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Trice v. Rodgers

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

June 14, 2019

ELI RODGERS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Richard Matthew Trice, an inmate at the Butler County Jail, for leave to commence this action without payment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed plaintiff's financial information, the Court assesses a partial initial filing fee of $48.35, which is twenty percent of his average monthly deposit. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will partially dismiss the complaint and will order the Clerk to issue process or cause process to be issued on the non-frivolous portions of the complaint.

         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.

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging defendant Eli Rodgers violated plaintiff's constitutional rights by using excessive force and defendant Tom Wilkinson was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's serious medical needs. Plaintiff states that in mid-March 2018, correctional officer Eli Rodgers opened the door to plaintiff's cell, grabbed him, and cuffed him to a restraint chair so securely that the handcuffs cut his wrist. Rodgers proceeded to strike plaintiff twice in the stomach and choke him. During the choking Rodgers said to plaintiff, “You Trices are nothing.” Following the incident with Rodgers, plaintiff alleges he sought blood thinner and medical treatment for his cuts and bruises. A nurse called defendant Tom Wilkinson, who is on the Butler County Jail medical staff. The nurse told plaintiff that Wilkinson said plaintiff could “wait until Monday.” Plaintiff states he suffered cuts on his wrists, bruises on his stomach and neck, and headaches following the assault.

         For relief, plaintiff seeks damages for pain and suffering in the amount of $1 million. He also asks for each state employee involved to be relieved of their duties and criminal charges brought against them.


         The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects pretrial detainees from “the use of excessive force that amounts to punishment.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). In order to prevail on an excessive force claim, plaintiff must show that a defendant purposely or knowingly used objectively unreasonable force. Id. “Whether the application of force was unreasonable turns on the facts and circumstances of each particular case.” Ryan v. Armstrong, 850 F.3d 419, 427 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting Kingsley, 135 S.Ct. at 2473). “Factors relevant to assessing the objective reasonableness of force used by officers include: the relationship between the need for the use of force and the amount of force used; the extent of the plaintiff's injury; any effort made by the officer to temper or limit the amount of force; the severity of the security problem at issue; the threat reasonably perceived by the officer; and whether the plaintiff was actively resisting.” Id.

         Plaintiff states defendant Rodgers took him out of his cell, cuffed him to a restraint chair, punched and choked him, and used derogatory language. Liberally construed, the Court finds the plaintiff has stated a plausible claim of excessive force against defendant Rodgers. The Court will order the Clerk to issue process on defendant Rodgers.

         As to plaintiff's claims for failure to provide medical treatment, however, the Court finds plaintiff has not stated a plausible claim. To state a claim for medical mistreatment, plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to indicate a deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. 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. In order to show deliberate indifference, plaintiff must allege that he suffered objectively serious medical needs and that defendants actually knew of but deliberately disregarded those needs. Dulany v. Carnahan, 132 F.3d 1234, 1239 (8th Cir. 1997). Furthermore, “[b]ecause a § 1983 action is a type of tort claim, general principles of tort law require that a plaintiff suffer some actual injury before he can receive compensation.” Irving v. Dormire, 519 F.3d 441, 448 (8th Cir. 2008).

         Plaintiff alleges he was arrested on a weekend, and told officers at the jail that he needed his blood thinner medication. A nurse called defendant Wilkinson, and Wilkinson said “wait until Monday.” Also, and it is unclear whether this was on the same date as his arrest, plaintiff alleges he was assaulted by defendant Rodgers on a weekend and was denied medical attention. He suffered bruises and a cut on his wrist for which he was given a bandage.

         First, as to plaintiff's allegation regarding his blood thinner medication, assuming plaintiff could state facts to establish a serious medical need for this medication, plaintiff has not alleged he suffered any injury arising out of Wilkinson's decision to wait one or two days (until Monday) to provide the medication. As stated above, a § 1983 action requires that a plaintiff suffer some actual injury before he can receive compensation. See Irving, ...

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