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Smotherman v. St. Clair County Sheriff Dept.

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 27, 2015

SANCHEZ SMOTHERMAN #XXXXX-XXX, Plaintiff,
v.
ST. CLAIR COUNTY SHERIFF DEPT., BARNES-JEWISH HOSPITAL, JANE DOE #1, JOHN DOE #1, JOHN DOE #2, and JOHN DOE #3, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff's first amended complaint (Doc. 20) is now before the Court for consideration in this case, which was reopened on March 16, 2015.[1] In it, Plaintiff claims that he was denied adequate medical care for a broken jaw at St. Clair County Jail in St. Clair County, Illinois (Doc. 20, p. 5). Plaintiff sues the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and four unknown officers for monetary damages (Doc. 20, p. 6).

Plaintiff's first amended complaint is subject to preliminary review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under Section 1915A, the Court must dismiss the pleading, or any portion thereof, if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous or malicious, that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). As discussed in more detail below, the pleading fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and it shall be dismissed. However, the dismissal shall once again be without prejudice, and Plaintiff shall have one final opportunity to amend the pleading.

First Amended Complaint

The statement of claim spans a single paragraph. There, Plaintiff alleges that he was assaulted by an unknown individual on an undisclosed date at St. Clair County Jail in St. Clair County, Illinois (Doc. 20, p. 5). He sustained a broken jaw. After observing Plaintiff's injury, an officer instructed him to "go back in the unit until [Plaintiff] had the exact name of the individual" ( Id. at 5). Plaintiff alleges that he had to sleep on the floor "in some instances" with the broken jaw, although he does not allege when or how often ( Id. ).

At some point, Plaintiff was taken to St. Elizabeth's hospital for treatment. However, the transporting officers were advised to take Plaintiff to a facility with a trauma unit. He was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where Plaintiff was denied treatment. The pleading sets forth no other details regarding Plaintiff's injury or treatment. He requests $800, 000.00 in monetary damages.

Discussion

Plaintiff's first amended complaint suffers from a number of infirmities that prevent this Court from fully analyzing his claims. The Court will address the more significant problems with the pleading below. Plaintiff will then be given one final opportunity to re-plead his claims.

1. Twombly Violation

The pleading fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This is largely because the statement of claim is threadbare. It consists of a single paragraph that fails to mention any of the six defendants.[2] Plaintiff does not describe what any particular individual did to violate his rights. He mentions no dates in connection with the events giving rise to his claims. He also alludes to no constitutional or statutory basis for relief. The Court is left to guess who did what and when.

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" and "a demand for the relief sought." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a). The short and plain statement under this rule does not need to include "detailed factual allegations' but must have more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, the pleading must set forth "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678.

The first amended complaint does not suggest that any defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged because it fails to mention a single defendant in connection with a claim of misconduct. Instead, Plaintiff sets forth loosely related factual allegations in narrative form, without reference to specific dates or claims. He fails to separate the factual allegations into separate paragraphs. Defendants cannot respond to these allegations because Plaintiff does not indicate which ones pertain to them.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 10 requires a plaintiff to "state his claims in separate numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances, ' and also requires that each claim founded on a separate transaction or occurrence' be stated in a separate count' if doing so would promote clarity.'" See Stanard v. Nygren, 658 F.3d 792, 797 (7th Cir. 2011); FED. R. CIV. P. 10. The pleading should "give defendants fair notice of the claims against them and the grounds for supporting the claims." Id. (citing Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nev., N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). The first amended complaint does not.

Until Plaintiff files a pleading that complies with these basic requirements, the Court cannot fully evaluate his claims. If he elects to file a second amended complaint, Plaintiff must clearly state, in separate numbered paragraphs, what each defendant did to violate his rights. When doing so, Plaintiff may refer to unknown defendants in generic terms (e.g., "John Doe"). He should make every effort to set forth the constitutional or statutory basis for relief against each defendant. If he states a viable claim against any unknown defendants, Plaintiff will be given an opportunity to properly identify them through discovery as the case progresses. Finally, to the ...


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