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Hobbs v. Cape Girardeau County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri

March 15, 2019

TERELLE D. HOBBS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY JAIL, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Terelle D. Hobbs, a prisoner incarcerated at Cape Girardeau County Jail, for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the filing fee. Having reviewed plaintiff's financial information, the Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. In addition, the Court will allow plaintiff the opportunity to submit an amended 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 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.

         Plaintiff has not submitted a prison account statement. As a result, the Court will require plaintiff to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir. 1997) (when a prisoner is unable to provide the Court with a certified copy of his prison account statement, the Court should assess an amount “that is reasonable, based on whatever information the court has about the prisoner's finances.”). If plaintiff is unable to pay the initial partial filing fee, he must submit a copy of his prison account statement in support of his claim.

         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. A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, ” nor will a complaint suffice if it tenders bare assertions devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         When conducting initial review pursuant to § 1915(e)(2), the Court must accept as true the allegations in the complaint, and must give the complaint the benefit of a liberal construction. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the tenet that a court must accept the allegations as true does not apply to legal conclusions, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, and 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. U.S., 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993). 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”).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action to redress violations of his civil rights, and names the Cape Girardeau County Jail as defendant. Plaintiff also brings this action against Unkown Pullum, and Offier at the Jail. Plaintiff alleges that on or about February 20, 2019, he became sick at the Jail, and he began to get very short of breath. He states that he began “wheezing, losing sleep, and having trouble breathing.” Plaintiff does not state who he told of his medical problems at the Jail, nor does plaintiff state when he exactly he began to get ill or what treatment he received or from whom. Plaintiff does state that at one point he was told by Officer Pullum that he would have to wait to see a doctor, but he does not make it clear the relief he asked Officer Pullum for. Plaintiff instead states that at some point he was taken to St. Francois hospital and eventually had to be placed on a “respiratory system” because he “wasn't breathing on [his] own.” Plaintiff has not stated the capacity he is bringing his lawsuit against Officer Pullum in.

         The complaint is legally frivolous as to Cape Girardeau County Jail because the Jail is not an entity that is subject to a suit. See Ketchum v. City of West Memphis, Ark., 974 F.2d 81, 82 (8th Cir. 1992) (departments or subdivisions of local government are “not juridical entities suable as such.”). In addition, the complaint is defective because it was not drafted on the Court's form. See E.D. Mo. Local Rule 2.06(A).

         Moreover, plaintiff's allegations against Officer Pullum currently fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff did not specify whether he is suing Officer Pullum, the only individual named in the lawsuit, in his official or individual capacity. Where a “complaint is silent about the capacity in which [plaintiff] is suing defendant, [a district court must] interpret the complaint as including only official-capacity claims.” Egerdahl v. Hibbing Community College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995); Nix v. Norman, 879 F.2d 429, 431 (8th Cir. 1989). Naming a government official in his or her official capacity is the equivalent of naming the government entity that employs the official - Cape Girardeau County. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). To state a claim against a municipality or a government official in his or her official capacity, plaintiff must allege that a policy or custom of the government entity is responsible for the alleged constitutional violation. Monell v. Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978). The instant complaint does not contain any allegations that Cape Girardeau County or Cape Girardeau County Jail was responsible for the alleged violations of plaintiff's constitutional rights. As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect to Officer Pullum at the present time.

         Even if plaintiff had brought his lawsuit against Officer Pullum in his individual capacity, his allegations would have still failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Liability under § 1983 requires a causal link to, and direct responsibility for, the alleged deprivation of rights. Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1990); see also Martin v. Sargent, 780 F.2d 1334, 1338 (8th Cir. 1985) (claim not cognizable under § 1983 where plaintiff fails to allege defendant was personally involved in or directly responsible for incidents that injured plaintiff). In the instant action, plaintiff has not set forth enough facts indicating exactly what he asked from Officer Pullum and how Officer Pullum show a deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs at the time of the purported incident.[1] As a result, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will allow him to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff is warned that the filing of an amended complaint replaces the original complaint, and so it must include all claims plaintiff wishes to bring. E.g., In re Wireless Telephone Federal Cost Recovery Fees Litigation, 396 F.3d 922, 928 (8th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff must submit the amended complaint on a ...


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