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Johnson v. Corizon LLC

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

April 8, 2019

CORIZON LLC, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court for review of pro se plaintiff Roxanne Johnson's civil complaint pursuant to § 1915. The United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri granted plaintiff provisional leave to proceed in forma pauperis and transferred her case here. Having reviewed plaintiffs financial information, the Court has determined that plaintiff is unable to pay the full amount of the filing fee, and will be allowed to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). She will be assessed an initial partial filing fee of $16.70. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss plaintiffs claim against defendant Corizon LLC, as well as the official capacity claims against defendants Justin Jones, Tom Bredman, and Milton Hammerly. However, the Court will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process on defendants Jones, Bredman, and Hammerly 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.

         Plaintiff has provided an inmate account statement that only covers one month. However, she states in her motion that she receives an average of $83.50 a month. (Docket No. 2 at 2). The Court will therefore assess an initial partial filing free of $16.70, which is 20 percent of plaintiffs average monthly deposit. If plaintiff is unable to pay the initial partial filing fee, she must submit an updated copy of her prison account statement in support of her 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 (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 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 (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 incarcerated at Chillicothe Correctional Center in Chillicothe, Missouri. (Docket No. 1 at 1). At the time relevant to this complaint, she was an inmate at the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia, Missouri. She brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Her complaint names Corizon LLC, Dr. Justin Jones, Dr. Tom Bredman, and Dr. Milton Hammerly as defendants. Defendants Jones, Bredman, and Hammerly are sued in both their official and individual capacities.

         Plaintiff states that she arrived at WERDCC on January 7, 2016. (Docket No. 1 at 3). At that time, plaintiff wore a prosthetic brace that had been specifically designed to elevate her foot. She wore this brace due to a foot drop diagnosis. The brace allowed her to be able to walk. However, she alleges that Dr. Jones made the decision not to allow her access to this brace. As such, plaintiff claims she was relegated to a wheelchair.

         Plaintiff further asserts that Dr. Bredman and Dr. Hammerly, who are Jefferson City Medical Directors, refused to schedule an appointment with an outside contracted specialist. She alleges that this appointment would have allowed her to have a brace that was officially approved by the Missouri Department of Corrections. (Docket No. 1 at 3-4). Plaintiff acknowledges that Dr. Bredman and Dr. Hammerly approved two sessions of physical therapy. (Docket No. 1 at 4). However, she states that they knew this would not aid her medical condition and was done only to appease her and halt her "constant complaining."

         Eventually, Dr. Bredman and Dr. Hammerly approved a modification for plaintiffs confiscated prosthetic brace. This only occurred after a "significant delay," though, and by the time it happened, her foot was "too damaged and crippled" to wear the brace. She states that she is now permanently wheelchair bound until surgery can be completed, but that surgery has not been approved. She asserts that her foot condition is worsening and may become unfixable.

         Plaintiff also states that she has been delayed in filing this lawsuit because her medical and legal papers were taken. She claims she has filed "numerous" informal resolution requests, but the Missouri Department ...

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