IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
November 15, 2011
ROSIVITO HOSKINS, #06048-027 PLAINTIFF,
OFFICER CRAIG, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge:
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Plaintiff, an inmate in the United States Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois (USP Marion), brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening.-- The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal.-- On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint--
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can 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). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; this complaint contains claims that cannot be dismissed at this time.*fn1
FACTS ALLEGED IN COMPLAINT
In May 2010, Plaintiff was transferred to the segregation housing unit in USP Marion. Defendant Craig was charged with packing Plaintiff's property and moving it to Plaintiff's new cell. During the packing process, Defendant Craig threw numerous property items in the trash and damaged Plaintiff's radio, photo album, and transcript cover. Plaintiff alleges that the total value of the trashed and damaged property totals at least $4,149.
Because some of the property that was destroyed was of sentimental value, such as photos and news clippings, Plaintiff has suffered emotional distress because of the loss. This stress has caused Plaintiff to experience insomnia and severe headaches.
Count 1: Property
Plaintiff alleges that he was deprived of personal property when Defendant Craig threw many items belonging to Plaintiff in the trash and damaged other items. Plaintiff suggests that these actions were intentionally taken by Defendant Craig in an effort to prevent Plaintiff from receiving all of his personal property. Plaintiff claims that this deprivation occurred without any procedure, in violation of his personal property rights.
The Supreme Court has held that deprivation of an inmate's property does not violate the due process clause if the government provides an adequate remedy. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 536 (1984). The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that federal prisoners may bring suit, pursuant to the Federal Torts Claim Act, for injuries sustained through the negligent acts of prison officials. Palay v. United States, 349 F.3d 418, 425 (7th Cir. 2003) (discussing United States v. Muniz, 374 U.S. 150 (1963)). This would make the Federal Torts Claims Act an adequate remedy to address the negligent deprivation of personal property.
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671 et seq, is "a limited waiver of sovereign immunity" that makes the United States liable "for certain torts of federal employees acting within the scope of their employment." United States v. Orleans, 425 U.S. 807, 813 (1976). In relevant part, the FTCA allows for "claims against the United States, for money damages . for injury or loss of property . caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment." 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). This would apply where a Bureau of Prisons official, who is a federal employee, commits an applicable tort against an inmate. However, there are certain exceptions to this coverage. Section 28 U.S.C. § 2680(c) states that the FTCA immunity waiver does not apply to "[a]ny claim arising in respect of . the detention of any goods, merchandise, or other property by any officer of customs or excise or any other law enforcement officer."
The Supreme Court has held that this language applies to instances in which an inmate attempts to sue the United States when a federal prison has lost his or her property. Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 552 U.S. 214, 227-28 (2008). The Court further held in the Ali case that Federal Bureau of Prisons employees are "other law enforcement officers" under the FTCA, which means that prisoners whose property is "detained" by Federal Bureau of Prisons employees cannot bring suit under the FTCA. Ali, 552 U.S. 214.
With this ruling, it no longer seems that the FTCA is an adequate remedy for inmates alleging intentional deprivation of personal property. If this is the case, Hudson would seem to indicate that these claims raised by federal inmates can be brought pursuant to the due process clause. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 536 (1984) (deprivation of an inmate's property does not violate the due process clause where there exists an adequate post-deprivation remedy). At this point, it is not entirely clear whether the Supreme Court opened up this avenue to federal inmates. This Court is unable to dismiss this claim at this point in the litigation.
Count Two: Emotional Distress
Plaintiff claims that because some of the property that was thrown away by Defendant Craig was of sentimental value, namely photos and newspaper clippings, he experienced emotional distress, which in turn caused him to suffer from insomnia and severe headaches. Inmates are prohibited from bringing claims for emotional suffering without a showing of an actual physical injury that occurred prior to the suit being brought. See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e); see also Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 222 (2007); Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 420-421 (7th Cir. 2011); Robinson v. Page, 170 F.3d 747, 748-49 (7th Cir. 1999).
In determining whether there has been a physical injury, the Robinson Court pointed to Siglar v. Hightower, 112 F.3d 191, 193 (5th Cir. 1997), in which the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stated: "[i]n the absence of any definition of 'physical injury' in [§ 1997e(e)], we hold that . the injury must be more than de minimus, but need not be significant." 112 F.3d at 193 (a bruised ear was found to be de minimus and thus did not support a claim for emotional or mental distress). The Seventh Circuit's nod to the de minimus standard has been utilized in both the Central and Northern Districts of Illinois. See Arnold v. Williams, No. 07-1178, 2010 WL 2697156, at *2 (C.D. Ill. July 7, 2010); Rahim v. Sheahan, No. 99-C-0395, 2001 WL 1263493, at *9 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 19, 2001).
Plaintiff alleges that because his sentimental property was destroyed, he has suffered emotional damage, which in turn caused insomnia and headaches. The Northern District has had opportunity to consider both of these ailments in conjunction with the physical injury standard and has found that both are de minimus injuries in terms of § 1997e(e) and, therefore, do not support emotional damages claims. See Agrawal v. Briley, No. 02-C-6807, 2006 WL 3523750, at *14 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 6, 2006) (citing Martin v. Gold, No. 05-cv-28, 2005 WL 1862116, at *9 (D. Vt. Aug. 4, 2005) for proposition that headaches do not satisfy the physical injury requirement of § 1997e(e)); Cannon v. Burkybile, No. 99-C-4623, 2000 WL 1409852, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 25, 2000) (inmate who suffered from both headaches and insomnia, as well as stress and anxiety, did not state a physical injury pursuant to § 1997e(e)).
Although Plaintiff's injury need not be significant, it must be more then de minimus, which this Court believes his claims for headaches and insomnia are not. As stated above, other district courts within the Seventh Circuit have found that both headaches and insomnia, even when coupled together, do not meet the standard of physical injury. Without this physical injury requirement, Plaintiff has not stated an emotional distress claim that can survive § 1997e(e). As a result, this claim must be dismissed with prejudice.
The Clerk of Court is DIRECTED to complete, on Plaintiff's behalf, a summons and form USM-285 for service of process on Defendant CRAIG; the Clerk shall issue the completed summons. The United States Marshal SHALL serve Defendant CRAIG pursuant to Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2 All costs of service shall be advanced by the United States, and the Clerk shall provide all necessary materials and copies to the United States Marshals Service.
In addition, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(i), the Clerk shall (1) personally deliver to or send by registered or certified mail addressed to the civil-process clerk at the office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois a copy of the summons, the complaint, and this Memorandum and Order; and (2) send by registered or certified mail to the Attorney General of the United States at Washington, D.C., a copy of the summons, the complaint, and this Memorandum and Order.
It is FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiff shall serve upon Defendant, or if an appearance has been entered by counsel, upon that attorney, a copy of every pleading or other document submitted for consideration by this Court. Plaintiff shall include with the original paper to be filed a certificate stating the date that a true and correct copy of the document was mailed to each defendant or counsel. Any paper received by a district judge or a magistrate judge which has not been filed with the Clerk or which fails to include a certificate of service will be disregarded by the Court.
Defendant is ORDERED to timely file an appropriate responsive pleading to the complaint and shall not waive filing a reply pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g).
Pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(a)(2), this action is REFERRED to United States Magistrate Judge Wilkerson for further pre-trial proceedings.
Further, this entire matter is REFERRED to United States Magistrate Judge Wilkerson for disposition, as contemplated by Local Rule 72.2(b)(2) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), should all the parties consent to such a referral.
Finally, Plaintiff is ADVISED that he is under an obligation to keep the Clerk of Court and each opposing party informed of any change in his address; the Court will not independently investigate his whereabouts. This shall be done in writing and not later than 7 days after a transfer or other change in address occurs. Failure to comply with this order will cause a delay in the transmission of court documents and may result in dismissal of this action for want of prosecution. See FED. R. CIV. P. 41(b).
IT IS SO ORDERED.
G. PATRICK MURPHY United States District Judge