United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE .
Snelling, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. (DE 1.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, the court must review the 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. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. Courts apply the same standard under Section
1915A as when deciding 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. In deciding whether the complaint states
a claim, the court must bear in mind that “[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).
is an inmate confined at the St. Joseph County Jail. He
alleges that on February 3, 2017, he was given a fish
sandwich to eat at the jail, which contained a “hard
unidentified metallic foreign object.” (DE 1 at 3.) He
claims that he chipped his tooth when he bit into the
sandwich. He sues Jill Chadwell, a food services employee at
the jail, for money damages.
threshold matter, Snelling does not explain how Ms. Chadwell
was involved in his being served a sandwich containing a
foreign object. Instead, it appears he is suing her simply
because she worked in food services at the jail. This is
fatal to his claim against her. See Burks v.
Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th Cir. 2009)
(“[P]ublic employees are responsible for their own
misdeeds but not for anyone else's.”).
he could name the person who allowed the sandwich to be
served to him, Snelling's claim would still fail because
it does not state a federal claim. To state a valid cause of
action under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege violation
of rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States, and must show that a person acting under color of
state law committed the alleged deprivation. West v.
Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988). The first inquiry in every
§ 1983 case is whether the plaintiff has been deprived
of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States. Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979).
In addressing a claim brought under § 1983, analysis
begins by identifying the specific constitutional right
allegedly infringed by the defendants' actions.
Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386, 394, (1989). Section
1983 was intended to protect only rights guaranteed by
federal law, and not to create tort claims for which there
are adequate remedies under state law. Wright v.
Collins, 766 F.2d. 841, 849 (4th Cir. 1985).
“Obduracy and wantonness rather than inadvertence or
mere negligence characterize conduct prohibited by the Eighth
Amendment. To state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, [the
plaintiff] must, at minimum, allege facts sufficient to
establish that the defendants possessed a total unconcern for
[his] welfare in the face of serious risks.” McNeil
v. Lane, 16 F.3d 123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994). Negligence,
gross negligence, or even “recklessness” as that
term as used in tort cases, is insufficient to constitute an
Eighth Amendment violation. Duckworth v. Franzen,
780 F.2d 645, 653 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S.
816 (1986). At most, Snelling has asserted that he was served
a sandwich that mistakenly contained a foreign object lodged
inside, which may amount to a state law claim of negligence,
but states no claim under §1983. Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 335 (1986). Though Snelling has
no federal claim based on these allegations, the court will
dismiss this claim without prejudice so that Snelling can
pursue it in state court if he desires to do so.
Snelling complains that the toilet in his cell is broken and
alleges that this constitutes an Eighth Amendment violation.
However, it is apparent from the complaint that Snelling did
not exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to this
claim before filing suit. (DE 1 at 5.) Pursuant to the Prison
Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), prisoners are
prohibited from bringing an action in federal court with
respect to prison conditions until “such administrative
remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997e(a). Although the failure to exhaust is an
affirmative defense, dismissal at this stage is appropriate
if the defense is “unmistakable” and
“apparent from the complaint itself.” Walker
v. Thompson, 288 F.3d 1005, 1010 (7th Cir. 2002);
see also Cancer Found., Inc. v. Cerberus Cap. Mgmt.,
LP, 559 F.3d 671, 674 (7th Cir. 2009) (dismissal on the
basis of an affirmative defense is appropriate when the
plaintiff pleads himself out of court). Snelling's
complaint meets this standard.
satisfy the exhaustion requirement, “a prisoner must
file complaints and appeals in the place, and at the time,
the prison's administrative rules require.”
Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1025 (7th Cir.
2002). “[U]nless the prisoner completes the
administrative process by following the rules the state has
established for that process, exhaustion has not
occurred.” Id. at 1023. Here, Snelling admits
that he submitted his grievance on the same day he filed this
complaint. (DE 1 at 5.) This allegation makes clear that
there is a grievance process available at the jail, but that
Snelling opted not to seek relief through this process before
initiating this lawsuit.
U.S. Supreme Court has made clear that exhaustion is not
optional but is instead a mandatory prerequisite to filing
suit over prison conditions. Woodford v. Ngo, 548
U.S. 81, 85 (2006). Snelling does not allege, nor can it
reasonably be inferred, that jail staff made the grievance
process unavailable to him by failing to provide the
necessary forms or otherwise hindering his efforts to file a
grievance. See Dale v. Lappin, 376 F.3d 652, 656
(7th Cir. 2004). Instead, he chose to file this lawsuit on
the same day he filed his initial grievance. He is required
to follow the grievance process established by the facility.
Pozo, 286 F.3d at 1023. Because it is apparent from
the complaint that Snelling has not exhausted his
administrative remedies, Section 1997e(a) requires that this
claim be dismissed without prejudice. See Ford v.
Johnson, 362 F.3d 395, 401 (7th Cir. 2004).
these reasons, the court DISMISSES this
action WITHOUT PREJUDICE pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915A.