United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JOHN J. SULLIVAN, Plaintiff,
BRADLEY BURD, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on review of pro se
plaintiff John J. Sullivan's second amended complaint
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons discussed below,
the Court finds that the second amended complaint fails to
state a claim for relief against the named defendants.
However, because plaintiff does state a valid Eighth
Amendment claim but names the wrong defendants, the Court
will give plaintiff an opportunity to file a third amended
complaint on the court-provided form and in accordance with
the Court's instructions. Plaintiff's failure to
state a cognizable claim in his third amended complaint will
result in dismissal of this action without prejudice.
Standard for Initial Review
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.
reviewing a pro se complaint under 28 U.S.C. §
1915, the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true,
White v. Clark, 750 F.2d 721, 722 (8th Cir. 1984),
and liberally construes the complaint. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); 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) (refusing to supply
additional facts or to construct a legal theory for the
pro se plaintiff that assumed facts that had not
currently incarcerated at Farmington Correctional Center
(“FCC”), brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Plaintiff's initial complaint focused on
four main alleged incidents or issues: (1) his treatment upon
arriving at FCC; (2) his treatment by guards when he had to
go to hospital in August 2018; (3) a threat from a FCC case
worker; and (4) a belief that his legal mail was being held
by FCC. It was not clear exactly who plaintiff intended to
name as defendants in his initial complaint or in what
capacity the defendants were being sued. Following the filing
of his complaint, plaintiff filed five additional letters
which elaborated on the same allegations raised in the
complaint. The Court attempted to review plaintiff's
complaint and supplements pursuant to the Prison Litigation
Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915. However, given the
unconnected nature of the allegations and the confusion on
who plaintiff intended to name as defendants, on January 16,
2019, the Court ordered plaintiff to file an amended
amended complaint named one defendant, Jenkins, a
guard/correctional officer at FCC. The amended complaint
focused on only one of the four incidents raised in the
original complaint - the method in which plaintiff was
restrained with handcuffs, a waist chain, and a “Black
Box” when being transported between the
hospital and FCC in August 2018. Despite the numerous
restraints on his hands and legs, plaintiff was provided no
assistance nor was there a handle or step stool to help him
get into the transport van. As a result, he fell two or three
times and it took him five to six tries to get into the van.
Plaintiff suffered injuries to his right hand and left wrist
that persisted five months later. Plaintiff asserted that
Jenkins ordered that the black box be used on him during
transport and that Jenkins was at the prison gate upon
plaintiff's return to FCC from the hospital, in order to
confirm its use.
the Court reviewed the amended complaint under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915, it found that plaintiff had not alleged how
Jenkins was personally involved or directly responsible for
the difficulties the black box caused when plaintiff entered
the van without assistance, as required for liability under
§ 1983. On March 5, 2019, the Court gave plaintiff a
second opportunity to file an amended complaint. The Court
warned plaintiff that his second amended complaint would
again be reviewed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, and that a
failure to comply with the Court's instructions would
result in the dismissal of this action without prejudice.
Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint on March 25,
Second Amended Complaint
brings his second amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against two defendants: Missouri Department of
Corrections (“MDOC”) and FCC guard/correctional
officer Jenkins. Like in his amended complaint,
plaintiff's allegations relate to the black box restraint
incident that occurred in August 2018. Plaintiff describes
how he was transported to the hospital via ambulance with his
left hand chained to a rail and his feet chained together.
For his return transport to FCC, plaintiff's hands and
feet were chained and he had “that Black on” -
the black box restraint. ECF No. 21 at 3, 21-1 at 2. Due to
the restraints, it took plaintiff multiple attempts to get
himself into the red MDOC van and the attempts resulted in
injuries to his hands and wrists. Plaintiff asserts that as of
March 2018 (seven months later), his wrist is still bruised
and sometimes feels numb. Plaintiff states that the van had
no handle or step to help him get into it. Plaintiff asserts
that MDOC is at fault for not providing an accessible van for
someone restrained “with that Black Box.” ECF No.
21-1 at 4.
does not mention defendant Jenkins in the statement of claim
section of his second amended complaint, only in the
attachments to the complaint. Plaintiff states that Jenkins
was “not at medical or the hospital only at the
gate” but that Jenkins “should not have sent a
man with that black box to the hospital.” According to
plaintiff, Jenkins told him that he was lucky “it was
not him who put [the restraints, including the black box]
on” plaintiff. ECF No. 21-1 at 2 & 4. Plaintiff
alleges that Jenkins is at “fault for not giving [him]
a way to get in that red van and for hurting” him.
Id. at 4.
seeks two million ...