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Taylor v. Hansens

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

June 24, 2019

CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR, II, Plaintiff,
v.
COLE HANSENS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of plaintiff Christopher Taylor, II for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the filing fee. (Docket No. 2). Having reviewed the motion and the financial information contained therein, the Court has determined that plaintiff lacks sufficient funds to pay the entire filing fee and will assess an initial partial filing fee of$1.00. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss plaintiffs official capacity claim against defendant Cole Hansens, as well as plaintiffs due process claim against Hansens in his individual capacity. However, the Court will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process on defendant Hansens in his individual capacity as to plaintiffs claim of excessive force.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1)

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), a prisoner bringing a civil action in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the filing fee. If the prisoner has insufficient funds in his or her prison account to pay the entire fee, the Court must assess and, when funds exist, collect an initial partial filing fee of 20 percent of the greater of (1) the average monthly deposits in the prisoner's account, or (2) the average monthly balance in the prisoner's account for the prior six-month period. After payment of the initial partial filing fee, the prisoner is required to make monthly payments of 20 percent of the preceding month's income credited to the prisoner's account. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2). The agency having custody of the prisoner will forward these monthly payments to the Clerk of Court each time the amount in the prisoner's account exceeds $10.00, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         Plaintiff has not submitted an inmate account statement. After reviewing the financial information contained in plaintiffs motion, the Court will require him to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.00. See Henderson v. Norris, 129 F.3d 481, 484 (8th Cir. 1997) (when a prisoner is unable to provide the Court with a certified copy of his prison account statement, the Court should assess an amount "that is reasonable, based on whatever information the court has about the prisoner's finances"). If plaintiff is unable to pay the initial partial filing fee, he must provide documentation in support of his claim.

         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, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate a plausible claim for relief, which is more than a "mere possibility of misconduct." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). "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 upon judicial experience and common sense. Id. at 679. The court must "accept as true the facts alleged, but not legal conclusions or threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Barton v. Taber, 820 F.3d 958, 964 (8th Cir. 2016). See also Brown v. Green Tree Servicing LLC, 820 F.3d 371, 372-73 (8th Cir. 2016) (stating that court must accept factual allegations in complaint as true, but is not required to "accept as true any legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation").

         When reviewing a pro se complaint under § 1915(e)(2), the Court must give it the benefit of a liberal construction. 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 plaintiffs 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) (stating that federal courts are not required to "assume facts that are not alleged, just because an additional factual allegation would have formed a stronger complaint"). In addition, affording a pro se complaint the benefit of a liberal construction does not mean that procedural rules in ordinary civil litigation must be interpreted so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) in Charleston, Missouri. He brings this pro se civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His complaint names Correctional Officer Cole Hansens as the sole defendant.[1] (Docket No. 1 at 2). Officer Hansens is sued in both his official and individual capacities.

         Plaintiff states that on November 13, 2018, he was an inmate at SECC, assigned to unit #2 in administrative segregation. (Docket No. 1 at 4). Officer Hansens and Officer Riley Johnson were conducting showers on this day. Officer Johnson came to plaintiffs cell and asked him if he wanted to take a shower. Plaintiff responded by telling Officer Hansens that plaintiff and Officer Johnson had "had a situation on November 11, 2018," and that plaintiff felt uncomfortable with Officer Johnson placing him in the shower.

         Officer Hansens opened plaintiffs food port and placed him in wrist restraints, with a leash connected to the handcuffs. Plaintiff states that Officer Hansens then took him to the showers. He states that he was in the shower for ten minutes. While drying off, plaintiff states that he saw Officer Hansens and Officer Johnson in his cell. He was told by another offender that Officer Johnson was in his bed, on the top bunk. (Docket No. 1 at 5).

         Plaintiff advised Officer Hansens that he was done with his shower and ready to return to his cell. Officer Hansens replied that he would have Officer Johnson take him back if plaintiff kept rushing. Officer Hansens also asked plaintiff if he had a "celly." Plaintiff responded that he did not. He was subsequently placed back into wrist restraints and escorted back to his cell.

         Plaintiff asked Officer Hansens why Officer Johnson had been in his bed. Officer Hansens answered that "he didn't know and didn't care." While approaching his cell, plaintiff states that he saw pictures scattered about and some recent mail destroyed. Plaintiff told Officer Hansens that he wanted to speak to a sergeant and that he would not step into his cell "until this matter is taken care of." (Docket No. 1 at 5-6).

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hansens pushed him inside the cell and "yanked the leash" that was connected to the handcuffs. (Docket No. 1 at 6). This forced plaintiffs hands and arms through the food port, causing him pain. He pulled back on his arms and again asked to speak to a sergeant. Officer Hansens allegedly responded by yanking him through the food port again. Next, plaintiff claims that Officer Hansens sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, which went into his eyes and mouth.

         Sergeant Stephanie Noisworthy arrived and asked for an explanation. Plaintiff attempted to tell to her that he was "calling for a white shirt" when Officer Hansens threw him inside his cell and pepper sprayed him for no reason. He advised Sergeant Noisworthy that he could not breathe and was feeling suicidal because of the pepper spray.

         Sergeant Noisworthy and Officer Damien Culbertson escorted plaintiff from his cell to a bench. (Docket No. 1 at 6-7). As he exited the cell, plaintiff states that he began spitting on the ground due to the pepper spray. (Docket No. 1 at 7). He states that his face felt as though it "was falling off and that he was having trouble breathing.

         Plaintiff was seated on the bench in full restraints, with his hands and feet secured. At that point, Officer Hansens walked up behind him, wrapped his arm around his neck, and began choking him. According to plaintiff, Sergeant Noisworthy gave Officer Hansens three directives to stop choking him. Eventually, Officer Hansens complied.

         Lieutenant Stewart arrived and escorted plaintiff to housing unit #1, where he was allowed to rinse his face but not take a shower. He was assigned to a suicide cell, where he was later found unresponsive by Officer Lynch and taken to see the nurse. The nurse took his vitals and documented his injuries, including a red mark around his neck and bruising along his side and right arm. (Docket No. 1 at 7-8). Plaintiff alleges that ever since the incident occurred, Officer Hansens "comes around...[once] in a while to harass ...


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