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Aldridge v. Hill

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

May 22, 2019

NINA HILL, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on review of pro se plaintiff George F. Aldridge, Jr.'s amended complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will partially dismiss the amended complaint and will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the non-frivolous portions of the amended complaint.

         Legal Standard for 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 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 been pleaded).


         Plaintiff, an inmate at the Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”), filed his complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs by nurse practitioner Nina Hill. Plaintiff also asserted allegations of negligence under Missouri tort law and failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). He brought suit against Hill in both her individual and official capacities.[1]

         Plaintiff's complaint detailed numerous health problems and asserted that Hill denied him adequate medical care for these problems. The Court attempted to review plaintiff's complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1915. However, the complaint contained so much irrelevant, redundant, and overly detailed information that the Court could not ascertain the alleged connection between the allegations and the defendant. As a result, on February 12, 2019, the Court ordered plaintiff to file an amended complaint in order to cure the pleading deficiencies. (Doc. 9.) In that order, the Court informed plaintiff that his amended complaint would be reviewed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Plaintiff requested and was granted an extension of time to file his amended complaint, which he filed on April 3, 2019. (Doc. 13.)

         The Amended Complaint[2]

         Plaintiff's amended complaint is brought against defendant Nina Hill in both her official and individual capacities. Plaintiff describes his allegations as three main claims: (1) denial of adequate medical care and deliberate indifference to his serious medical conditions, (2) denial of reasonable disability accommodations, and (3) denial of his right to free exercise of religion. (Doc. 13 at 4.)

         Plaintiff alleges that defendant Hill diagnosed him with multiple medical problems and then failed to treat these problems at various times between 2015 and 2017. Plaintiff also alleges that most of these medical problems constitute a “diagnosed ... disability” which Hill failed to accommodate, resulting in a substantial limitation of his ability to participate in life activities, services, and programs such as recreation, library, learning center, and visitation. (Id. at 15-17, 21-22.) Some of plaintiff's handwriting is hard to decipher, but his extensive list of medical problems appear to include: cardiovascular heart disease, high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, osteoporosis, abnormal growth on his knee and knee pain, chronic joint pain, bulging/herniated disc in his lower back, migraine headaches, high cholesterol, leaking bladder, neuropathy in his feet and legs, dizzy/fainting spells, right testicle pain, diabetes, hearing loss, sleeping problems, and numbness in his pubic area. (Id. at 5-17.) Plaintiff also seeks to bring his failure to treat allegations as tort claims of negligence and malpractice under Missouri state law.

         Besides the denial of medical care as to specific medical ailments, plaintiff's complaint contains many other more general allegations against Hill regarding medical care. For example, plaintiff alleges that he was prescribed dark lens glasses by an optometrist but that Hill directed correctional officers to confiscate these special glasses while plaintiff was in administrative segregation. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff also asserts that Hill denied him pain medication because he is a recovering drug addict and has drug sensitivities. (Id. at 9.) Plaintiff blames Hill for not receiving caffeinated coffee for his headaches, not getting a referral to a urologist, violating his confidentiality by discussing his medical problems with custody staff, and falsifying his medical records. (Id. at 12.) Most of plaintiff's allegations stem from his belief that Hill denied him proper treatment for his medical conditions while he was confined in administrative segregation, and that Hill even told him that if he would “stay out of ad-seg” then she would treat him. (Id. at 13.)

         Plaintiff attached exhibits to his amended complaint listing the multiple lay-in restrictions he has received at various times during his incarceration. Presumably, these exhibits are to support plaintiff's allegations that Hill has not provided needed lay-in restrictions or assistive devices such as: extended back cuffing and/or front cuffing due to his shoulder and elbow pain; a kneeling restriction or knee sleeve brace due to knee pain; a jock strap, mesh underwear, extra toilet paper, and/or wearable incontinence pads for bladder leakage; and extra pillows to put between his knees for back pain while sleeping. (Id. at 7, 10; Doc. 13-3 at 1-26.)

         Plaintiff also brings claims against Hill under the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc-1, et seq. Plaintiff alleges that Hill deprived him of the free exercise of his religion when she had his eyeglasses confiscated and when she did not prescribe an assistive kneeling device because these actions prevented plaintiff from reading his religious texts and deprived him of the ability to pray. (Doc. 13 at 8, 12, 23.) Plaintiff also claims he was denied free exercise of his religion when Hill failed to treat his chronic headaches and kneeling pain. (Id. at 23.)

         As a result of Hill's failure to treat plaintiff's medical conditions, plaintiff states that he had a stroke; has lost full range of motion in his left elbow and right knee; has lost feeling in his pubic area; has pain in his feet, legs, and right shoulder; cannot sleep, kneel, squat, climb stairs, or exercise; and has fallen and run into things causing eye injuries and a ...

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