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Watson v. Driskill

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

January 13, 2020

PIERRE WATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ZACHARY DRISKILL, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HENRY EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on review of plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Having reviewed the amended complaint, and for the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the official capacity claims against all defendants, as well as the individual capacity claims against defendants Michelle Unknown and Unknown Fulh. However, the Court will direct the Clerk of Court to issue process on defendants Zachary Driskill, Jessica Hanner, and Diane Manley in their individual capacities as to plaintiff's failure to protect 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 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 (8thCir. 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).

         Background

         Plaintiff is a pro se litigant who is currently incarcerated at the Randolph County Jail in Chester, Illinois. On May 16, 2018, plaintiff filed a civil action complaining of constitutional violations that allegedly occurred while he was an inmate at the Crawford County Jail in Steeleville, Missouri. (Docket No. 1). On July 16, 2018, plaintiff filed a motion to amend or correct his complaint by interlineation. (Docket no. 8). The Court denied the motion, but gave plaintiff thirty days in which to file an amended complaint. (Docket No. 11).

         After seeking four separate extensions of time, plaintiff filed his amended complaint on June 18, 2019. (Docket No. 26). In addition, he has filed two motions for appointment of counsel. (Docket No. 27; Docket No. 30).

         The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff brings this pro se civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He names Lieutenant Zachary Driskill, Sergeant Jessica Hanner, Corporal Diane Manley, Nurse Michelle Unknown, and Dr. Unknown Fulh as defendants. (Docket No. 26 at 2-4). The defendants are sued in both their official and individual capacities.

         Plaintiff states that at the time the events in the amended complaint occurred, he was a federal inmate in the custody of the Crawford County Sheriff's Department. (Docket No. 26 at 12). In early April 2017, he was in an altercation with an inmate named John Hendrichs. (Docket No. 26 at 13). As a result of this incident, inmate Hendrichs was moved from Housing Unit C to Housing Unit B in order to separate him from plaintiff.

         On June 17, 2017, plaintiff was placed on ten days' lockdown for a “fabricated violation of institutional rules” after he “supposedly” threatened an officer. He was also moved from Housing Unit C to Housing Unit B, and placed into a lockdown cell next to inmate Hendrichs. Plaintiff states that he requested a disciplinary hearing to dispute the charges against him. Although an officer named Kevin Brown attempted to persuade plaintiff not to have a hearing, plaintiff insisted, filling out a form and signing it in front of Brown.

         When plaintiff noticed that he had been placed in a cell right next to inmate Hendrichs, he alleges that he immediately asked Corporal Manley and Sergeant Hanner to move him, as he “feared for his life.” According to plaintiff, both Manley and Hanner denied his request, advising him that there was no room in the jail to move him. Plaintiff states this is not true. Plaintiff filled out a prisoner request form addressed to Corporal Manley and Sergeant Hanner, asking to be moved. (Docket No. 26 at 14). He also requested permission to speak to the lieutenant, which was denied.

         On June 18, 2017, Corporal Manley and Sergeant Hanner came to his cell to speak to him about his request for a disciplinary hearing and his request to be moved. Plaintiff states that Manley and Hanner advised him that his request to be moved was denied. He was also told that he could not have a disciplinary hearing due to a jail policy prohibiting hearings for “parole/probation offender[s].” Plaintiff states that he told Corporal Manley and Sergeant Hanner that he was not being incarcerated for violating probation or parole. Plaintiff also states that he asked Officer Brown to check his booking sheet, which would show that plaintiff was being held on federal charges. Officer Brown denied plaintiff's request and advised plaintiff to fill out a prisoner request form or grievance.

         On June 19, 2017, plaintiff filed a Level I grievance with Sergeant Hanner with regard to his request for a disciplinary hearing and his request to be moved to another housing unit. On June 20, 2017, Sergeant Hanner responded to plaintiff's request by telling him that she had already spoken to him about his requests, and that they were denied. That same day, plaintiff states that he filed a Level II grievance addressed to Lieutenant Driskill. This grievance requested that plaintiff be rebooked as a federal inmate and that he be allowed to receive a disciplinary hearing.

         On June 21, 2017, Lieutenant Driskill verbally denied plaintiff's request to be rebooked. He also denied plaintiff's request to be moved to a different housing unit. Plaintiff states that Lieutenant Driskill also placed him on “permanent lockdown per orders of the U.S. Marshals office” until further notice. Plaintiff filled out another prisoner request form addressed to Corporal Manley, requesting that he either be given a hearing or released off lockdown and placed into his original housing unit. (Docket no. 26 at 15). He also requested that the U.S. Marshals be contacted to verify the lockdown order. On June 22, 2017, Corporal Manley told him that the U.S. Marshals had been contacted.

         Plaintiff filed a Level I grievance addressed to Sergeant Hanner on June 23, 2017, again requesting that the U.S. Marshals be contacted to verify the lockdown order. Sergeant Hanner came to plaintiff's cell to speak with him on June 24, 2017. According to plaintiff, Sergeant Hanner advised him that he would remain on permanent lockdown status until further notice. Sergeant Hanner also denied plaintiff's requests to be moved back to his original housing unit, to be rebooked as an inmate with a federal charge, and to receive a disciplinary hearing.

         On June 24, 2017, plaintiff learned from his attorney that the U.S. Marshals office was unaware of any lockdown order. Plaintiff filed a motion for removal of the lockdown order in his criminal case. The motion was denied.

         On June 27, 2017, plaintiff's attorney spoke with someone at the Crawford County Sheriff's Department. As a result, plaintiff was released from lockdown. In total, he states he spent ten days on lockdown for “fabricated” reasons.

         Also on June 27, 2017, plaintiff alleges that Officer Mathew Unknown unlocked inmate Hendrichs' cell. (Docket No. 26 at 16). This allowed inmate Hendrichs to access plaintiff's cell while plaintiff was sleeping. Inmate Hendrichs allegedly hit plaintiff in the head with an object, waking him. Plaintiff states that Officer Mathew Unknown “just stood there and watched the altercation” while plaintiff was “continuously hit in the head with the object.” He states he was also kicked in the head and face once he fell to the floor.

         Plaintiff eventually managed to flee from the cell, whereupon he picked “up a food tray and used it as a weapon to defend himself.” He states that the attack “took place for several moments” before officers began to intervene. Afterwards, he was taken to the medical unit where he received medical attention for bruised ribs, a bloody nose and mouth, and “sever[e] head trauma.” Plaintiff received ten days' lockdown for the altercation with inmate Hendrichs.

         On June 28, 2017, plaintiff filed a Level I grievance addressed to Sergeant Hanner, asking to be taken off lockdown because he had been the one who was assaulted. The following day, Sergeant Hanner denied plaintiff's grievance. Plaintiff then filed a Level II grievance to appeal the denial of his Level I grievance. The Level II grievance was addressed to Lieutenant Driskill. On June 30, 2017, Lieutenant Driskill denied plaintiff's Level II grievance.

         Plaintiff states that as a result of his altercation with inmate Hendrichs, he received a lump on the left side of his head that gave him headaches. (Docket No. 26 at 17). On July 1, 2017, July 3, 2017, and July 10, 2017, he filled out sick call forms in order to see Nurse Michelle. Plaintiff was not seen by Nurse Michelle until early August 2017. At that appointment, Nurse Michelle “determined that the lump was a result of the head trauma” received during plaintiff's altercation with inmate Hendrichs. However, she “only” prescribed plaintiff ibuprofen. In late August 2017, plaintiff “filled out a fourth sick call request form to see Nurse Michelle because the ibuprofen was not working for the headaches and pain.” Plaintiff saw Dr. Fulh in early September 2017. Dr. Fulh examined ...


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