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Peyton v. Pfizer

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

December 14, 2017

ARTHUR E. PEYTON, Plaintiff,
v.
PFIZER, ELI LILLY & CO., KAREN LEINENBACH, DR., OBGYN, DR. MEREDITH WILLIAMS, DR. ANGELA DEWEESE, I.U. MEDICAL CENTER, DR. ALLEN LADD, Defendants.

          ENTRY SCREENING AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT AND DIRECTING PLAINTIFF TO SHOW CAUSE

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Arthur E. Peyton is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”). Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b) to screen his complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim for relief, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. In determining whether the complaint states a claim, the Court applies the same standard as when addressing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Lagerstrom v. Kingston, 463 F.3d 621, 624 (7th Cir. 2006). To survive dismissal,

[the] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. 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.

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pro se complaints such as that filed by the plaintiff are construed liberally and held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v. Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).

         II. Screening

         The complaint is allegedly brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and names the following defendants: 1) Pfizer (makers of Zoloft); 2) Eli Lilly & Co. (makers of Pericocet); 3) Dr. Karen Leinenbach, OBGYN; 4) Dr. Meredith Williams; 5) Dr. Angela DeWeese; 6) IU Medical Center; and 7) Dr. Allen Ladd. The plaintiff also brings products liability claims and claims of negligence and medical malpractice. The plaintiff seeks millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages for the death of his son.

         A. Allegations

         The plaintiff alleges that Drs. DeWeese, Ladd, Leinenbach, and Williams prescribed Zoloft and Pericocet to the mother of his son, Michelle Neuhoff, during her pregnancy. He alleges that those medications have been proven to cause birth defects. He alleges that the medical malpractice and poor bedside manner of Dr. Ladd and Dr. Leinenbach “hastened the death of Arthur Peyton, Jr and put his parents through extreme physical and mental torture in violation of the 8th and 9th Amendments to the United States Constitution.” Dkt. No. 1, p. 4. He alleges that Dr. DeWeese, Obgyn, “also contributed.” Id. at p. 5. Dr. Williams allegedly prescribed high doses of Pericocet throughout Ms. Neuhoff's pregnancy at a time when Eli Lilly and Company had already released guidance memos about the dangers of using Pericocet during pregnancy. Id. at pp. 5-6. Exhibits to the complaint indicate that Arthur E. Peyton, Jr. was born on October 6, 2011, and died on September 7, 2012. Dkt. No. 1-1, p. 2.

         B. Discussion

         1. Section 1983 Claims

         To state a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a right secured by the United States Constitution or laws. London v. RBS Citizens, N.A., 600 F.3d 742, 745-46 (7th Cir. 2010). Private persons “may not be sued for merely private conduct, no matter how discriminatory or wrongful.” Id. at 746 (internal quotation omitted).

         None of the defendants are state actors. They are private citizens and corporations. “For a private actor to act under color of state law he must have had a meeting of the minds and thus reached an understanding with a state actor to deny plaintiffs a constitutional right.” Wilson v. Warren County, Ill. 830 F.3d 464 (7th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation omitted). Even if defendant IU Medical Center were shown to be a state actor, the plaintiff does not allege any wrongdoing on the part of that defendant. Without participation in a constitutional violation, there can be no liability. Without personal liability, there can be no recovery under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 593-94 (7th Cir. 2009) (“Section 1983 does not establish a system of vicarious responsibility. Liability depends on each defendant's knowledge and actions….”). Here, because the defendants did not act under color of state law, the plaintiff has failed to state a section 1983 claim. Therefore, all constitutional claims must be dismissed on this basis.

         2. Sta ...


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