Collins v. Aramark Food Services et al
OPINION AND ORDER: This case is DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Signed by Judge Damon R Leichty on 5/10/2022. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(asd)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
CAUSE NO. 3:22-CV-257-DRL-MGG
ARAMARK FOOD SERVICES et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER
Carlton Collins, a prisoner without a lawyer, who is housed at the St. Joseph
County Jail, alleges that one time he was served pork on his meal tray though it is against
his religion to eat pork. ECF 1. “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)
(quotation marks and citations omitted). Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court still must
review the merits of a prisoner complaint and dismiss it if the action is frivolous or
malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief.
Mr. Collins alleges that he is a Muslim and does not eat pork due to his religious
convictions. ECF 1 at 2. Jail officials are aware this, and he receives a Kosher meal tray to
ensure his diet does not contain pork. Id. Mr. Collins alleges that on February 19, 2022,
his dinner tray contained pork. Id. He states he ate the pork; and, as a result, he now has
migraine headaches and upset stomachs. Id.
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A prison policy of either actually or constructively denying a pork-free diet to
Muslim inmates violates their First Amendment rights. Hunafa v. Murphy, 907 F.2d 46 (7th
Cir 1990). But Mr. Collins does not allege the defendants had a policy of denying Muslim
inmates a pork-free diet. Mr. Collins’s sole allegation is that pork appeared on his dinner
tray at one meal. Mr. Collins does not allege that this breach of established policy and
practice was intentional on the part of any of the defendants.
Thus, even accepting Mr. Collins’s allegations as true, the mere fact that on one
occasion his meal tray contained a pork product demonstrates, at most, negligence on the
part of food service personnel. Negligence generally states no claim upon which relief
can be granted in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994)
(“Obduracy and wantonness rather than inadvertence or mere negligence characterize
conduct prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.”); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)
(negligence or medical malpractice do not constitute deliberate indifference); see also
Hambright v. Kemper, 705 F. App’x 461, 463 (7th Cir. 2017) (prison official’s negligent
failure to prepare the Eid al-Fitr feast to mark the end of Ramadan did not support
liability under § 1983 for a First Amendment violation). A single, inadvertent instance of
having pork served on a meal tray does not state a claim for a violation of Mr. Collins’s
First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
Nor does this state a claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized
Persons Act (RLUIPA), which prohibits governmental entities from imposing “a
substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person residing in or confined to an
institution . . . unless the government demonstrates that imposition of the burden on that
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person—(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least
restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000cc-1(a); see generally Holt v. Hobbs, 574 U.S. 352 (2015). A government official’s act
imposes a substantial burden if it requires the prisoner to “engage in conduct that
seriously violates his religious beliefs.” Holt, 574 U.S. at 361 (brackets and quotation
marks omitted). It imposes a substantial burden under RLUIPA for the prison to “force
a prisoner to choose between adequate nutrition and religious practice.” Jones v. Carter,
915 F.3d 1147, 1151 (7th Cir. 2019). But Mr. Collins’s allegations here do not plausibly
meet that standard because he does not allege he was required to consume pork to receive
adequate nutrition or that being served pork was more than a one-time mistake.
Although Mr. Collins was distressed by being served pork, nothing suggests this is part
of an ongoing problem at the jail.
Moreover, a one-time mistake does not fit comfortably within RLUIPA’s
framework. “In establishing a claim under RLUIPA, the plaintiff bears the initial burden
of showing (1) that he seeks to engage in an exercise of religion, and (2) that the
challenged practice substantially burdens that exercise of religion.” Koger v. Bryan, 523
F.3d 789, 796 (7th Cir. 2008). If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts
to defendants to show “their practice is the least restrictive means of furthering a
compelling governmental interest.” Id. (quotation marks omitted). Here, Mr. Collins has
not satisfied his burden to establish this one-time mistake is part of a “challenged
practice.” The relevant dictionary definitions of the noun “practice” are (1) “actual
performance or application;” (2) “a repeated or customary action;” and (3) “the usual way
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com/dictionary/practice. A one-time mistake does not constitute a “practice” of the jail.
Furthermore, to the extent Mr. Collins asserts he has had migraine headaches and
upset stomachs after he consumed the pork on February 19, 2022, the complaint does not
plausibly allege Mr. Collins has a serious medical need that triggers Eighth Amendment
concerns. Mr. Collins alleges that he was convicted and serving his sentence when these
events occurred, so the Eighth Amendment standard governs his claim. To establish
liability, a prisoner must satisfy both an objective and subjective component by showing:
(1) his medical need was objectively serious; and (2) the defendant acted with deliberate
indifference to that medical need. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A medical
need is “serious” if it is one that a physician has diagnosed as mandating treatment, or
one that is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a
doctor’s attention. Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). “[Not] every ache or
pain or medically recognized condition involving some discomfort can support an Eighth
Amendment claim[.]” Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1372 (7th Cir. 1997). Not treating
“the sniffles or minor aches and pains or a tiny scratch or a mild headache or minor
fatigue—the sorts of ailments for which many people who are not in prison do not seek
medical attention” does not violate the Constitution. Cooper v. Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 916 (7th
Cir. 1996). The migraine headaches and upset stomachs described here, while
uncomfortable and unpleasant, do not usually send a person to the hospital.
Furthermore, the allegations do not suggest Mr. Collins suffered any long-term effects
from eating pork. See Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010) (“A medical
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condition need not be life-threatening to be serious; rather, it could be a condition that
would result in further significant injury or unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain if
not treated.”). The facts here do not support an Eighth Amendment violation.
“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). However, “courts have broad discretion to
deny leave to amend where . . . the amendment would be futile.” Hukic v. Aurora Loan
Servs., 588 F.3d 420, 432 (7th Cir. 2009). For the reasons previously explained, such is the
For these reasons, this case is DISMISSED under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
May 10, 2022
s/ Damon R. Leichty
Judge, United States District Court
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