United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ENTRY GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS, SCREENING
AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT, AND DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO SHOW
William T. Lawrence, Judge.
In Forma Pauperis Status
Jerome Michael Owens’ renewed motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis, Dkt. No. 7, is
granted. The assessment of even an initial
partial filing fee is not feasible at this time.
Notwithstanding the foregoing ruling, plaintiff owes the
filing fee. “All [28 U.S.C.] § 1915 has ever done
is excuse pre-payment of the docket fees; a litigant
remains liable for them, and for other costs, although
poverty may make collection impossible.”
Abdul-Wadood v. Nathan, 91 F.3d 1023, 1025 (7th Cir.
Screening of the Complaint
plaintiff is a prisoner, the complaint is subject to the
screening requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This
statute directs that the court shall dismiss a complaint or
any claim within a complaint which “(1) is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” Id. To satisfy the
notice-pleading standard of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, a complaint must provide a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief,” which is sufficient to provide the
defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and its
basis. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)
(per curiam) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) and quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2));
see also Wade v. Hopper, 993 F.2d 1246, 1249 (7th
Cir. 1993) (noting that the main purpose of Rule 8 is rooted
in fair notice: a complaint “must be presented with
intelligibility sufficient for a court or opposing party to
understand whether a valid claim is alleged and if so what it
is.”) (Quotation omitted)). The complaint “must
actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by
providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Windy City Metal Fabricators
& Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin. Servs., 536 F.3d
663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Tamayo v.
Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir. 2008)). The
Court construes pro se pleadings liberally, and holds pro se
pleadings to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d
489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).
an inmate incarcerated at the Wabash Valley Correctional
Facility, slipped and fell on a patch of ice on January 14,
2017, while being escorted from an outside recreation pad. He
contends first that prison officials violated his Eighth
Amendment rights when they were deliberately indifferent to
the icy conditions at the prison, exposing him to an
unreasonable risk of serious harm. Second, Owens contends
that prison officials were negligent in their duty to provide
him with safe environmental conditions and that they exposed
him to a hazardous condition. Finally, in his third ground
for relief, Owen contends that prison officials have
attempted to minimize the seriousness of their breach of the
duties owed to him.
Owens’ first ground for relief presents a federal
constitutional question – whether the complaint
presents a viable Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference
state a claim for deliberate indifference to his conditions
of confinement Owens must allege facts that, if true, would
satisfy the objective and subjective components applicable to
all Eighth Amendment claims. McNeil v. Lane, 16 F.3d
123, 124 (7th Cir. 1994); see also Wilson v. Seiter,
501 U.S. 294, 302 (1991). First, the alleged condition or
deprivation must be objectively serious. The objective
analysis examines whether the conditions of confinement
exceeded contemporary bounds of decency of a mature civilized
society. Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th
Cir. 1992). The condition must result in unquestioned and
serious deprivations of basic human needs or deprive inmates
of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.
Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981);
accord Jamison–Bey v. Thieret, 867 F.2d 1046,
1048 (7th Cir. 1989); Meriwether v. Faulkner, 821
F.2d 408, 416 (7th Cir. 1987).
factual assertions in the complaint do not suggest a
substantial risk of serious harm that reflects the deliberate
indifference required to impose liability under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Deliberate indifference is “something
approaching a total unconcern for [the plaintiff’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). This total
disregard for a prisoner’s safety is the
“functional equivalent of wanting harm to come to the
prisoner.” McGill v. Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344,
347 (7th Cir. 1991). Courts have consistently held that while
correctional officials must use ordinary care to protect
prisoners from unreasonable risks, they cannot be expected
“to provide them with a risk- free environment.”
Dunne v. United States, 989 F.2d 502 (7th Cir.
1993); see e.g., Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 592
(7th Cir. 1996) (“an inch or two” of accumulated
water in the shower was not “an excessive risk to
inmate health or safety”); Carroll v. DeTella,
255 F.3d 470, 472 (7th Cir. 2001) (“[F]ailing to
provide a maximally safe environment, one completely free
from . . . safety hazards, is not [a constitutional
violation].”). At most, Owens suggests that defendants
may have been negligent, but negligence alone is not enough
to support a claim of deliberate indifference. Daniels v.
Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 332 (1986); Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994).
therefore no surprise that federal courts are consistent in
holding that slip-and-fall incidents, whether on ice, water,
or slippery floors, do not meet the deliberate indifference
standard of Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement
claims. See White v. Tyszkiewicz, 27 F. App’x
314, 315 (6th Cir.1994) (affirming dismissal of
prisoner’s civil rights complaint arising from slip and
fall on ice); Brown v. Lafler, No. 07-14955, 2008 WL
4937951, *2 (E.D. Mich. Nov.13, 2008) (Cohn, J. adopting
magistrate judge’s report finding that prisoner’s
complaint of injury arising from failure to clear icy prison
walkway did not state an Eighth Amendment claim); accord
Atkins v. Sheriff’s Jail Avoyelles Parish, 278 F.
App’x 438, 439 (5th Cir. 2008) (upholding dismissal of
slip and fall complaint as frivolous and for failure to state
a claim); Reynolds v. Powell, 370 F.3d 1028, 1031
(10th Cir. 2004) (ruling that plaintiff failed to show that
standing water problem known to prison officials posed
substantial risk of serious harm); Bell v. Ward, 88
F. App’x 125, 127 (7th Cir. 2004) (wet floors do not
pose a substantial risk of serious harm); LeMaire v.
Maass, 12 F.3d 1444, 1457 (9th Cir. 1993)
(“slippery prison floors . . . do not even state an
arguable claim for cruel and unusual punishment”). As
explained by another court, “[s]imply put, a slip and
fall, without more, does not amount to cruel and unusual
punishment. . . . Remedy for this type of injury, if any,
must be sought in state court under traditional state tort
law principles.” Reynolds, 370 F.3d at 1031
(quoting Mitchell v. West Virginia, 554 F.Supp.
1215, 1217 (N.D. W. Va. 1983)).
Owens’ first ground for relief is
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. The second asserted ground for
relief presents a state law negligence question which cannot
proceed in federal court without a federal jurisdictional
basis. There is none. The second ground for relief is
therefore dismissed for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. The third ground for relief does not
state a legal claim for any ...