United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
L. Miller, Jr. Judge United States District Court.
Pratt, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed an amended
complaint naming eleven defendants. “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, the
court must review prisoner complaints pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
Pratt was a pre-trial detainee housed at the St. Joseph
County Jail. Before his arrest, Mr. Pratt was in an
automobile accident that caused “foot drop” and
impacted his ability to walk. According to Mr. Pratt, Warden
Lawson was made aware of this injury in October of 2016. In
light of this disability, Mr. Pratt believes that he should
have been housed in a lower level housing unit. But,
“the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons
. . ..” Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349
(1981). Conditions that merely cause inconveniences and
discomfort or make confinement unpleasant do not rise to the
level of Constitutional violations. Adams v. Pate,
445 F.2d 105, 108-109 (7th Cir. 1971).
Conditions of confinement must be severe to support an Eighth
Amendment claim; “the prison officials' act or
omission must result in the denial of ‘the minimal
civilized measure of life's necessities.'”
Farmer [v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834
(1994)] (quoting Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337,
347 (1981)). See also, Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d
1574, 1579 (7th Cir. 1994) (the Eighth Amendment only
protects prisoners from conditions that “exceed
contemporary bounds of decency of a mature, civilized
society.”); Jackson [v. Duckworth, ]
955 F.2d [21, ] 22 [(7th Cir. 1992)].
Morissette v. Peters, 45 F.3d 1119, 1123 (7th Cir.
1995) (parallel citations omitted). Although residing on an
upper floor might have been inconvenient or unpleasant for
Mr. Pratt, he hasn't alleged facts demonstrating that it
denied him the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities. He has also not alleged that any doctor or other
medical professional said he needed to be housed on the lower
level, and there are no other facts alleged from which it can
be plausibly inferred that Warden Lawson was deliberately
indifferent to his needs.
months after Warden Lawson was made aware of Mr. Pratt's
disability, Mr. Pratt slipped in a puddle that formed outside
his cell, fell, and became unconscious. Mr. Pratt has sued
four maintenance workers for failing to place a sign in the
area warning that the floor was wet, but this doesn't
state a claim, either. He can't recover on the basis of a
mere slip and fall.“[S]lippery surfaces and shower
floors in prison, without more, cannot constitute a hazardous
condition of confinement.” Pyles v. Fahim, 771
F.3d 403, 410-411 (7th Cir. 2014).
Pratt also sues Nurse Becky because she didn't
immediately call for an ambulance upon learning that Mr.
Pratt had fallen and was unconscious, and he sues Nurse Nacy
because, when he was unconscious, she improperly administered
smelling salts by covering his mouth and pouring something
down his nose. In medical cases, the Constitution is violated
only when a defendant was deliberately indifferent to an
inmate's serious medical needs. Gutierrez v.
Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1369 (7th Cir. 1997). For a
medical professional to be held liable for deliberate
indifference to a serious medical need, 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). An inmate
who has received some form of treatment for a medical
condition must show that the treatment was “so
blatantly inappropriate as to evidence intentional
mistreatment likely to seriously aggravate his
condition.” Id. Mr. Pratt received medical
care from Nurse Nacy immediately after he fell, and Nurse
Becky called for an ambulance about an hour and a half after
Mr. Pratt fell. It cannot be plausibly inferred from the
facts in the complaint that either Nurse Becky or Nurse Nacy
were indifferent to Mr. Pratt's medical needs.
he was conscious, Nurse Becky allowed Mr. Pratt to be carried
down the stairs. Sgt. Omstead, Deputy Wikins, and Lt. Holveot
participated in the attempt to carry Mr. Pratt. After only a
few steps, they dropped him. Mr. Pratt sues Nurse Becky, Sgt.
Omstead, Deputy Wikins, and Lt. Holveot for their role in
carrying and dropping him, but he hasn't alleged facts
that would show that any of these individuals were
deliberately indifferent to his needs. “[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) (quotation marks, brackets, and
citation omitted). Mere negligence “does not violate
the Constitution, and it is not enough that he or she should
have known of a risk.” Pierson v. Hartley, 391
F.3d 898, 902 (7th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Deliberate
indifference requires a showing that the defendant
“actually knew of a substantial risk of serious harm
and consciously disregarded it nonetheless.”
Id. It isn't enough to show that a defendant
merely failed to act reasonably. Gibbs v. Franklin,
49 F.3d 1206, 1208 (7th Cir. 1995). Even incompetence
doesn't state a claim of deliberate indifference.
Walker v. Peters, 233 F.3d 494 (7th Cir. 2000). At
most, Mr. Pratt has alleged incompetence, and his allegations
against Nurse Becky, Sgt. Omstead, Deputy Wikins, and Lt.
Holveot for their role in carrying and dropping him don't
state a claim.
Pratt also alleges that, at some point during the encounter,
Lt. Holveot and Deputy Wikins made racist remarks toward him.
It would be hard to envision a permissible reason for making
racist remarks when dealing with an inmate with a medical
issue, but mere verbal harassment doesn't state a claim
under the federal Constitution. See DeWalt v.
Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 612 (7th Cir. 2000) (rude language
or verbal harassment by prison staff “while
unprofessional and deplorable, does not violate the
Pratt also alleges that Deputy Wikins punched him in the
chest with a closed fist while he was handcuffed and unable
to talk or move. Prison guards can't use excessive force
against pre-trial detainees for the purpose of punishment.
See Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 576 U.S. __, ; 135
S.Ct. 2466 (2015) (holding that “a pretrial detainee
must show only that the force purposely or knowingly used
against him was objectively unreasonable.”). Taking Mr.
Pratt's allegations as true and giving him the inferences
to which he is entitled at this stage of the proceedings, he
has alleged a plausible excessive force claim against Deputy
the hospital, Mr. Pratt was diagnosed with a concussion and
given muscle relaxants and pain medication, but Mr. Pratt
didn't get those medications upon his return to the jail.
He doesn't say which defendant is responsible for him not
receiving his medications, or how long the medications were
withheld. He lists several medications that he is taking now,
but it isn't clear if those are the same medications that
were withheld when he returned to the jail. This allegation
is too vague to state a claim upon which relief can be
sues unidentified members of the St. Joseph County Jail
Staff. This type of unnamed defendant must be dismissed
because “it is pointless to include lists of anonymous
defendants in federal court; this type of placeholder does
not open the door to relation back under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, nor
can it otherwise help the plaintiff.” Wudtke v.
Davel, 128 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations
Mr. Pratt filed a motion seeking entry of default against the
defendants because they haven't filed an answer. Under 42
U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), the defendants didn't have to
file an answer until ordered to do so after the court has
screened the case as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Because no defendant has been served with Mr. ...