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Headrick v. Glass

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

November 15, 2019

DALE GLASS, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on defendant James Dahm's motion to dismiss Missouri state prisoner Timothy Headrick's complaint and defendant Fe Fuentes's motion to consolidate. The matter of Headrick's failure to pay the initial partial filing fee as ordered is also before the Court. For the reasons that follow, I will deny Dahm's motion to dismiss and order consolidation of this action with two other cases pending in this Court: Headrick v. Glass, et al., No. 4:18CV1696 CDP; and Headrick v. Steph, et al., No. 4:19CV920 AGF. I will also order the institution having custody of plaintiff Headrick to forward payment of Headrick's initial partial filing fee to the Clerk of Court when sufficient funds are available in Headrick's account to do so, and to thereafter begin making payments in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(2) until the $350 district court filing fee is paid in full. I will waive the initial partial filing fees previously assessed in Nos. 4:18CV1696 and 4:19CV920 and order the institution to begin making payments in those cases in accordance with § 1915(b)(2) until the filing fees for those cases are paid in full.

         The facts alleged in Headrick's complaint are detailed in my Memorandum and Order entered May 10, 2019 (ECF 10) and will not be repeated here except where necessary for purposes of discussion.

         Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant Dahm moves to dismiss Headrick's complaint against him under Rule 12(b)(6), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the complaint fails to state a claim of unlawful failure to protect. I have reviewed Headrick's complaint under the relevant legal standard[1] and conclude that he has sufficiently stated a claim of failure to protect against Dahm.

         At all times relevant to the complaint, Headrick was a pretrial detainee housed at the St. Louis City Justice Center.[2] Headrick's claim of failure to protect brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is therefore analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause rather than the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Holden v. Hirner, 663 F.3d 336, 340-41 (8th Cir. 2011). The substance of the analysis is largely the same, however. Id. at 341.

         “A jail official violates the Due Process Clause . . . when he is deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of serious harm to a pre-trial detainee and fails to protect the detainee.” Glaze v. Byrd, 721 F.3d 528, 531 (8th Cir. 2013). This standard requires a detainee to make two showings: one objective - that he faced a substantial risk of serious harm, and the other subjective - that “the official knew of and disregarded the risk to the inmate's safety.” Id; see also Walton v. Dawson, 752 F.3d 1109, 1119 (8th Cir. 2014). Here, taking the complaint's allegations as true, Headrick asked Dahm on three separate occasions that he be housed in the infirmary or medical unit while he had a cast on his leg, and not in general population, because the cast and his reliance on crutches made him vulnerable to assault in the general population. Dahm denied his request to transfer to a medical unit. Headrick claims that a Justice Center policy that provided for the placement of inmates with casts, crutches, or wheelchairs in a medical ward rather than in general population gave Dahm prior knowledge that placing inmates with medical conditions or crutches with other inmates posed a danger to the medically-infirm inmates. Given these allegations that Headrick faced a substantial risk of serious harm because of his vulnerability and that Dahm had prior knowledge of such risk but disregarded it, Headrick has sufficiently stated a claim of failure to protect against Dahm.

         To the extent Dahm argues that he could not overrule a medical professional's decision to not transfer Headrick to a medical unit, the determination of whether and to what extent Dahm could place Headrick in a medical ward or in a separate ward that offered additional protection from inmates in general population is a matter more properly addressed on summary judgment. At this stage of the proceedings, Headrick has alleged sufficient facts to allow his claim against Dahm to proceed.

         Dahm's motion to dismiss will be denied.

         Motion to Consolidate

         As discussed above, Headrick's claims in this action arise generally from his status as an injured and casted pretrial detainee forced to be housed in general population despite his vulnerability to assault in that unit. He claims that Dr. Fuentes's and Officer Dahm's refusal to assign him to a medical unit in the circumstances amounted to a failure to protect him from substantial risk of harm. Headrick also claims that Dr. Fuentes's refusal to make such housing assignment was in retaliation for Headrick's filing of grievances, in violation of Headrick's First Amendment rights.

         In No. 4:18CV1696 CDP, Headrick claims that, in relation to the same injury and medical circumstance underlying this case, Dr. Fuentes's withdrawal of pain medication and refusal to provide a pass permitting Headrick to use a bottom bunk constituted deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs and was done in retaliation for Headrick's filing of grievances. In No. 4:19CV920 AGF, Headrick claims that - again, in relation to the same injury - Dr. Fuentes's failure to assign him to a unit that had a working handicap shower and Nurse Amy Stepp's dragging him across the shower floor after he fell were in retaliation for filing grievances.

         Defendant Fuentes moves to consolidate these three actions. I will grant the motion.

         Rule 42(a) provides that a court may consolidate actions involving common questions of law or fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 42(a)(2). The district court has discretion in ruling on a motion to consolidate. Environmental Prot. Agency v. City of Green Forest, Ark., 921 F.2d 1394, 1402 (8th Cir. 1990). The three actions described above involve alleged acts that occurred in relation to Headrick's status as an injured pretrial detainee with his left leg casted and his not being housed in a medical unit at the Justice Center. Headrick's claims of failure to protect, deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, and First Amendment retaliation all arise from this underlying ...

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