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Hamilton v. Feldkamp

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 4, 2018

JAMES HAMILTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CLINTON FELDKAMP, TY ROBBINS, MORGAN FEENEY, and STANLEY KNIGHT, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         I. Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff James Hamilton's motion for leave to file an amended complaint, dkt. [18], is granted. The clerk is directed to file the tendered pleading, dkt. [18-1], as the amended complaint. This litigation shall proceed with the amended complaint as the operative pleading in the action.

         II. Screening of Amended Complaint

         Because Mr. Hamilton is a prisoner, his amended complaint is subject to the screening requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the amended 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 Mr. Hamilton 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).

         A thorough overview of the factual allegations in Mr. Hamilton's original complaint may be found in the Court's original screening entry, dkt. 13. Because the allegations in the amended complaint are substantially similar to those in the original complaint, the Court will proceed to its analysis of Mr. Hamilton's claims and take note of new allegations where appropriate.

         A. Claims Based on Knowledge of Specified Danger Based on Cooperation in Smuggling Investigation

         Mr. Hamilton claims that Defendants Feldkamp, Robbins, and Feeney all failed to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment after they were confronted with evidence that he was in danger of violence from other inmates after he cooperated in a smuggling investigation. In its original screening entry, the Court found that these allegations, if true would establish that Defendants Feldkamp, Robbins, and Feeney knew of and disregarded a specific, excessive risk to Mr. Hamilton's safety. See Gevas v. McLaughlin, 798 F.3d 475, 481 (7th Cir. 2015). Therefore, Mr. Hamilton's Eighth Amendment claims against Defendants Feldkamp, Robbins, and Feeney, in their individual capacities, shall proceed as submitted.

         The amended complaint adds claims against these defendants for negligence under Indiana law based on the same factual allegations. The Court finds that Mr. Hamilton's allegations that Defendants Feldkamp, Robbins, and Feeney failed to take appropriate action to protect him after learning that he was in danger due to his cooperation in the smuggling investigation state plausible negligence claims. Therefore, Mr. Hamilton's negligence claims against Defendants Feldkamp, Robbins, and Feeney shall proceed as submitted.

         B. Claims Based on Failure to Separate Inmates Based on Security Classifications

         Mr. Hamilton also asserts that Defendants Knight, Robbins, and Feeney had responsibility over inmates' housing assignments and failed to either enact or execute protocols that would have promptly reassigned Mr. Hamilton from South Dormitory to a lower security housing unit following his reclassification from Level 1 to Level 2. In screening the original complaint, the Court found that these allegations did not state a plausible Eighth Amendment claim because they did not allege that a pervasive pattern of violence or a series of bad acts evidenced such an obvious risk of violence that the defendants must have been aware of it. See Smith v. Sangamon Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 188, 192-194 (7th Cir. 2013); Washington v. LaPorte Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't, 306 F.3d 515, 518-519 (7th Cir. 2002).[1]

         In the amended complaint, Mr. Hamilton has pled factual allegations sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim for failure to separate inmates based on their security classifications. With his amended complaint, Mr. Hamilton included affidavits from inmates housed in South Dormitory about the same time he was seeking a new housing assignment. These inmates characterize South Dormitory as a home to “violent gang activity” and state that they witnessed “fights almost every day over debts and living conditions, ” “strong-arm robberies and assaults that resulted in injuries on a daily basis, ” “fights at least once per day, ” and “inmates jumping people” without intervention from prison staff. See dkt. 18-1 at 30, 31, 34. For ...


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