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Andrew C. Hruby, #S-07587 v. Marcus Hodge

September 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge:


Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center ("Lawrence"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that on July 8, 2012, he was seriously burned by scalding water in the prison shower, and Defendants have failed to provide him with any medical care.

More specifically, Plaintiff claims that soon after he entered the shower, the water suddenly became scalding. Plaintiff moved away from the water, but was still severely burned on his face and chest. After he was scalded, he asked Officers Lockhart and Hough (who are not named Defendants) to notify the health care staff that he needed treatment for the burns. Plaintiff gave a written medical request slip to Hough, which Plaintiff believes was passed along to the health care unit. He was not seen by any health care provider until the following day, when Nurse Sellers*fn1 examined him. She told Plaintiff that all she could do was document his injury and put him on the list to see the doctor (Doc. 1, p. 3). Plaintiff was in severe pain and his burns were bleeding. However, Plaintiff was never taken to see the doctor, nor did he receive any treatment whatsoever for his burns, which are now scarring. Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance with Defendant Hodge (the Lawrence warden), but still received no medical care. Further, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants had knowledge of a "computer problem" (presumably related to temperature control in the shower) but failed to correct it.

Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, and injunctive relief to obtain medical care as soon as possible. He also requests that counsel be appointed for him, although he did not file a separate motion seeking that relief.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable federal cause of action against Defendants Sellers, Hodge, and other Unknown Party Defendant(s) (the John or Jane Doe medical providers), for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs (Count 1).

Plaintiff also asserts a claim regarding the dangerous condition of the shower, where he was sprayed with scalding water without warning (Count 2). At this point in the litigation, it is not possible to determine whether the events that led to Plaintiff's injury resulted from simple negligence (which cannot give rise to a constitutional claim), or from deliberate indifference to a known risk of serious harm. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986); Zarnes v. Rhodes, 64 F.3d 285, 290 (7th Cir. 1995)(A defendant can never be held liable under § 1983 for negligence). See also Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981) (deprivations of basic human needs like food, medical care, sanitation, and physical safety can violate the Eighth Amendment, if a defendant knew of the risk of harm to an inmate yet acted or failed to act in disregard of that risk). Therefore, dismissal of this claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A is not appropriate. Defendant Funk (the prison maintenance supervisor) is the only named Defendant who Plaintiff connects to this claim, and Count 2 shall proceed against him for further consideration.

However, Defendant Strubhart (a counselor at Lawrence) shall be dismissed from this action. Plaintiff lists him among the Defendants, but fails to make any allegations against him elsewhere in the complaint. Thus, the Court is unable to ascertain what claims, if any, Plaintiff has against Defendant Strubhart.

The reason that plaintiffs, even those proceeding pro se, for whom the Court is required to liberally construe complaints, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims is so these defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint. "Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Thus, where a plaintiff has not included a defendant in his statement of the claim, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against him. Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998) ("A plaintiff cannot state a claim against a defendant by including the defendant's name in the caption."). Accordingly, Defendant Strubhart will be dismissed from this action without prejudice.

Pending motions

A. Motion for Temporary Restraining Order ("TRO") and for Preliminary Injunctive Relief (Doc. 2)

Plaintiff's motion indicates that he continues to suffer pain and impairment of normal functioning due to his burn injuries, and that he has still never received medical treatment as of the date this action was filed.Without opinion as to the ultimate merits of the motion, the Court's preliminary review dictates that Plaintiff's request for injunctive relief deserves prompt consideration.

Therefore, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1(c), Plaintiff's motion for TRO and preliminary injunctive relief (Doc. 2) is hereby REFERRED to United States Magistrate Judge Philip M. Frazier for an evidentiary hearing and issuance of a report and recommendation. Personal service on the Defendants shall be ordered. Judge Frazier shall set an evidentiary hearing as soon as practicable, in light of the time necessary to effect service of summons and for receipt of the Defendants' responses to the motion for injunctive relief. Any motions filed after the date of this Order that relate to the request for injunctive relief or seek leave to amend the complaint are also hereby REFERRED to Judge Frazier.

B. Motion for Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis ("IFP") (Doc. 3)

Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit stating that he has no income or assets. However, he has not tendered a complete certified copy of his inmate trust fund account statement. The Court has requested a trust fund statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of this case from the Lawrence Correctional Center, but to date has not received information sufficient to determine the amount of Plaintiff's initial partial payment. Based on Plaintiff's motion for IFP, the Court concludes that he is unable to pay in full the $350.00 filing fee in this case at this time, and therefore it is appropriate to permit him to proceed IFP in this case without full prepayment of the fee. At such time as the Court receives from the institution's Trust Fund Officer the certified copy of Plaintiff's trust fund account statement as requested, the Court will enter an order authorizing the Trust Fund Officer to deduct from ...

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