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Brown v. Larkins

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

March 25, 2019

THOMAS BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVE LARKINS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Thomas Brown for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the motion, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee, and will assess an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will direct plaintiff to file an amended complaint on a Court-provided form.

         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.

         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. 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 (8* 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 plaintiffs 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 (8* 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 (8* 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 incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center (ERDCC) in Bonne Terre, Missouri. He brings this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docket No. 1 at 3). He names the following individuals as defendants: Warden Steve Larkins; Assistant Warden Stanley Paine; Medical Director Chris Rosko; Unknown Correctional Officers; Unknown Doctors; and Unknown Nurses. (Docket No. 1 at 3-4). All defendants are sued in both their individual and official capacities. (Docket No. 1 at 4).

         Plaintiff states that during the "booking process" upon entering ERDCC, he filled out a medical evaluation in which he noted that his medications were Wellbutrin and Trazadone. (Docket No. 1 at 4-5). These medications had been prescribed by plaintiffs doctor at Ozark Behavioral Health in West Plains, Missouri. (Docket No. 1 at 5). Plaintiff states that he was advised that "they would have to get ahold of my doctor" before he was given those medications. After the medical evaluation, plaintiff states that he had a mental health screening. During this screening, he again noted that he took Wellbutrin and Trazadone for his major depressive disorder, PTSD, ADD, and ADHD. Plaintiff asserts that "they wrote it down and said they would call" his doctor at Ozark Behavioral Health.

         Plaintiff states that he filled out a medical service request because "they" refused to give him his mental health medications. (Docket No. 1 at 6). When he was seen, he alleges that he was told that his doctor at Ozark Behavioral Health did not exist. Plaintiff was also advised that if he really needed Wellbutrin and Trazadone, "their doctors" would give it to him.

         Eventually, plaintiff saw a doctor and a mental health doctor at ERDCC. They both agreed that plaintiff had major depressive disorder, PTSD, ADD, and ADHD. Plaintiff claims that he asked the doctors if he could start taking his medication, and both of them told him that ERDCC "does not give out those [two] medications" to inmates. Plaintiff then asked whether he could get a generic medication, and was told by the doctors that they would get back to him later. He states that the doctors still have not gotten back to him. He also claims that he has learned from other ERDCC inmates that those medications are given out.

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants Larkins, Paine, and Rosko had a "custom of denying" his mental health medications. He also claims that defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy under both Missouri law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 to deprive him of access to his medications, and that they committed the "tort of breach of duty." (Docket No. 1 at 7). Finally, plaintiff ...


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