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Lane v. Short

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

November 6, 2019

BRENDA SHORT, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court upon the motion of pro se plaintiff Sheridan Arland Lane, II for leave to commence this action without prepayment of the required filing fee. Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Jefferson County Jail when he filed his complaint on July 8, 2019. On July 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a change of address notice with the Court indicating that he had been released from incarceration. Because plaintiff was released from confinement shortly after filing the instant action, the Court will grant his request to proceed in forma pauperis and will not assess an initial partial filing fee at this time. Additionally, for the reasons discussed below, the Court will give plaintiff the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

         Filing Fee

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1), when a prisoner brings a civil action in forma pauperis, the prisoner must pay the full amount of the filing fee, usually in the form of an initial partial payment then installment payments over time. However, a non-prisoner plaintiff can litigate without payment of any fees if he qualifies under the general in forma pauperis provision of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         “Federal circuit authority is split on the question of whether the PLRA prison litigation provisions of § 1915 continue to govern if and after the prisoner is released pendente lite (that is, during the litigation). The Fifth, Seventh and District of Columbia Circuits have held that the full payment requirement is triggered upon the filing of the (as applicable) complaint or notice of appeal. … The Second, Fourth, Sixth and Tenth Circuits have concluded to the contrary, that the requirements of the PLRA do not continue to apply after the plaintiff is released.” Putzer v. Attal, 2013 WL 4519351, at *1 (D. Nev. Aug. 23, 2013) (internal citations omitted).

         The Eighth Circuit has not ruled on this issue. However, in this case, plaintiff was released shortly after filing this case and before the Court had ruled his motion for in forma pauperis and ordered an initial partial payment. Therefore, the Court will consider plaintiff as he currently stands at the time of the review of his motion - as a non-prisoner plaintiff under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Based on the financial information submitted, the Court finds that plaintiff does not have sufficient funds to pay the filing fee and will grant his motion.

         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-plead 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).

         Background and the Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights based on events that occurred while he was a pretrial detainee at the Jefferson County Jail. Plaintiff names eight defendants in their individual and official capacities: (1) Brenda Short (Jail Administrator); (2) David Marshak (Jefferson County Sheriff); (3) Unknown Day (Officer); (4) Jefferson County, Missouri; (5) Unknown Shannon (Medical Staff); (6) Unknown Melonie (Medical Staff); (7) Unknown Shantel (Medical Staff); and (8) Dr. Fatopi.

         Plaintiff's complaint is long and difficult to understand. Some background is helpful. A review of the Court's records indicates that plaintiff filed a different § 1983 case with this Court about six weeks before filing this case. See Lane v. Shiele, No. 4:19-cv-1408-RWS (E.D. Mo. May 22, 2019). Although Lane v. Shiele names different defendants, the complaint in that matter provides some background information for understanding plaintiff's preexisting injuries and medical conditions prior to his detention at the Jefferson County Jail.[1]

         According to plaintiff's Lane v. Shiele complaint, plaintiff was released from St. Louis University (“SLU”) Hospital on July 3, 2019, after receiving medical care for a broken pelvis, broken left clavicle, and two collapsed lungs. Five days later, on July 8, 2019, plaintiff was stopped by Pevely police officers as part of a routine traffic stop. Plaintiff alleges that the officers used excessive force when arresting him during that traffic stop. The force caused damage to his healing injuries. This July 8th arrest lead to plaintiff's detention at the Jefferson County Jail.

         As for the complaint in the instant matter, plaintiff's main allegation is that he received inadequate medical follow-up care for his injuries while detained at the Jail. He states that his medical treatment was “neglected, ” he was given the wrong medications, he did not receive needed physical therapy, and he did receive the proper medical tests and X-rays. According to plaintiff, his SLU physician diagnosed him with nerve damage and knee/joint separation but once he was detained, he was told by medical staff that those injuries could wait until his release for treatment. Plaintiff alleges that he had MRSA (staph infection) for four months while the Jail told him he was fine. He says that he was finally taken to the hospital “due to [his] collar bone opening up and the titanium plate [being] exposed” and he was placed in immediate surgery. ECF No. 1 at 4-5. Plaintiff asserts that he had two surgeries due to neglected medical care - in September and November 2018 - one of which was because the MSRA infection required the removal of the titanium from his clavicle. Id. at 5, 10. Plaintiff also had to endure a catheter for five days which has caused scarring in his urethra. Overall, plaintiff alleges that the lack of adequate medical care at the Jefferson County Jail has caused him severe pain and lifelong medical problems including: left clavicle scarring; erection/ejaculation problems; nerve damage to his right hand and right thigh making it difficult to stand and walk for long periods ...

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