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Phipps v. Collman

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

August 31, 2016

D'MARKO PHIPPS, #69596, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. COLLMAN and JOHN LAKIN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. Phil Gilbert United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, who is currently detained at Madison County Jail (“Jail”) in Edwardsville, Illinois, brings this pro se civil rights action against two Jail officials pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680 (Doc. 1). In his complaint, Plaintiff claims that Sergeant Collman and Sheriff Lakin negligently failed to protect him from an attack by three detainees at the Jail on November 26th[1] (Doc. 1, p. 5). He seeks monetary relief against both defendants (id. at 6).

         Merits Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A

         This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

         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). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross “the line between possibility and plausibility.” Id. at 557. Conversely, 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 v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts “should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements.” Id. 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). The complaint is subject to dismissal under this standard.

         The Complaint

         According to the complaint, Plaintiff was attacked, beaten, and severely injured by three detainees at Madison County Jail (“Jail”) on November 26th (Doc. 1, p. 5). The assault occurred soon after Sergeant Collman moved Plaintiff into the same cellblock with a detainee who was involved in his criminal case (id.). The cellblock had no panic button, and no one responded to his cries for help, until an officer made his regular 30-minute rounds and observed the three detainees beating Plaintiff.

         As a result of the attack, Plaintiff sustained severe injuries, including a collapsed lung, three broken ribs, a broken nose, and facial swelling. Immediately after the assault, he was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He remained hospitalized there for four days.

         After returning to the Jail on November 30th, Plaintiff was placed in segregation because the Jail has no infirmary. At the time, he was still suffering from serious injuries, and he required additional medical treatment. He claims that the treatment he received was inadequate but offers no details in this regard.

         Plaintiff now sues Sergeant Collman and Sheriff Lakin for negligence under the FTCA. He claims that Sergeant Collman failed to protect him from an obvious risk of harm when he moved Plaintiff into the same cellblock with a detainee who was involved in his criminal case. He further alleges that Sheriff Lakin failed to install panic buttons in the cellblock, which would have enabled Plaintiff to quickly summon help. Plaintiff generally alleges that he received inadequate medical care after returning to the Jail on November 30th. In connection with these claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages (id. at 6).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff asserts negligence claims against Sergeant Collman and Sheriff Lakin pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671-2680 (Doc. 1). The FTCA provides jurisdiction for suits against the United States for torts committed by federal officials. Plaintiff has not brought this lawsuit against the United States. He has also not named federal officials as defendants. Therefore, the FTCA claims must be dismissed with prejudice.

         Claims for constitutional deprivations by state actors are typically brought in a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 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). Even when construing the allegations in the complaint liberally, Plaintiff does not allege that Sergeant Collman or Sheriff Lakin violated his constitutional rights. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Instead, he brings claims against them for negligence. Under § 1983, a defendant can never be held liable for negligence, or even gross negligence. Gomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 864 (7th Cir. 2012). Claims of negligence arise under state law, not federal law. The negligence claims against both defendants shall therefore be dismissed without prejudice.

         Under the circumstances, the complaint fails to state a claim for relief against either defendant and shall be dismissed. However, the dismissal shall be without prejudice, and Plaintiff will have an opportunity to file an amended complaint. His amended complaint should focus on ...


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