Swift v. Sayulita Fine Foods
OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING this case under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Signed by Judge Damon R Leichty on 1/5/2021. (Copy mailed to pro se party, cert mail 7001 1140 0003 1354 3166)(lhc)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
DAVID A. SWIFT,
CAUSE NO. 3:19-CV-1161-DRL-MGG
SAYULITA FINE FOODS,
OPINION & ORDER
David A. Swift, a prisoner without a lawyer, sues Sayulita Fine Foods under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 after he injured his mouth on a piece of plastic he alleges was found in a
bag of tortilla chips manufactured by the defendant. ECF 1. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the
court must screen the complaint to determine whether it states a claim for relief. The court
remains ever mindful that “[a] document filed pro se is to be liberally construed.” Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
According to the complaint, Mr. Swift purchased a bag of Cantina Style Tortilla
Chips from the prison commissary. ECF 4 at 3. He ripped open the bag, poured some
chips into his mouth, bit down on a piece of plastic, and broke a tooth. Id. at 3-4. He saw
a dentist the next day and discussed pain management and the likely need for a bridge
in the future. Id. at 4. Mr. Swift says the tortilla chips were manufactured by Sayulita Fine
Foods and distributed by Food Express USA. Id. at 4. He sues Sayulita Fine Foods under
§ 1983 for violating the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
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The Eighth Amendment protects inmates from prison officials’ “deliberate
indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm.” Balsewicz v. Pawlyk, 963 F.3d 650, 654
(7th Cir. 2020) (quotation marks omitted). It does not constitutionalize tort law. See Collins
v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 128 (1992) (“[W]e have previously rejected claims
that the Due Process Clause should be interpreted to impose federal duties that are
analogous to those traditionally imposed by state tort law.”). “Conditions of confinement
must be severe to support an Eighth Amendment claim; ‘the prison officials’ act or
omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.’”
Morissette v. Peters, 45 F.3d 1119, 1123 (7th Cir. 1995) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 834 (1970)). “An objectively sufficiently serious risk is one that society considers so
grave that to expose any unwilling individual to it would offend contemporary standards
of decency.” Christopher v. Buss, 384 F.3d 879, 882 (7th Cir. 2004) (quotation marks and
The purported defect that caused Mr. Swift’s injury does not rise to the level of an
Eighth Amendment violation. All people, both in and out of prison, face the risk of
encountering foreign objects in packaged food from manufacturing defects.
Contemporary standards of decency don’t require that prisoners be protected from this
type of risk. “[N]ot every deviation from ideally safe conditions constitutes a violation of
the constitution.” French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1257 (7th Cir. 1985) (quotation marks
and citations omitted). The isolated incident here does not violate the Eighth
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“The usual standard in civil cases is to allow defective pleadings to be corrected,
especially in early stages, at least where amendment would not be futile.” Abu-Shawish v.
United States, 898 F.3d 726, 738 (7th Cir. 2018). Here, however, there are no additional
facts that would state a claim under the Eighth Amendment. Therefore, it would be futile
to permit him to amend to try to adumbrate such a constitutional claim.
Any state law claim, including for product liability or another claim, cannot
proceed here under the circumstances. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.
Ne. Rural Elec. Membership Corp. v. Wabash Valley Power Ass’n, 707 F.3d 883, 890 (7th Cir.
2013). Cases brought under § 1983 comfortably fall under federal question jurisdiction,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1331; but, once the § 1983 claim falls away, the court must look to another
basis for subject matter jurisdiction. There is no such independent basis established here.
The court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any potential state law
claims, see 28 U.S.C. § 1367, and the complaint does not allege the prerequisite diversity
of citizenship of the parties or a reasonably probable recovery of the jurisdictional amount
needed for diversity jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332. That doesn’t foreclose Mr. Swift
from pursuing any such viable state law claims in another venue.
For these reasons, the court DISMISSES the case under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
January 5, 2021
s/ Damon R. Leichty
Judge, United States District Court
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