Armalin v. Grant County Jail et al
OPINION AND ORDER DIRECTING Clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form and send it to Pla; GRANTING Pla until 7/10/2017, to file an Amended Complaint, and CAUTIONING Pla that if he does not respond by that ddl, this case will be dismissed w/o further notice as outlined. Signed by Judge William C Lee on 6/20/2017. (Copy mailed to pro se party with form)(lns)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
OFFICER MILLER, et al.,
CAUSE NO. 1:16-CV-412 WL
OPINION AND ORDER
Alexander Armalin, a pro se prisoner, initially filed a complaint against the Grant County
Jail, alleging that he was assaulted by fellow inmates there. The court explained that the
complaint did not state a claim because the jail was not a suable entity. However, because it
appeared that Armalin may be able to state a claim against a proper defendant, he was granted
leave to file an amended complaint in the spirit of Luevano v. Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir.
2013). Armalin has now filed an amended complaint suing eleven defendants at the Grant
County Jail, alleging that they failed to protect him from being attacked by a fellow inmate on
October 15, 2015.
“A document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers . . ..” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, this court must review the complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or malicious,
fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief. “In order to state a claim under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 a plaintiff must allege: (1) that
defendants deprived him of a federal constitutional right; and (2) that the defendants acted under
color of state law.” Savory v. Lyons, 469 F.3d 667, 670 (7th Cir. 2006).
When an inmate is attacked by another inmate, the Constitution is violated only if
“deliberate indifference by prison officials effectively condones the attack by allowing it to
happen.” Haley v. Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 640 (7th Cir. 1996). The defendant “must both be aware
of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists,
and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994). Armalin
does not mention many of the defendants in this case. He complains that Cpl. Shugart was a
classification officer responsible for housing he and his attacker in the same dorm. He also
complains that one day before the attack he informed Officer Moore that his attacker was making
threats on the dorm and that Armalin did not feel safe. Further, before the attack on October 15,
2015, Armalin informed Officer Francis that his attacker was trying to start altercations in the
dorm. Later that day, Armalin was injured while defending himself against the attacker. Though
Armalin alleges that officers’ actions violated prison policies, his description does not plausibly
allege that any of the officers were deliberately indifferent.
“Prisons are dangerous places. Housing the most aggressive among us, they place violent
people in close quarters.” McGill v. Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344, 345 (7th Cir. 1991), abrogated on
other grounds by Haley v. Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 640 (7th Cir. 1996).
Some level of brutality . . . is inevitable no matter what the guards do. Worse:
because violence is inevitable unless all prisoners are locked in their cells 24
hours a day and sedated (a “solution” posing constitutional problems of its own) it
will always be possible to say that the guards “should have known” of the risk.
Indeed they should, and do. Applied to a prison, the objective “should have
known” formula of tort law approaches absolute liability, rather a long distance
from the Supreme Court’s standards in Estelle and its offspring.
Id. at 348. This is why general requests for help and expressions of fear are insufficient to alert
guards to the need for action. Klebanowski v. Sheahan, 540 F.3d 633, 639–40 (7th Cir. 2008).
Klebanowski testified during his deposition that he told officers twice on
September 8 that he was afraid for his life and he wanted to be transferred off the
tier. Those statements, and the officers’ knowledge of the first beating, are the
only pieces of evidence in the record that can assist Klebanowski in his attempt to
show that the officers were aware of any risk to him. We have previously held
that statements like those made by Klebanowski are insufficient to alert officers to
a specific threat. Butera, 285 F.3d at 606 (deeming insufficient to establish
deliberate indifference statements by a prisoner that he was “having problems in
the block” and “needed to be removed”). In Butera, we deemed the inmate’s
statements insufficient to give notice to the officers because they did not provide
the identities of those who threatened the inmate, nor state what the threats were.
The facts of this case make clear our reason for requiring more than general
allegations of fear or the need to be removed. By Klebanowski’s own testimony,
the officers knew only that he had been involved in an altercation with three other
inmates, and that he wanted a transfer because he feared for his life. He did not
tell them that he had actually been threatened with future violence, nor that the
attack on September 8 was inflicted by gang members because of his non-gang
status. Without these additional facts to rely on, there was nothing leading the
officers to believe that Klebanowski himself was not speculating regarding the
threat he faced out of fear based on the first attack he suffered. This lack of
specificity falls below the required notice an officer must have for liability to
attach for deliberate indifference.
Id. at 639–40 (footnote omitted). Here, Armalin does not allege that he expressed any specific
threats directed towards him prior to the attack. Neither does he allege – nor provide a factual
basis indicating – that any of the defendants had any idea that there was a specific risk that he
might be attacked. Instead, Armalin only alleged that he told some of the defendants that he had
a generalized fear of attack. As such, this complaint does not state a claim.
It seems unlikely that Armalin warned the defendants about an impending attack, but
failed to mention it in the complaint. It also seems unlikely that Armalin knows (but omitted)
facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that any of the defendants had actual knowledge of
an impending attack. Nevertheless, because the court cannot say that it would be futile for him to
file an amended complaint, he will be granted the opportunity to do so. See Luevano v.
Wal-Mart, 722 F.3d 1014 (7th Cir. 2013). However, merely because he is permitted to file an
amended complaint is not a reason for him to do so. Armalin should only file an amended
complaint if he believes that he can allege facts from which it can be plausibly inferred that any
of the defendants were deliberately indifferent. He should only file an amended complaint if he
can explain how the facts of his case meet the high standard for a failure to protect claim as
required by Klebanowski.
For these reasons, the court:
(1) DIRECTS the clerk to place this cause number on a blank Prisoner Complaint form
and send it to Alexander Armalin;
(2) GRANTS Alexander Armalin until July 10, 2017, to file an amended complaint; and
(3) CAUTIONS Alexander Armalin that if he does not respond by that deadline, this
case will be dismissed without further notice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A because the current
complaint does not state a claim.
ENTERED: June 20, 2017
s/William C. Lee
William C. Lee, Judge
United States District Court
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