, which is twenty percent of his average monthly deposit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will partially dismiss the complaint and will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the non-frivolous portions of the complaint.

         Legal Standard on Initial 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, an inmate at Moberly Correctional Center ("MCC"), brings this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), and the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), alleging defendants violated his rights by failing to accommodate his disability and by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment upon him. Named as defendants are Carrie Collins (ADA District Coordinator, Missouri Department of Corrections ("MDOC")); Lisa Pogue (Assistant Deputy Warden, MCC and ADA Site Coordinator); Unknown Pollard (Correctional Officer II, MCC); Unknown Zukerini (Correctional Officer I, MCC); Unknown Captain (MCC); and Dr. Ruanne Stamps (Medical Director, MCC).

         Plaintiff states the he has been disabled since he was eighteen months old due to the accidental ingestion of caustic chemicals. As a result, he has lifelong damage to his mouth, throat, and esophageal tract. Because of the restriction of plaintiff s esophagus, loss of teeth, and scar tissue on his mouth, plaintiff requires a much longer time than an able-bodied person to masticate his food. He has a doctor's order at MCC that states he should have thirty minutes to eat at each meal, otherwise he cannot obtain the necessary nutrition and is at risk of choking.

         Plaintiff states the custody staff in the dining facility at MCC have refused to honor this doctor's order, and make him throw away any food that he cannot eat within fifteen minutes, or less, on some occasions. Plaintiff states that he has lost thirty pounds since his incarceration. Specifically, plaintiff states that on October 16, 2017, January 28, 2018, and February 13, 2018, Correctional Officers Pollard and Zukerini and an unknown captain, denied plaintiff the right to eat, even after being shown his lay-in for reasonable accommodation.

         For relief, plaintiff seeks an injunction ordering MDOC staff to abide by the ADA and $40 million in damages.


         Eighth Amendment Allegations

         "[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (quotations and citation omitted). "This is true whether the indifference is manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed." Id. at 104-05. Plaintiffs claims of violations of the Eighth Amendment against defendants Unknown Pollard and Unknown Zukerini survive initial review. Plaintiff has alleged a serious medical need, namely that his restricted esophageal tract and scar tissue require him to have extra time to chew and swallow his food, otherwise he becomes malnourished and is at risk of choking. Plaintiff alleges these correctional officers are deliberately disregarding that serious medical need by not allowing plaintiff enough time to eat. The Court will issue process on defendants Pollard and Zukerini.

         Because the Court finds the allegations against defendants Carri Collins, Lisa Pogue, and Dr. Ruanne Stamps sound in respondeat superior, the Court will not issue process on these defendants. See Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990) (liability under § 1983 requires causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights); Martin v. Sargent,780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (claim not cognizable under ยง 1983 where ...

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