United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
ORDER GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS STATUS,
DISMISSING COMPLAINT, AND ALLOWING PLAINTIFF OPPORTUNITY TO
William T. Lawrence, Judge United States District Court.
In Forma Pauperis
Robert Sprankle's motion for leave to proceed without
prepaying fees, Dkt. No. 3, is granted. The
Court finds that he does not have the assets or means to pay
even an initial partial filing fee. Because the Prison
Litigation Reform Act mandates that a prisoner will not be
prohibited from bringing a civil action for the reason that
he lacks the assets and means to pay an initial partial
filing fee, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(4), Mr. Sprankle is
granted a waiver of payment of the initial partial filing
fee. He is still obligated, however, to pay the full
three-hundred and fifty dollar ($350.00) filing fee pursuant
to the statutory formula set forth in 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b)(2). See id. § 1915(b)(1). “All
[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).
Robert Sprankle is an Indiana inmate incarcerated in the
Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (WVCF) in Carlisle,
Indiana. He filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on April
24, 2018, concerning an incident occurring at the WVCF on
November 29, 2017.
Mr. Sprankle is a prisoner, his complaint is subject to the
screening requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. This
statute directs that the court shall dismiss a complaint or
any claim within a complaint which “(1) is frivolous,
malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief.” Id. To satisfy the
notice-pleading standard of Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, a complaint must provide a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, ” which is sufficient to provide
the defendant with “fair notice” of the claim and
its basis. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93
(2007) (per curiam) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) and quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Wade v. Hopper, 993
F.2d 1246, 1249 (7th Cir. 1993) (noting that the main purpose
of Rule 8 is rooted in fair notice: a complaint “must
be presented with intelligibility sufficient for a court or
opposing party to understand whether a valid claim is alleged
and if so what it is.”) (quotation omitted)). The
complaint “must actually suggest that the plaintiff has
a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.” Windy
City Metal Fabricators & Supply, Inc. v. CIT Tech. Fin.
Servs., 536 F.3d 663, 668 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir.
2008)). The Court construes pro se pleadings liberally, and
holds pro se pleadings to less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Obriecht v.
Raemisch, 517 F.3d 489, 491 n.2 (7th Cir. 2008).
Claims for Relief
Sprankle contends that on November 29, 2017, he was on a
recreation yard at the WVCF when another prisoner approached
him. The other prisoner called Mr. Sprankle by the wrong name
and after a moment announced his intent to kill Mr. Sprankle.
He grabbed Mr. Sprankle by the throat and choked him. Mr.
Sprankle defended himself and broke free, but the other
prisoner repeated the attack twice more, resulting in serious
injuries to Mr. Sprankle's throat.
complaint names as defendants Wexford Health Sources, the
contract medical services provider for the Indiana Department
of Corrections, and Dr. Marie Griggs, a psychologist at WVCF.
Mr. Sprankle contends that they were aware the other prisoner
was seriously mentally ill and violent. He contends these two
defendants were deliberately indifferent to his safety when
they allowed the other prisoner to participate in recreation
with other non-violent prisoners.
Eighth Amendment imposes a duty upon the state to protect
prisoners from each other. Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 833 (1994) (internal quotation omitted); Brown
v. Budz, 398 F.3d 904, 909 (7th Cir. 2005). That duty,
however, “does not lead to absolute liability.”
Duane v. Lane, 959 F.2d 673, 676 (7th Cir. 1992)
(citing McGill v. Duckworth, 944 F.2d 344, 347 (7th
Cir. 1991). Id. Rather, because the Eighth Amendment
speaks only to “punishment, ” prison officials
who fail to prevent an injury inflicted by fellow inmates are
liable “only where those officials possess the
requisite mental state.” Id. The requisite
mental state for liability is intent, or at the very least,
deliberate indifference. Id. That is, the prison
officials must want harm to come to the prisoner, or must
possess total unconcern for the prisoner's welfare in the
face of serious risks. Id. The prisoner must allege
“recklessness” which, for Eighth Amendment
purposes, involves an “actual knowledge of impending
harm easily preventable, so that a conscious, culpable
refusal to prevent the harm can be inferred from the
defendant's failure to prevent it.” Id.
(citing Duckworth v. Franzen, 780 F.2d 645, 653 (7th
Cir. 1985). A prisoner who establishes negligence but fails
to show either “actual knowledge of the danger, or
danger objectively so great that actual knowledge of the
danger can be inferred, cannot prevail.” Id.
state a failure-to-protect claim, Mr. Sprankle must allege
facts suggesting that he faced a substantial risk of serious
harm, and that defendants knew of and disregarded that risk.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834, 837; Santiago v.
Walls, 599 F.3d 749, 756 (7th Cir. 2010). However, a
generalized risk of violence is not enough, for prisons are
inherently dangerous places. Brown, 398 F.3d at 909;
Riccardo v. Rausch, 375 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir.
2004). Mr. Sprankle, to state a claim, must have alleged a
tangible and credible threat to his safety or well-being.
Grieveson v. Anderson, 538 F.3d 763, 777 (7th Cir.
2008); Billman v. Indiana Dep't of Corrections,
56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. 1995) (noting distinction between
actual and feared exposure). Such a threat must reflect that
he is subject to a substantial risk of future harm.
Carroll v. DeTella, 255 F.3d 470, 472 (7th Cir.
2001); Henderson v. Sheahan, 196 F.3d 839, 846-847
(7th Cir. 1999). A substantial risk of serious harm is one in
which the risk is “so great” that it is
“almost certain to materialize if nothing is
done.” Brown, 398 F.3d at 911. “[T]he
conditions presenting the risk must be ‘sure or very
likely to cause . . . needless suffering, ' and give rise
to ‘sufficiently imminent dangers.'” Baze
v. Rees, 553 U.S. 35, 50 (2008) (Roberts, C.J.,
plurality opinion) (quoting Helling v. McKinney, 509
U.S. 25, 33, 34-35 (1993)).
that a prisoner is mentally ill - not an uncommon situation
in a prison - and knowing that the prisoner is also violent -
also not an uncommon factor in a prison - does not, without
more, create a situation that is “almost certain to
materialize” into an attack on another prisoner and
result in civil rights liability to all who could have been
responsible for treating the offending prisoner. If it did,
almost every prison fight or altercation would give rise to