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Baker v. Stamps

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

April 9, 2019

DAVID J. BAKER, Plaintiff,
DR. RUANE STAMPS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff David Baker's amended complaint. On January 8, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and ordered him to: (1) pay an initial partial filing fee and (2) submit an amended complaint. ECF No. 6. The Court stated it would review the amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. After the Court granted Plaintiff two extensions of time, he filed the amended complaint. See ECF Nos. 8, 10, & 11. Plaintiff also moves for the appointment of counsel. ECF No. 12. Upon reviewing the amended complaint and considering the relevant circumstances, the Court will appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1), and provide a deadline for Plaintiff's counsel to submit a second amended complaint.

         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, is malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 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, the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true. See, e.g., White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984) (per curiam) (in reviewing a dismissal of a pro se prisoner's complaint under § 1915, a court takes the facts “in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and all well-pleaded [factual] allegations are considered as true”). Furthermore, the Court liberally construes the allegations in a pro se complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff, an inmate at Moberly Correctional Center (“MCC”), brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two defendants: Corizon Health Care (“Corizon”), the medical services provider for the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), and Dr. Ruane Stamps, a medical doctor employed by Corizon. Plaintiff alleges Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by intentionally denying or delaying his access to medical treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. According to Plaintiff, as a result of Defendants' inadequate response to and delayed treatment of his health complaints - especially in light of his medical history - he now has terminal throat cancer. Plaintiff asserts that, when he first sought medical care at MCC, he had just a small “peanut size” knot on his neck or throat area. ECF No. 11 at 4. However, by the time he eventually had surgery, a 7-inch cancerous mass was removed from his throat and his prognosis is now terminal. Id. at 4-5.

         Plaintiff alleges Dr. Stamps was aware of his history of cancer but she waited too long before starting treatment for cancer because she was trying to save money “for the Regional Office.” Id. at 3. Plaintiff also complains that, after the surgery to remove the throat mass, Dr. Stamps would not give him “lay-in from school.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges Corizon “did not and will not have any doctor that will order [a] test that they know cost[s] a lot of money.” Id. at 4. Plaintiff asserts that, if Corizon had not delayed approving the medical tests necessary to discover the recurrence of his cancer, he might be “looking at a longer life.” Id. According to Plaintiff, as a result of Corizon not approving the “three (3) Test[s] in a timely manner, ” his cancer is terminal - “[i]n other words they gave [him] the death sentence.” Id. at 4 & 5.

         Plaintiff complains of losing his voice, a throbbing and aching discomfort, pain all the time, distress of body and mind, and a shorter life expectancy. For relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.


         The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects prisoners from deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs. Luckert v. Dodge Cty., 684 F.3d 808, 817 (8th Cir. 2012). To survive initial review, a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to state a plausible claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Camberos v. Branstad, 73 F.3d 174, 175 (8th Cir. 1995). Allegations of mere negligence in giving or failing to supply medical treatment will not suffice. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. Nor will a prisoner's “mere disagreement with treatment decisions” support a claim of deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical needs. Jones v. Minnesota Dep't of Corr., 512 F.3d 478, 482 (8th Cir. 2008).

         Instead, a prisoner plaintiff must allege that he suffered objectively serious medical needs and that the defendants actually knew of, but deliberately disregarded those needs. Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997). A “serious medical need” is “one that has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment, or one that is so obvious that even a layperson would easily recognize the necessity for a doctor's attention.” Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 342 (8th Cir. 2011). A prisoner may show a deliberate indifference through an intentional delay in or denial of access to medical care. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104-05.

         When a delay in treatment is alleged to have violated an inmate's constitutional rights, a court measures the objective severity of the deprivation “by reference to the effect of the delay in treatment.” Jackson v. Riebold, 815 F.3d 1114, 1119 (8th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Laughlin v. Schriro, 430 F.3d 927, 929 (8th Cir. 2005)). To support a claim based on a delay in treatment, a plaintiff must present “verifying medical evidence” showing that the delay in treatment had detrimental effects. Id. at 1120. See also Holden, 663 F.3d at 342 (“[a] prisoner alleging a delay in treatment must present verifying medical evidence that . . . [the] delays adversely affected his prognosis”); Spann v. Roper, 453 F.3d 1007, 1008-09 (8th Cir. 2006) (per curiam) (remanding after concluding it was “incongruous” that the district court denied the prisoner plaintiff's “motion for an expert witness and then granted summary judgment in part based on [the prisoner plaintiff's] failure to provide verifying medical evidence that the ...

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