United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
CHRISTOPHER L. SCRUGGS, Plaintiff,
DR. SHIHADEH, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
William C. Lee, Judge United States District Court.
L. Scruggs, a pro se prisoner, filed his third
complaint. This complaint, like the previous two, (ECF 2, 9),
contains unrelated claims. This is not news to Mr. Scruggs.
The court told (ECF 8, 10) him about this problem twice
before and informed him that he needed to file a complaint
asserting only related claims. However, he has refused to
heed that advice. Scruggs' third complaint is simply a
duplicate of his second. The only noticeable difference is
that Scruggs crossed-out some of the named defendants,
bringing the number of defendants down from 22 to 12.
again brings suit against Dr. Shihadeh for not treating his
urinary problem since December 2015; Scruggs alleges it is
very difficult and painful to urinate. He also sues C.O.
Miller and C.O. SinClair for pepper spraying him and turning
off the water in his cell on May 8, 2016. He also sues C.O.
Wilson for ignoring his request for medical assistance later
in the day on May 8, 2016. He also sues 2 correctional
officers and 2 captains for denying him anything to drink for
six days in May of 2016. He also alleges from May 8 through
May 13, 2016, Nurse West and Nurse Lester ignored his various
pleas for medical attention. Finally, he sues three
correctional officers for leaving a loud exhaust fan running
that created a harmful effect in his cell. Scruggs argues
that all of his claims against 12 different defendants are
related, because the entire sequence of events was triggered
by Dr. Shihadeh's failure to treat him. Despite his
argument, they are not all related. Many of these claims are
not dependant upon, or related to, the other as they involve
different defendants, different incidents that took place on
separate dates, and involve different sets of operative
facts. Thus, all of these claims do not belong in the same
lawsuit. “Unrelated claims against different defendants
belong in different suits . . ..” George v.
Smith, 507 F.3d 605, 607 (7th Cir. 2007).
pro se prisoner files a suit with unrelated claims, the court
has several options. Wheeler v. Wexford Health Sources,
Inc., 689 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2012). It is the
practice of this court to notify the plaintiff and allow him
to decide which claim (or related claims) to pursue in the
instant case - as well as to decide when or if to bring the
other claims in separate suits. Id. (“The
judge might have been justified in directing Wheeler to file
separate complaints, each confined to one group of injuries
and defendants.”). This is the fairest solution because
“the plaintiff as master of the complaint may present
(or abjure) any claim he likes.” Katz v.
Gerardi, 552 F.3d 558, 563 (7th Cir. 2009). In this
case, the court has Dated this twice, but Scruggs will not
limit his claims. Despite his refusal to comply with the
orders of this court, it would nevertheless be unjust to
dismiss this case pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
41(b) because other options are more appropriate.
court could split the unrelated claims because “[a]
district judge [can] solve the problem by severance (creating
multiple suits that can be separately screened) . . ..”
Id. Normally this option is fraught with
complications. Prisoners, even indigent ones, must pay the
filing fee eventually because pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b)(1), “if a prisoner brings a civil action . . .
the prisoner shall be required to pay the full amount of a
filing fee . . ..” Lucien v. DeTella, 141 F.3d
773, 776 (7th Cir. 1998). Multiple cases mean multiple filing
fees and the possibility of multiple strikes.
George, 507 F.3d at 607. Normally, it is the
prisoner plaintiff who should make the decision whether to
incur those additional filing fees and bear the risk of
additional strikes. Thus, the could will not split the
unrelated claims into separate cases. Mr. Scruggs can decide
whether or not to re-file his unrelated claims in a new
court could also properly limit this case by picking a claim
(or related claims) for him because “[a] district judge
[can] solve the problem by . . . dismissing the excess
defendants under Fed.R.Civ.P. 21.” Wheeler at
683. This option is fraught with complications, too. Which
defendants are excess? Which claim should remain? The one
first discussed in the body of the complaint? The one most
extensively discussed? The one joining the most defendants?
The one joining the most claims? Should the court pick one
that states a claim even if it is not among those options?
Despite these concerns, this seems to be the best available
solution in this case. After weighing these issues, the court
will select Mr. Scruggs' failure to treat claim against
Dr. Shihadeh to remain in this case and will dismiss the
remaining defendants. Notably, Dr. Shihadeh's alleged
failure to treat Scruggs' medical condition since
December 2015 is unrelated to the other various claims of
official misconduct that allegedly took place in his cell
from May 8 through May 13, 2016.
that the claim has been selected, the court must screen it
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. The Court must review 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a), (b). In
determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court
applies the same standard 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. The Court must bear in
mind, however, 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
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 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). In medical cases, the Eighth
Amendment test is expressed in terms of whether the defendant
was deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff's serious
medical need. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).
A medical need is “serious” if it is “one
that has been diagnosed by a physician 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).
Deliberate indifference is “something approaching a
total unconcern for a prisoner's welfare in the face of
serious risks, ” or a “conscious, culpable
refusal” to prevent harm. Duane v. Lane, 959
F.2d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 1992). As the Seventh Circuit has
[C]onduct is deliberately indifferent when the official has
acted in an intentional or criminally reckless manner,
i.e., the defendant must have known that the
plaintiff was at serious risk of being harmed and decided not
to do anything to prevent that harm from occurring even
though he could have easily done so.
Board v. Farnham, 394 F.3d 469, 478 (7th Cir. 2005).
For a medical professional to be liable for deliberate
indifference, he or she must make a decision that represents
“such a substantial departure from accepted
professional judgment, practice, or standards, as to
demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base
the decision on such a judgment.” Jackson v.
Kotter, 541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th Cir. 2008). Negligence,
incompetence, or even medical malpractice do not constitute
deliberate indifference. Pierson v. Hartley, 391
F.3d 898, 902 (7th Cir. 2004); Walker v. Peters, 233
F.3d 494, 499 (7th Cir. 2000).
Scruggs, an inmate housed in the Westville Control Unit,
claims that Dr. Shihadeh has denied him medical care for his
urinary problems since December 2015. Though these
allegations are not heavy on detail, he alleges that he is
suffering from extreme pain and it is very difficult for him
to urinate. The condition impairs Scruggs's mobility to
the point that he is sometimes unable to walk. Nevertheless,
Dr. Shihadeh refused to treat Scruggs for this condition
since December 2015. The Eighth Amendment does not entitle an
inmate to demand a specific form of treatment; however,
prison medical staff cannot simply ignore an inmate's
health problems. Greeno, 414 F.3d at 654-55. Giving
Scruggs the inferences to which he is entitled at this stage,
he has alleged an Eighth Amendment claim against Dr.
these reasons, the court:
GRANTS the plaintiff leave to proceed against Dr. Shihadeh in
his individual capacity for compensatory and punitive damages
for denying him adequate medical care in violation of the
Eighth Amendment ...