United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
DANIEL G. SHOFFNER, Plaintiff,
SGT. JOHN WILCHER, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
G. Shoffner, a pro se prisoner, filed an amended
complaint against the LaPorte County Jail, Dr. Michael
Mitcheff and Sgt. John Wilcher regarding the medical
treatment he has received at the jail. ECF 8. “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). Nevertheless, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A, the court must review the complaint and dismiss
it if the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a
claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is
immune from such relief. “In order to state a claim
under [42 U.S.C.] § 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
is currently an inmate at the LaPorte County Jail. He alleges
that in 2014 his orthopedic surgeon told him that surgery was
required on both of his knees. Before he was able to have
this surgery performed, he became incarcerated. On February
7, 2018, Shoffner visited with Dr. Mitcheff at the jail
regarding the pain in his knees. Dr. Mitcheff refused to
treat him. Shoffner told Dr. Mitcheff that using the stairs
is painful, but the doctor refused to give him a medical pass
to be housed on a level of the jail that does not require him
to use stairs. Shoffner seeks money damages against Dr.
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). Deliberate
indifference means 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).
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). A mere
disagreement with medical professionals about the appropriate
course of treatment does not establish deliberate
indifference, nor does negligence or even medical
malpractice. Arnett v. Webster, 658 F.3d 742, 751
(7th Cir. 2011).
alleges Dr. Mitcheff was deliberately indifferent for
refusing to provide treatment for his knee pain, including
not ordering him housed on the ground floor of the jail.
Giving Shoffner the benefit of the inferences to which he is
entitled at this stage, it is plausible that Dr. Mitcheff was
deliberately indifferent to his need for medical attention
for knee pain. Therefore, Shoffner may proceed on this claim
against Dr. Mitcheff.
Shoffner also complains that Sgt. Wilcher did not reassign
him to the ground floor of the jail. Apparently, Sgt. Wilcher
relied on the medical staff to determine if Shoffner should
be housed somewhere else based on his medical needs. Sgt.
Wilcher cannot be held liable for deferring to the judgment
of the medical professionals who were tasked to care for
Shoffner. Burks v. Raemisch, 555 F.3d 592, 596 (7th
Cir. 2009) (“[A] layperson's failure to tell the
medical staff how to do its job cannot be called deliberate
indifference . . . .”); Greeno, 414 F.3d at
656 (“If a prisoner is under the care of medical
experts a non-medical prison official will generally be
justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable
hands.”). “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 . . ..” Burks, 555
F.3d at 595. Thus, Shoffner has not plausibly stated a claim
against Sgt. Wilcher.
Shoffner names the LaPorte County Jail as a defendant. Though
the jail is where these events occurred, it is a building,
not a person or even a policy making unit of government that
can be sued pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. 1983.
these reasons, the court:
GRANTS Daniel G. Shoffner leave to proceed on a claim against
Dr. Michael Mitcheff, for compensatory and punitive damages
for denying him adequate medical treatment for his knee pain
since February 7, 2018, in violation of the Eighth Amendment;
DISMISSES Sgt. John Wilcher and the LaPorte County Jail;
DISMISSES all other claims;
DIRECTS the clerk and the United States Marshals Services to
issue and serve process on Dr. Michael Mitcheff at the
LaPorte County Jail with a copy of this order and the amended
complaint (ECF 8) as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d);
ORDERS, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(g)(2), that Dr.
Michael Mitcheff respond, as provided by the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure and N.D. Ind. L. R. 10.1, only to the claims
for which Daniel ...