Davis v. Griffin et al
OPINION AND ORDER: The Court STRIKES the 1 amended complaint; and GRANTS Donald Davis to an including 11/20/2017, to file an amended complaint. If Mr. Davis doesn't respond by November 20, this case will be dismissed without further notice. Signed by Judge Robert L Miller, Jr on 10/16/2017. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(jss)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
KATHY GRIFFIN, et. al.,
CAUSE NO. 3:17-CV-652 RLM
OPINION AND ORDER
Donald Davis, a prisoner representing himself, filed a complaint against
eight defendants at the Miami Correctional Facility. The 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (b). Courts apply the same standard under Section
1915A as when addressing a motion under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
12(b)(6). Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive
dismissal, a complaint must state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.
Bissessur v. Indiana Univ. Bd. of Trs., 581 F.3d 599, 602-03 (7th Cir. 2009). “A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. at 603. Thus, 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.
Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 403 (7th Cir.2010) (emphasis in original). “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).
Mr. Davis is an inmate housed at the Miami prison. His complaint alleges
that in December 2016, he was moved into a cell in which he was housed with
Offender Randall. Mr. Davis and Mr. Randall did not get along with one another.
Mr. Davis sent Unit Team Counselor Shultz a letter indicating that he wanted be
moved into a different cell because he was having problems with his new
roommate. Mr. Davis then made the same request in person. He wasn’t moved. Six
months later, on June 5, 2017, Mr. Randall threw boiling hot water onto Mr.
Davis, then hit Mr. Davis in the head with a hot pot. Mr. Davis suffered third
degree burns and an injured hand. Mr. Davis sues Superintendent Kathy Griffin,
Assistant Superintendent Reggal, Director of Operational Support Sharon Hawk,
Lieutenant Supervisor Beamer, Counselor Shultz, Offender Randall, and unknown
officers medical staff for money damages.
Mr. Davis first complains that Counselor Shultz failed to protect him from
Offender Randall. When one inmate attacks another, 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). Mr. Davis alleges that
six months before the attack he told Counselor Shultz that he was not getting
along with Offender Randall. That isn’t enough for Counselor Shultz to be held to
have been 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 at 640 (7th
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
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). Officers must know that there is a actual threat
of future harm. Id. Mr. Davis doesn’t allege that he expressed any specific threats
directed towards him before the attack. Neither does he allege – nor provide a
factual basis that could support a reasonable inference – that Counselor Shultz
had any idea that there was a specific risk that Mr. Davis might be attacked. Mr.
Davis alleges only that six months before the attack, he told Counselor Shultz that
he didn’t get along with Offender Randall. This complaint does not state a claim
against Counselor Shultz.
Next, Mr. Davis alleges that Superintendent Kathy Griffin, Assistant
Superintendent Reggal, Director Sharon Hawks, and Lieutenant Beamer are liable
as Counselor Shultz’s supervisors. There is no general respondeat superior liability
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and these defendants can’t be held liable simply because
they oversee operations at the prison or supervise other correctional officers. See
Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 594 (7th Cir. 2009).
Next, Mr. Davis sues Offender Randall. “In order to state a claim under §
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). Mr. Davis’s § 1983 claim has
no merit because Offender Randall isn’t a state actor that can be sued for
constitutional violations. See Blum v. Yaretsky, 457 U.S. 991, 1004 (1982).
Accordingly, this claim must be dismissed.
Finally, Mr. Davis complains that various unnamed doctors and nurses
have denied giving him adequate medical care for the injuries he incurred as a
result of the attack. Mr. Davis’s complaint doesn’t give the necessary details for
this court to determine if that claim presents a constitutional violation. Mr. Davis
hasn’t identified any possible defendant. He sues “unknown medical doctor and
staff.” He apparently doesn’t know the identity of the doctors and nurses involved
in denying him medical treatment. As a practical matter, his case can’t proceed
against unnamed defendants. See Wudtke v. Davel, 128 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir.
1997) (“[I]t is pointless to include lists of anonymous defendants in federal court;
this type of placeholder does not open the door to relation back under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 15, nor can it otherwise help the plaintiff.”). If he chooses to file an amended
complaint, Mr. Davis must include any information he can provide that may assist
in identifying the doctors and nurses, including a physical description.
Moreover, even if Mr. Davis had named the doctors and nurses, the
complaint is still too vague to state a claim. In medical cases, the Constitution is
violated only when a defendant was deliberately indifferent to an inmate’s serious
medical needs. Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369 (7th Cir. 1997). Without
a named defendant, a clear description of the nature of his medical problem(s),
and allegations establishing that the defendants were deliberately indifferent, it
is impossible to discern whether he has a plausible claim.
When a complaint is vague, confusing, or lacking in necessary detail, the
court is “within its rights” to dismiss the complaint with leave to replead. Loubser
v. Thacker, 440 F.3d 439, 443 (7th Cir. 2006). But the court will strike the
complaint and give Mr. Davis a chance to file an amended complaint. If he decides
to file an amended complaint, he should get a blank copy of this court’s complaint
form from the law library and write the cause number for this case in the caption
on the first page. Merely because he can to file an amended complaint isn’t a
reason for him to do so. Mr. Davis should only file an amended complaint if he
thinks that he can address the deficiencies noted in this order and provide a
factual basis in the body of his complaint for his claims against each defendant.
For these reasons, the court:
(1) STRIKES the amended complaint (ECF 1); and
(2) GRANTS Donald Davis to and including November 20, 2017, to file
an amended complaint.
If Mr. Davis doesn’t respond by November 20, this case will be dismissed
without further notice.
ENTERED: October 16 , 2017
/s/ Robert L. Miller, Jr.
United States District Court
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