Jones v. Zoreane et al
OPINION AND ORDER: The court DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE the claim regarding being given the wrong medication at the St. Joseph County Jail in May 2023; GRANTS James Jones until 12/18/2023, to file an amended complaint; and CAUTIONS James Jones if he does not respond by the deadline, this case will be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A without further notice because the current complaint does not state a claim for which relief can be granted. Signed by Judge Jon E DeGuilio on 11/13/2023. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(sej)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
SOUTH BEND DIVISION
CAUSE NO. 3:23-CV-623-JD-JEM
ZOREANE, WELLPATH NURSING
STAFF, ST. JOSEPH COUNTY JAIL
ADMIN, and BETH SHARP,
OPINION AND ORDER
James Jones, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a complaint that the court
determined contained two unrelated claims: one relating to a time when Nurse Zoreane
at the St. Joseph County Jail allegedly slammed a food slot in his face, and the second
relating to being given the wrong medication. ECF 10. He was instructed to choose
which claim he wished to pursue in this case and file an amended complaint containing
only that claim. Id. He was advised that if he did not respond by the deadline, the court
would choose for him. Id. He has not responded, and so the court will proceed to
choose a claim for this lawsuit. The remaining claim will be dismissed without
prejudice. Jones may assert that claim in a separate lawsuit if he wishes, subject to the
usual constraints of the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act.
The court will screen the claim related to the alleged use of excessive force by
Nurse Zoreane in May 2023. ECF 1, 6. “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). Nevertheless, under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the court 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.
Jones alleges that when he was a pretrial detainee at the St. Joseph County Jail in
May 2023, Nurse Zoreane slammed the food slot in his face, injuring his right cheek.
ECF 6 at 2. He wants compensation for this injury.
As a pretrial detainee, Jones’ rights arise under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Miranda v. Cnty. of Lake, 900 F.3d 335, 352 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing Kingsley v. Hendrickson,
576 U.S. 389 (2015)). “Pre-trial detainees cannot enjoy the full range of freedoms of
unincarcerated persons.” Tucker v. Randall, 948 F.2d 388, 390–91 (7th Cir. 1991) (citation
omitted). However, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits “punishment” of pretrial
detainees. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). To establish an excessive force claim
under the Fourteenth Amendment, the plaintiff must provide evidence that “the force
purposefully or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable.” Kingsley,
576 U.S. 396-97. In determining whether a challenged action is objectively unreasonable,
courts must consider the “totality of facts and circumstances.” Mays v. Dart, 974 F.3d
810, 819 (7th Cir. 2020).
The allegations do not plausibly allege that Nurse Zoreane used excessive force
against him. The complaint does not explain the circumstances surrounding when she
slammed the food slot closed. Thus, although it can be inferred that she purposefully
closed the food slot, there is no indication that she knew doing so would cause the food
slot to come into contact with or otherwise harm Jones. The act of closing a food slot
does not, on its own, suggest that it would cause harm.
A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to “state a claim that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim
has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “Factual allegations must
be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that
all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (quotation marks, citations and footnote omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded
facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged—but it has not shown—the pleader is entitled to relief.” Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679 (quotation marks and brackets omitted). 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).
Jones also seeks to hold Deputy Beth Sharp liable for his injuries, but he does not
say how she was involved in the event. A suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requires “personal
involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation to support a viable claim.” Palmer
v. Marion Cnty., 327 F.3d 588, 594 (7th Cir. 2003). Without any link between Deputy
Sharp and the alleged use of force, she cannot be held liable.
This complaint does not state a claim for which relief can be granted. If Jones
believes he can state a claim based on (and consistent with) the claim related to his
injury from the food slot in May 2023, he may file an amended complaint because “[t]he
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). To file an amended complaint, he needs to write
this cause number on a Pro Se 14 (INND Rev. 2/20) Prisoner Complaint form which is
available from his law library. He needs to write the word “Amended” on the first page
above the title “Prisoner Complaint” and send it to the court after he properly
completes the form.
For these reasons, the court:
(1) DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE the claim regarding being given the
wrong medication at the St. Joseph County Jail in May 2023;
(2) GRANTS James Jones until December 18, 2023, to file an amended complaint;
(3) CAUTIONS James Jones if he does not respond by the deadline, this case will
be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A without further notice because the current
complaint does not state a claim for which relief can be granted.
SO ORDERED on November 13, 2023
/s/JON E. DEGUILIO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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