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Barrow v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 21, 2014

RONALD BARROW, # N-52087, Plaintiff,
v.
WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ronald Barrow, who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), filed a complaint (Doc. 1) that is now before the Court for preliminary review. Also before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for temporary restraining order ("TRO") (Doc. 5). As explained in greater detail below, Plaintiff's complaint violates the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Under the circumstances, the complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice and with leave to amend. Plaintiff's motion for TRO, which incorporates the complaint by reference and contains similar deficiencies, shall be denied without prejudice.

The Complaint

Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint on July 11, 2014 (Doc. 1). The 111-page complaint includes 278 paragraphs. Along with his complaint, Plaintiff filed a 24-page memorandum of law and a 326-page exhibit.[1]Together, these documents total 461 pages.

Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1, p. 1).When doing so, he used the Court's standard civil rights complaint form and indicated that he was only pursuing relief under § 1983 and not the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680, or some other law (Doc. 1, p. 1).

The complaint identifies twelve distinct claims against nine defendants for acts or omissions that occurred between 2005 and the present. Defendants include Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford"), the Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"), and seven Menard officials. Plaintiff complains of generally inadequate medical care and excessive copays at Menard. He cites many instances of inadequate medical care at Menard. Examples include a delay in eye surgery resulting in vision loss (2012-present), a delay and/or denial of follow-up surgery to remove scar tissue from Plaintiff's eye(s) (2012-present), a denial of treatment for back pain (2012-present), the failure to refill prescription medications (2005-present), chronic rectal bleeding (2006-present), the misdiagnosis of a transient ischemic attack (2007), a two-month delay in receiving a colonoscopy that resulted in a diagnosis of diverticulosis (2009), an eleven-month delay in obtaining an MRI to diagnose the cause of leg pain (2009), and so on. In addition, Plaintiff asserts a claim for breach of contract and a claim under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, 815 ILL. COMP. STAT. § 505, against Wexford. Finally, Plaintiff asserts a retaliation and due process claim against several defendants.[2]

For each of his twelve claims, Plaintiff seeks virtually the same relief, which he repeats twelve separate times. The relief sought includes an injunction terminating the contract between the IDOC and Wexford, prohibiting the renewal of any contract between these two entities, and auditing the quality of care provided to inmates. Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages from each defendant, which includes $13.6 million in actual damages and $13.6 million in punitive damages against Wexford.[3]

Legal Standard

Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure dictates that a complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and also "a demand for the relief sought." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). Additionally, Rule 8(d) requires that each allegation within the complaint "must be simple, concise, and direct." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(d)(1). The allegations in the complaint must "actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above a speculative level." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original). At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

Discussion

Even affording Plaintiff's complaint the liberal construction that a pro se pleading deserves, the complaint clearly violates the dictates of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As set forth above, Rule 8 requires a complaint to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). Even when standing alone, the 111-page, 278-paragraph complaint is far from short. However, the complaint does not stand alone. Along with it, Plaintiff filed a 24-page memorandum of law (Doc. 1, pp. 112-135) and a 326-page exhibit (Doc. 8), among other things.

Despite its length, the complaint is often vague. Although Defendants are generally identified in connection with each of the twelve claims, the complaint often omits reference to particular Defendants in conjunction with specific acts or omissions that occurred over the course of many years. The Court and Defendants are left to guess who did what-and when.

This style of pleading prevents the Court from conducting orderly litigation, as it is required to do. See Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merch. Serv., Inc., 20 F.3d 771, 775-76 (7th Cir. 1994). It also violates the Rule 8 requirement of "a short and plain statement of the claim" by robbing Defendants of any fair notice of the actions that are alleged to be illegal or who was personally involved in each wrongdoing. The Court and Defendants are left "to forever sift through [the] pages" of the complaint and exhibits to determine which allegations are made against each Defendant. Jenning v. Emry, 910 F.2d 1434, 1436 (7th Cir. 1990). Defendants cannot respond to this type of pleading.

Further, based on the Court's reading of the complaint and by Plaintiff's own admission, Plaintiff may have attempted to bring unrelated claims in a single case. Plaintiff specifically identifies a retaliation and/or due process claim as being appropriate for a separate lawsuit; he even indicates that he intends to file a separate action to address the claim(s). The Seventh Circuit has made it clear that "[u]nrelated claims against different defendants belong in different suits." See George v. Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007); FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a)(2). This is, in part, to prevent prisoners from dodging filing fees or the three strikes provision in the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Id. at 607. Specifically, Rule 18(a) provides that "[a] party asserting a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party claim may join, as independent or alternate claims, as many claims as it has against an opposing party." FED. R. CIV. P. 18(a). Under Rule 20(a)(2), defendants may be joined in one action only if the Plaintiff asserts a "right to relief... against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences" ...


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