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Willis v. Cape Girardeau County Jail

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

March 1, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff Willie Willis's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docket No. 5). 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 $2.83. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process on defendants Charlotte Unknown, Unknown Stevens, and Susan Unknown 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 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 the 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. (Docket No. 2). The certified inmate account statement showed an average monthly deposit of $14.13. The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.83, which is 20 percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit. If plaintiff is unable to pay the initial partial filing fee, he must file an updated inmate account statement with the Court.

         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 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a “mere possibility of misconduct.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “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 upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must “accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but is not required to “accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation”).

         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). A “liberal construction” means that if the essence of an allegation is discernible, the district court should construe the plaintiff's complaint in a way that permits his or her claim to be considered within the proper legal framework. Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015). However, 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) (stating that 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 is currently an inmate at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. At all times relevant to this complaint, however, he was a pretrial detainee incarcerated in the Cape Girardeau County Jail in Jackson, Missouri. (Docket No. 4 at 2).

         Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The amended complaint is handwritten on a Court-provided form. Plaintiff has also filed a supplement to his amended complaint, which will be treated as part of the pleading.[1] (Docket No. 6). When liberally construed, his complaint asserts claims against three defendants: Head Nurse Charlotte Unknown; Assistant Nurse Unknown Stevens; and Assistant Nurse Susan Unknown. (Docket No. 4 at 2-3). All three defendants are sued in their individual capacities.[2]

         Plaintiff states that on September 30, 2018, he broke his arm. (Docket No. 4 at 4). On October 12, 2018, he underwent surgery, and a rod was placed in his injured arm. He states that his physician, Dr. Edwards, prescribed him medication for the pain. (Docket No. 6 at 2). However, he alleges that when he arrived at the Cape Girardeau County Jail, the nurses refused to give him his medication. (Docket No. 4 at 4). Specifically, he alleges that Head Nurse Charlotte Unknown, and Assistant Nurses Unknown Stevens and Susan Unknown, did not want to give him the medication prescribed by his doctor. Plaintiff claims that he suffered constant pain that kept him from sleeping.

         Plaintiff alleges that his inability to get his pain medication was an ongoing issue. He states that he requested the medication on numerous occasions, but defendants refused. (Docket No. 6 at 3). He states that he was only offered Tylenol, though he mentions this had to be ordered from the commissary. Plaintiff asserts that he went back to his doctor for a follow-up appointment. (Docket No. 6 at 1). At this appointment, his arm was x-rayed and the doctor wrote another prescription for pain medication. Again, however, he claims that defendants refused to have it filled.

         Plaintiff alleges that the denial of his prescription medication amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. (Docket No. 4 at 5). He is seeking the ...

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