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Cainn v. Tire

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 15, 2020

GREGORY CAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CONTINENTAL TIRE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis filed by Plaintiff Gregory Cain (Doc. 3). Cain initially filed this employment discrimination lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5, and/or 42 U.S.C. § 1981 on June 13, 2019 (Doc. 2). After preliminary review of his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), the Court found Cain's factual allegations in the Complaint were too bare bones to state a claim. Therefore, the Court dismissed the complaint without prejudice and granted Cain leave to file an amended complaint (Doc. 4). The Court further reserved ruling on Cain's Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Id.).

         On September 12, 2019, Cain filed an Amended Complaint alleging Defendant Continental Tire discriminated against him on the basis of his race, disability, and national origin (Doc. 5). He also claimed Continental Tire created a hostile work environment and is responsible for medical negligence (Id.). Unfortunately, however, Cain failed to attach his EEOC charge, his charge before the Illinois Department of Human Rights, or the Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, as previously directed by the Court. Accordingly, the Court granted Cain leave to file a Second Amended Complaint containing all relevant documents (Doc. 10).

         Cain has since filed a Second Amended Complaint containing the relevant documents (Doc. 13). In his Second Amended Complaint, Cain alleges he was injured while working at Continental Tire on June 1, 2018, and was taken to the nurses' station (Id. at p. 8). Cain stated that he had pain in his right hand and that he thought it could be a blood clot (Id.). Cain was told to fill out paperwork and provide a urine sample for a drug test (Id.). Tom Stoudt, whose position at Continental Tire is unknown, told Cain he would have to drive himself to the hospital (Id.).

         Cain continued working and was not put on light duty until June 30, 2018, when his right arm swelled up (Id.). Cain subsequently saw the company doctor on July 12, 2018 (Id.). The doctor told him it was carpal tunnel and released Cain back to full duty (Id.). The following day, Cain again reported to health services and again was told by Tom Stoudt that he had to drive himself to the hospital (Id.). He also was required to take another drug test (Id.). Cain asked if the EMT “Tom” could take him to the hospital, but “Tom” advised against it (Id.). Tom the EMT also stated that the company would not pay workers' compensation for his injuries of a supposed blood clot on his right hand (Id.). Cain then drove himself to the hospital (Id.).

         On July 30, 2018, Cain received a cortisone shot and returned to work on light duty (Id.). His carpal tunnel became inflamed again, however, and he had to drive himself to the hospital when Tom failed to give him an ice pack for his hand (Id.). On September 4, 2018, Cain went to the Orthopedic Center of Southern Illinois, where he was diagnosed with mild carpal tunnel in his right hand and not a blood clot (Id.). He also was diagnosed with possible mild C6-7 radiculopathy (Id. at p. 9). In late September 2018, Cain was released from care and returned to full-duty work on the line as an Extruder Operator (Id.).

         On October 15, 2018, Cain visited Dr. Paletta and Dr. Brown at the Orthopedic Center of St. Louis for a second opinion (Id.). He complained about both the left and right sides of his arms, hands, and wrists and explained that his job at Continental Tire requires him to lift up large forms on and above his shoulders (Id.). Cain was diagnosed with mild carpal tunnel on both his left and right side and conservative treatment was recommended (Id.). Dr. Brown further stated that Cain's work was the cause of his mild carpal tunnel, while Dr. Paletta stated that the pain in his shoulders was a result of his work (Id.). Continental Tire and its workers' compensation insurer, however, did not think further treatment was necessary for Cain and questioned whether the injuries were work related (Id.).

         Cain then filed an EEOC complaint claiming that Continental refused to give him medical assistance and instead required him to take a drug test because of his race. Cain asserted that similarly situated non-Black employees were provided medical assistance when injured on duty and were not required to take a drug test (Id.). Cain claims Defendant was not happy about the EEOC complaint, so it retaliated by putting a halt to his treatment (Id.). Cain also was forced to take short-term disability, as Continental stated there was no work for Cain to do with his specific injuries (Id. at p. 10).

         On March 18, 2019, the EEOC determined that it was unable to conclude any violation of its statutes occurred based on the information provided by Cain (Id. at p. 15). The EEOC notified Cain that it had 90 days to file a lawsuit in state or federal court based on his allegations (Id.).

         On June 13, 2019, Cain timely initiated this lawsuit. In his Second Amended Complaint, Cain brings claims of hostile work environment and race and national origin discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967, as well as discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (Doc. 13). Cain claims that Continental Tire discriminated against him, caused him emotional distress and pain and suffering, stopped workers' compensation, committed medical negligence and retaliated against him by putting a hold on further treatment to heal him, all because of his “darker race” (Id.). In his initial complaint, Cain also asserted that Continental Tire staff harassed him by putting inappropriate things like a maxi-pad on his locker and by sending him negative text messages (Doc. 2). He further claimed his supervisors made racist statements (Id.). Those allegations, however, have been omitted from the Second Amended Complaint.[1] Cain now seeks to proceed without prepayment of the required filing fees.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), a federal court is authorized to permit an indigent party to commence a civil action without prepaying the required fees if the party submits an affidavit that includes a statement of all assets he or she possesses and that demonstrates the party is unable to pay such fees. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Complete destitution is not required to proceed in forma pauperis; an affidavit demonstrating that the plaintiff cannot, because of his poverty, provide himself with the necessities of life is sufficient. Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339-40 (1948).

         The Court has reviewed Cain's affidavit (Doc. 3) and finds that he is indigent. Cain attests that he brings home around $384 per week but that he owes $581 per month for rent, $325 per month for utilities, and a total of $1, 481 per month in child support. He also claims no assets other than his mother's car, and he has only $387 in his checking account. Based on these facts, the Court finds Cain's poverty level justifies granting him IFP status.

         But that does not end the inquiry. Under Section 1915(e)(2), the Court must then screen an indigent plaintiff's complaint and dismiss the complaint if it is clearly frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or is a claim for money damages against an immune defendant. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see also Hoskins v. Poelstra, 320 F.3d 761, 763 (7th Cir. 2003) (“District judges have ample authority to dismiss frivolous or transparently defective suits spontaneously, and thus save everyone time and legal expense.”). Thus, resolution of the motion to proceed IFP requires the undersigned to review the allegations of the complaint.

         In reviewing the complaint, the undersigned is aware that courts construe pro se claims generously. Buechel v. United States, 746 F.3d 753, 758 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court accepts the factual allegations as true, liberally construing them in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645 (7th Cir. 2013). Conclusory statements and labels, however, are not enough. The complaint must allege enough facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Alexander v. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 421 (7th Cir. 2013). That means “a plaintiff must do better than putting a few words on paper that, in the hands of an imaginative reader, might suggest that something has happened to her that might be redressed by the law.” Swanson v. ...


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