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Paul v. Teddford

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

September 11, 2019

RICO PAUL, Plaintiff,
v.
CO. UNKNOWN TEDDFORD, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of plaintiff Rico Paul, a prisoner who is currently incarcerated at the Jefferson City Correctional Center (JCCC), for leave to commence this civil action without prepayment of the required filing fee. The Court will grant the motion and 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 the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         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 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 signed the complaint on June 24, 2019, and it was filed in this Court on June 27, 2019. At that time, plaintiff was incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center (PCC). Along with the instant motion, plaintiff submitted a letter stating that PCC staff refused to give him a copy of his inmate account statement. In the motion, plaintiff states his brothers send him money from time to time. Therefore, plaintiff will be required to pay an initial partial filing fee of $1.00, an amount that is reasonable based upon the information before the Court. See Henderson v. Harris, 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."). Any claim that plaintiff is unable to pay this amount must be supported by a copy of plaintiffs institution account statement.

         Legal Standard on Initial Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), 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 may be granted. An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). 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 assume the veracity of well-pleaded facts, but need not accept as true "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. at 678 (citing Twombty, 550 U.S. at 555). In assessing whether an action is subject to dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), courts may consider materials that are attached to the complaint as exhibits. Reynolds v. Dormire, 636 F.3d 976, 979 (8th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted), Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c) ("A copy of a written instrument that is an exhibit to a pleading is a part of the pleading for all purposes.").

         This Court must liberally construe complaints filed by laypeople. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). This means that "if the essence of an allegation is discernible," the court should "construe the complaint in a way that permits the layperson's claim to be considered within the proper legal framework." Solomon v. Petray, 795 F.3d 777, 787 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir. 2004)). However, even pro se complaints must 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). Federal courts are not required to assume facts that are not alleged, Stone, 364 F.3d at 914-15, nor are they required to interpret procedural rules so as to excuse mistakes by those who proceed without counsel. See McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113(1993).

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff filed the amended complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against 13 defendants: Corrections Officers Teddford, Miller, Conrad, Campbell, Harsh, Hobbs, and Harley; Sergeant Mezo; Caseworkers Unknown Browers, Steve Francis and Unknown Eddleman; Function Unit Manager Jennifer Price; and Major Hunter. He states he sues Miller and Price in their official and individual capacities. He does not specify the capacity in which he sues the remaining 11 defendants.

         All of plaintiffs claims arose when he was incarcerated at PCC, and are related to a leaking ceiling. Plaintiff attached to the complaint an exhibit containing copies of the Informal Resolution Request (IRR), Grievance, and Grievance Appeal he filed related to the leak, along with copies of the responses he received. The Court will consider these materials in assessing whether this action is subject to dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B). Reynolds, 636 F.3d at 979, Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(c). Plaintiff alleges as follows.

         On December 26, 2018 while plaintiff was housed in administrative segregation, the ceiling began leaking. Plaintiff told Teddford, Miller, Mezo and Conrad and asked to be moved, but they refused. Later, plaintiff had the same exchange with Campbell and Harsh, and Harsh said "it sucks to be you." The next day, plaintiff told Price, Hunter and Francis about the leak, but they ignored him. Plaintiff writes: "Let me bring to the court's attention I made them aware that those condition were inhumane living condition which is a deliberate indifference." Plaintiff also spoke to Miller, Teddford, Hobbs and Mezo. Later, Browers visited plaintiffs cell and asked him when he was scheduled to be released from segregation. Plaintiff told him on January 3, 3019, and Browers replied "Good because you don't have to suffer much longer." Plaintiff later reported the leak to Harley, who told him that was not part of his job description. On December 28, plaintiff told another officer about the leak, but she ignored him.

         Plaintiff alleges the water was "mold-infested" and unsanitary, and he states he sought medical attention because he was having trouble breathing. Plaintiff alleges no additional facts about his physical condition, nor does he state he received medical treatment or allege that treatment was refused. In the section of the complaint soliciting information about plaintiffs injuries, he wrote: ...


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