United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY GRANTING MOTION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS,
DISCUSSING COMPLAINT, AND DIRECTING SERVICE OF
WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE.
Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
plaintiff's request to proceed in forma
pauperis, Dkt. No. 2, is granted. The
assessment of even an initial partial filing fee is waived
because the plaintiff has no assets and no means by which to
pay a partial filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4).
Notwithstanding the foregoing ruling, “[a]ll [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. 1996).
plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Grant
County Jail. 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).
Screening of the Complaint
plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against several defendants, who were all employees of
the Henry County Jail (“the Jail”), as well as
against the Jail itself. The individual defendants are: 1)
Brett Grider; 2) Officer Kim Dabb; 3) Officer Clark; and 4)
Officer Moore. The plaintiff seeks compensatory damages and
that the Jail be closed down and condemned. He was a pretrial
detainee at the time of the alleged events.
plaintiff alleges that on February 26, 2016, at approximately
8:30 p.m., a fire was started in his cell block by another
inmate. About six minutes later, Officer Kim Dabb entered the
block and noticed the block was filled with smoke. About four
minutes later, Officer Clark entered the dorm to investigate
the fire and found a pair of state-issued pants that were
burning. Officer Clark removed the pants the left the dorm,
not realizing that the fire was not put out all of the way.
The inmates were yelling because they could not breathe due
to the smoke. Officers Clark, Moore, and Dabb returned and
realized that the smoke was still accumulating. Officer Clark
used the fire extinguisher in an attempt to put out the fire
completely. Officer Clark was upset. He slammed the door and
left the dorm, trapping the plaintiff and other inmates in
the dorm breathing the air filled with smoke and now toxic
chemicals from the extinguisher. At approximately 8:43 p.m.,
thirteen minutes after the fire started, the plaintiff and
other inmates were still yelling, trying to get the attention
of the officers. Officers Moore, Dabb, and Clark returned and
discovered the fire had still not been put out completely.
The fire extinguisher was used a second time in an effort to
put out the fire. The plaintiff and other inmates asked these
officers several times to be removed from the dorm due to
breathing the thick black smoke and being exposed to toxic
chemicals. Officer Clark responded that because an inmate
started the fire, the inmates would have to deal with the
chemicals and smoke. Officers Moore and Dabb agreed with
Officer Clark. The officers again left the dorm.
p.m., the fire department was called to make sure the fire
had been completely put out. When the smoke had increased to
the point of the plaintiff not being able to see anything
within a couple of feet from his face due to his eyes
burning, he and the other inmates were removed from the dorm
and taken to the recreation room. At 8:55 p.m., the fire
department arrived along with the jail commander, Brett
Grider. At 8:57 p.m., Commander Grider and Officer Moore came
to the recreation room to talk to the inmates about the fire.
The plaintiff complained about having chest pains and having
trouble breathing. His vital signs were taken and he was
given a mat and placed back in the recreation room. At 10:30
p.m., the fire department informed Commander Grider that the
fire had been properly extinguished. The inmates were placed
back in the dorm and were told to clean up the chemicals left
from the fire extinguisher without proper gloves or masks.
claim against the Jail itself is dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted because the Jail is a building, not a
suable entity under these circumstances.
plaintiff alleges that the individual defendants were
deliberately indifferent to his health and safety. In light
of the liberal standard in construing a pro se
inmate's allegations, the above allegations are
sufficient to state a claim of deliberate indifference.
See Minix v. Canarecii, 597 F.3d 824, 831 (7th Cir.
2010) (applying same Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference
standard to pretrial detainees under the Due Process Clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment).