United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Gray, III, a pro se prisoner, filed a complaint
alleging that his prescribed medical devices were confiscated
when he arrived at the Miami Correctional Facility (Miami).
“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, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court
must review the merits of 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.
“In order to state a claim under § 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).
was transferred from the Indiana State Prison (ISP) to Miami,
where he is still currently housed. The next day he informed
Lt. Stanley Green and other Miami employees that he was in
need of his prescribed medical devices that he brought with
him from ISP, which consisted of his knee brace, ankle brace
and hearing aid. On August 30, 2017, Sgt. Beverly Abney
inventoried Gray's personal property and confiscated both
braces and Gray's hearing aid. Gray then informed Sgt.
Abney that he was in need of those medical devices and showed
Sgt. Abney medical documents authorizing him to have them.
Nevertheless, Sgt. Abney said that she was not going to
return those devices to him. Two days later, Gray sent a
request slip to the Health Care Administrator, Lyn Frye,
asking for the return of his medical devices. She informed
him that those devices were not in medical's possession;
that he would have to talk to someone in custody. On
September 21, 2017, Gray received his ankle brace. On October
17, 2017, he received his knee brace and hearing aid. Gray
sues Sgt. Abney, Lt. Green and Lyn Frye for money damages and
injunctive relief. However, because Gray has admittedly
received all of his previously confiscated medical devices,
the court will limit its review to his money damage claims.
the Eighth Amendment, inmates are entitled to adequate
medical care. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104
(1976). To establish liability, a prisoner must satisfy both
an objective and subjective component by showing: (1) his
medical need was objectively serious; and (2) the defendant
acted with deliberate indifference to that medical need.
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). A
medical need is “serious” if it is one that a
physician has diagnosed 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). On the
subjective prong, the plaintiff must establish that the
defendant “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).
though Gray does not detail any of his medical conditions, it
is plausible that his need for the knee brace, ankle brace
and hearing aid could constitute a serious medical need.
Franklin v. McCaughtry, 110 Fed.Appx. 715 (7th Cir.
2004). Indeed, Gray alleges that each of these medical
devices have been prescribed to him and are medically
necessary. See e.g., Johnson v. Snyder, 444 F.3d
579, 584-85 (7th Cir. 2006) (recognizing that a serious
medical need is one that doctor has recognized as needing
treatment). Moreover, it is plausible that Sgt. Abney was
deliberately indifferent to Gray's serious medical needs.
Sgt. Abney confiscated his medical devices and refused to
given them back, despite being shown the medical documents
establishing that they were medically necessary. Though
further fact-finding may reveal that Sgt. Abney had a valid
reason for her actions, based on these allegations, Gray has
stated an Eighth Amendment claim against Sgt. Abney.
Gray's allegations with respect to Lt. Green and Lyn Frye
are another matter. Gray complains that Green and Frye did
not stop Sgt. Abney from confiscating his medical devices.
Gray does not allege, nor is it reasonable to infer, that
either of these officials played a direct role in
confiscating his medical devices. Nevertheless, Gray believes
that they had personal involvement sufficient to trigger
liability under Section 1983 because he told them of his need
for the devices, and Sgt. Abney's confsication of them,
but they refused to help him get those devices back.
“Section 1983 does not establish a system of vicarious
responsibility” and “public employees are
responsible for their own misdeeds but not for anyone
else's.” Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592,
593 (7th Cir. 2009). As the Seventh Circuit has explained:
Bureaucracies divide tasks; no prisoner is entitled to insist
that one employee do another's job. The division of labor
is important not only to bureaucratic organization but also
to efficient performance of tasks; people who stay within
their roles can get more work done, more effectively, and
cannot be hit with damages under §1983 for not being
ombudsmen. [The] view that everyone who knows about a
prisoner's problem must pay damages implies that [a
prisoner] could write letters to the Governor of Wisconsin
and 999 other public officials, demand that every one of
those 1, 000 officials drop everything he or she is doing in
order to investigate a single prisoner's claims, and then
collect damages from all 1, 000 recipients if the
letter-writing campaign does not lead to better medical care.
That can't be right. The Governor, and for that matter
the Superintendent of Prisons and the Warden of each prison,
is entitled to relegate to the prison's medical staff the
provision of good medical care.
Id. at 595.
in the complaint indicates that Green or Frye did anything to
cause the confiscation of Gray's medical devices; this
was done solely by Sgt. Abney. At most, Gray alleges that
these two defendants knew about his complaints and failed to
assist him, which is insufficient to trigger constitutional
liability. Thus, Gray fails to state a claim against these
these reasons, the court:
(1) GRANTS Proctor Gray, III, leave to
proceed on his Eighth Amendment claim against Sgt. Beverly
Abney for compensatory and punitive damages in connection
with depriving him of his medically necessary devices from
August 30, 2017 through October 17, 2017;
(2) DISMISSES all other claims;
(3) DISMISSES Lt. Stanley Green and Lyn Frye
(4) DIRECTS the clerk and the United States
Marshals Service, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), to
issue and serve process on Sgt. Beverly Abney at the ...