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Cook v. Matticks

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 26, 2015

DWAYNE COOK, # M-42466, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN KERR, RANDY GROUNDS, DEE DEE BROOKHART, and RODERICK MATTICKS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Dwayne Cook, who is currently incarcerated at Robinson Correctional Center ("Robinson"), filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). The pleading is now before the Court for preliminary review. As explained in greater detail below, the complaint violates the pleading requirements that are set forth in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For that reason, the complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice and with leave to amend.

The Complaint

Plaintiff commenced this action by filing a complaint using this District's standard civil rights complaint form (Doc. 1). He failed to include a "Statement of Claim" (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff also failed to file any other document with the complaint, in which he sets forth his claims or the factual allegations that support them. Instead, Plaintiff directs the Court to "[s]ee [a]ttached [g]rievances" (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Along with the standard complaint form, Plaintiff filed an assortment of documents that total fifty pages (Docs. 1-1, 1-2). These documents consist primarily of medical records (Doc. 1-1, pp. 2-26; Doc. 1-2, pp. 1-9). They also include inmate grievances and appeals (Doc. 1-2, pp. 10-13; Doc. 1-2, pp. 23-24), responses (Doc. 1-1, p. 1; Doc. 1-2, pp. 15-16), letters to attorneys (Doc. 1-2, p. 14), and witness affidavits (Doc. 1-2, pp. 17-22). Though voluminous, the documents shed little light on Plaintiff's actual claims against each defendant.

Perhaps it is the final two pages of the submission that best summarize Plaintiff's claims (Doc. 1-2, pp. 23-24). In what appears to be a letter, Plaintiff explains that he was involved in a wheelchair accident on July 18, 2014 (Doc. 1-2, p. 23). On that date, he fell from his wheelchair and injured his head. Medical staff at Robinson diagnosed him with a minor concussion. However, four months later, he was still suffering from symptoms that included "headaches, dizziness, and nausea." Plaintiff described these symptoms to "medical staff" on multiple occasions, but "they refuse[d] to further investigate [his] symptoms from this incident" (Doc. 1-2, p. 23). The letter is not addressed to anyone in particular, and it is not dated. Whether the letter describes Plaintiff's claims against Defendants or not would be a guess. In his request for relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for "the gross negligence of the Robinson Correctional Center" (Doc. 1, p. 6).

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

The complaint indicates that Plaintiff is bringing this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Section 1983 creates a federal remedy against anyone who, under color of state law, deprives any citizen of the United States... of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.'" Planned Parenthood of Indiana, Inc. v. Commissioner of Indiana State Dept. Health, 699 F.3d 962, 972 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Beyond designating this matter as a civil rights action, however, Plaintiff mentions no constitutional claims. In fact, the "Statement of Claim" mentions no claims at all and includes no factual allegations. It simply refers to exhibits (Doc. 1, p. 5). The voluminous exhibits do little to clarify the nature of Plaintiff's lawsuit, generally, or define the contours of his claims against each defendant, specifically.

Given the medical records and grievances that Plaintiff filed with his complaint, it appears that Plaintiff's claims arise from untreated medical issues. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for what he characterizes as "gross negligence" (Doc. 1, p. 6). However, a defendant can never be held liable under Section 1983 for negligence, or even gross negligence. Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 2012).

This is not to say that medical claims are not cognizable under Section 1983. They are. However, prisoners generally bring such claims under the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2006) ( per curiam ). Deliberate indifference involves a two-part test. The plaintiff must show that: (1) the medical condition was objectively serious; and (2) the state officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs, which is a subjective standard. Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). In other words, negligence does not satisfy the Eighth Amendment standard. More is required. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 835. The prison official must act with the equivalent state of mind of criminal recklessness. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 836-37.

In order to establish individual liability, the complaint must at least suggest that each defendant was personally involved in the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Section 1983 creates a cause of action based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, "to be liable under [Section] 1983, an individual defendant must have caused or participated in a constitutional deprivation." Pepper v. Village of Oak Park, 430 F.3d 809, 810 (7th Cir. 2005) (citations omitted). As a result, the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to actions filed under Section 1983. See, e.g., Kinslow v. Pullara, 538 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2008).

With this in mind, Plaintiff shall be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint, and his original complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice. Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1110 (7th Cir. 2003) ("If a complaint's length and lack of clarity make it unintelligible, dismissal under FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a) is permitted...."); Vicom, Inc. v. Harbridge Merch. Serv., Inc., 20 F.3d ...


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