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Headrick v. Steph

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

July 17, 2019

NURSE STEPH, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of pro se plaintiff Timothy Headrick for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Having reviewed the motion and the financial information submitted in support, the Court will grant the motion, and assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.41. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). Furthermore, after reviewing the complaint, the Court will partially dismiss the complaint, and direct the Clerk of Court to issue process upon the non-frivolous portions of the complaint.

         Initial Partial Filing Fee

         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, until the filing fee is fully paid. Id.

         In his signed and sworn motion, plaintiff states that he is not currently employed; that his last employment was in November 2017, when he earned $11.25 every two weeks; that he has received no money in the past twelve months; and that he has no money in a checking or savings account. ECF No. 3. However, the inmate account statement plaintiff submitted in support of his motion indicates otherwise. ECF No. 4. Although the statement only covers approximately a six-week period, it shows plaintiff receiving a payroll tip[1] in both February and March 2019, and that plaintiff received a gift of cash from a friend or family member. Overall, the inmate account statement indicates an approximate average month deposit of $12.05. The Court finds that plaintiff has insufficient funds in his prison account to pay the entire fee. Therefore, the Court will assess an initial partial filing fee of $2.41, which is twenty percent of plaintiff's average monthly deposit.

         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, 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).

         The Complaint

         Plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Potosi Correctional Center, but he was a pretrial detainee at the St. Louis City Justice Center when the allegations of his complaint took place. Plaintiff brings his complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against two medical service providers at the City Justice Center: Dr. Fe Fuentes and Nurse Steph. These defendants are employees of Corizon Health, Inc., the company contracted with the State of Missouri to provide medical services to inmates at the City Justice Center. Plaintiff sues both defendants in their official and individual capacities.

         On April 20, 2018, plaintiff broke his ankle while playing handball at the City Justice Center. As a result of the break, plaintiff had a full leg cast on his right leg and he was using crutches for mobility. ECF No. 1 at 2. On April 25, 2019, plaintiff filed complaints through the institutional grievance process against both Dr. Fuentes and Nurse Steph. Plaintiff does not detail the allegations of his grievances except to say that he accused Nurse Steph of “mistreatment.” Id. at 3.

         On the following day, April 26, 2019, plaintiff slipped and fell while going into a non-handicap shower stall. At the time, the handicap shower in his unit was not working. According to plaintiff, before he fell, Dr. Fuentes had been informed by “several correctional officers” that plaintiff needed to be placed in a handicap accessible unit or in the infirmary because the handicap shower in his unit was not working. Despite Dr. Fuentes knowing of plaintiff's cast and the inoperable handicap shower in plaintiff's unit, plaintiff alleges that Dr. Fuentes left him in his general population unit thereby “forcing” plaintiff to use a regular shower stall. ECF No. 1 at 2.

         When plaintiff slipped and fell, a medical emergency was called and Nurses Steph and Jones arrived. Plaintiff was screaming due to “excruciating pain” in both his broken ankle and his tailbone. Id. at 3. Plaintiff alleges that he could not move, so Nurse Steph told him to hold out his hand by which she dragged plaintiff across the floor. Plaintiff states that the shower floor is a “sandpaper texture” such that his skin was scraped as he was dragged. Plaintiff asserts that Nurse Steph ignored his “cries to stop” the dragging. Id. Plaintiff later received treatment for his scraped skin. Plaintiff does not state if he suffered any injuries as a result of his fall in the shower.

         Plaintiff alleges that the actions taken toward him by both Dr. Fuentes and Nurse Steph were in retaliation for the grievances he filed against them. Plaintiff also asserts that Nurse Steph's act of dragging him across the floor was a malicious and sadistic attempt to “inflict the wanton infliction of pain by using [the] floor as a meat grinder.” ECF No. 1 at 3.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory ...

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