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Esparza v. Godert

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

May 7, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on review of the file following plaintiff's filing of his written supplement to the amended complaint. After careful review of the amended complaint and the written supplement, the Court will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the complaint as to defendant Warden Chantay Godert in her individual capacity. The Court will dismiss without prejudice (1) plaintiff's claims against defendant Warden Chantay Godert in her official capacity, and (2) plaintiff's claims against Director Anne L. Precythe in both her individual and official capacities.


         On August 27, 2018, the Court granted plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, and conducted an initial review of his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court stated that “[p]laintiff's allegations may state a plausible claim for deprivation of his Eighth Amendment rights under § 1983. However, plaintiff lists the Missouri Department of Corrections as his only defendant in this § 1983 action.” The Court found the Missouri Department of Corrections was not a “person” subject to suit under § 1983, and directed plaintiff to file an amended complaint.

         Plaintiff filed his amended complaint, listing as defendants Chantay Godert (Warden, Northeast Correctional Center (“NECC”)) and Anne Precythe (Director, Missouri Department of Corrections). He checked the box on the form complaint, however, indicating that he was only suing these defendants in their official capacities. The Court ordered plaintiff to file a written supplement to the amended complaint, stating whether he was suing the named defendants in their official capacities, individual capacities, or both individual and official capacities.

         On April 22, 2019, plaintiff filed his written supplement to the amended complaint, stating that he is suing defendants in both their individual and official capacities.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), 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 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(e), the Court accepts the well-pled facts as true. Furthermore, the Court liberally construes the allegations.

         Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff, formerly an inmate NECC, brings this § 1983 alleging defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment. Prior to being incarcerated, plaintiff suffered from throat cancer and had a total laryngectomy. Since having the procedure, plaintiff breathes through an opening in his neck known as a stoma. Because of his stoma, plaintiff is at an increased risk of developing a wound infection.

         Plaintiff states that in April 2018, while housed in Algoa Correctional Center, he developed an lung infection from using a prison shower. He was treated and then transferred to NECC. Plaintiff met with Dr. Rhodes at NECC and asked to be placed in the Transitional Care Unit (“TCU”) (the prison's hospital) because he needed use a low-traffic shower to avoid bacterial infection of his stoma. Plaintiff states that Dr. Rhoades agreed that the TCU would be the appropriate place to house plaintiff, but Dr. Rhoades took no action to have plaintiff placed there. Instead, plaintiff was placed in the general population where he soon declared a medical emergency. Plaintiff states fluid was running down his chest from his stoma, and he was gasping for air. Plaintiff states he was “pushed to the back of the TCU.”

         On May 17, 2018, plaintiff's throat surgeon wrote to him stating that “it is critical that you get good humidification and steam to keep the trachea and stoma clean . . . . The stoma will colonize with bacteria as well, so keep it as clean as possible.” See ECF No. 8-1 at 13. Plaintiff forwarded this letter to the prison's mental health staff, medical staff, Corizon staff, defendant Godert, and defendant Precythe.

         On May 25, 2018, plaintiff was taken to Jefferson City for medical treatment because of throat pain. On June 11, 2018, plaintiff received a lay-in from Dr. Mary E. Chandler at NECC, which ordered plaintiff to be housed in a cell with its own shower. Plaintiff states that he immediately took the lay-in to his functional unit manager, who contacted Warden Godert by telephone. Shortly after this telephone call, plaintiff received a letter from Warden Godert, stating that plaintiff's concerns regarding the prison showers should be addressed through the prison's grievance process. Plaintiff states that at some point Dr. Chandler had modified plaintiff's lay-in to change the requirement that plaintiff be placed in a cell with its own shower to a requirement that plaintiff be allowed to use a handicapped shower. According to plaintiff, this modified lay-in placed him in a worse position, because the handicapped shower is the preferred shower of the inmates. But regardless, plaintiff continues, he is housed in D-wing of 8-house, which has no handicapped shower. Plaintiff states that he “deal[t] with it up until mid-July when all of a sudden everyone is moved off bunks into cells-the cells are over 100 degrees. . . . I have sweat running down my neck into my hole. I beg for a fan because I don't have money. . . . I ...

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