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Esparza v. Delaney

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

October 23, 2018




         On September 20, 2018, Plaintiff Joseph A. Esparza, who is currently serving a state sentence at New Castle Correctional Facility, filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. This matter comes before the court for screening Esparza's complaint and on his petition to proceed in forma pauperis.

         Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

          Esparza is required to pay the $400.00 filing fee for this action, which includes the $350.00 statutory filing fee and a $50.00 administrative fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b)(1). If a prisoner does not have the money to pay the filing fee, he can request leave to proceed without prepayment of the full filing fee. In that case, the prisoner plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis is required to pay the full amount of the $350.00 statutory filing fee but not the $50.00 administrative fee. See Id. Esparza has filed a certified copy of his prison trust account statement for the six-month period immediately preceding the filing of his complaint, as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2), and has been assessed and paid an initial partial filing fee of $41.24. Esparza's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted.

         Screening of the Complaint

          The court is required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally “frivolous or malicious, ” that fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. § 1915A(b). A claim is legally frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 31 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989); Hutchinson ex rel. Baker v. Spink, 126 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 1997).

         To state a cognizable claim under the federal notice pleading system, the plaintiff is required to provide a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that [he] is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must contain sufficient factual matter “that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court accepts the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them in the plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Nevertheless, the complaint's allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted).

         Allegations of the Complaint

         Esparza alleges that, on July 28, 2018 at around 10:40 A.M., he fell down the stairs in his cell block after slipping on water. Esparza attempted to stabilize himself but was not able to do so. He alleges that he could have stabilized himself if the defendants had not denied him his prescribed knee brace. Esparza alleges that his fall caused him to hit his head on something hard. As a result of the fall, Esparza claims he was knocked out for some length of time and was disoriented when he regained consciousness. An inmate who saw Esparza fall alerted Officers Sturgen and Delaney. Instead of “call[ing] a signal” as Sturgen intended, Delaney walked Esparza to obtain medical help, thereby contravening facility policy. No report was made and no emergency care was provided.

         Esparza was walked to nurse Lisa Blunt, who checked Esparza's blood pressure and provided him with two Tylenol pills. Esparza told Blunt about his skull being tender and feeling fractured. Esparza also told Blunt that his stomach scar opened due to his fall and that he was experiencing spinal and lower back pain. Blunt did not check Esparza for a concussion, did not inspect his head, did not address his torn stomach scar, and did not inspect his back.

         On August 2, 2018, Esparza saw Dr. Cabarra. Esparza alleges that Dr. Cabarra prescribed him medication “he knows causes me great pain and suffering . . . .” ECF No. 1, ¶ 10. Aside from this medication, Dr. Cabarra did nothing for Esparza's injuries. Dr. Cabarra did not order any testing to further investigate Esparza's complaints despite Esparza telling Dr. Cabarra about all of his injuries from the fall.

         Esparza alleges that he filed several grievance complaints in August 2018 regarding his need for medical care. In response to Esparza's grievances, Grievance Coordinator Jennifer Smith made “petty requests” for Esparza to amend his grievance forms. Esparza alleges that these “unnecessary” requests forced him into procedural default. He alleges that Smith did not investigate any of his grievances.

         Esparza alleges several injuries or “possible injuries” from his fall. These injuries include a bruised left arm, a potentially fractured left arm bone, severe back pain that makes moving in and out of bed difficult, a “large goose egg” on his head, a potentially fractured skull, a possible concussion, and general dizziness and confusion. To date, Esparza alleges that he continues to experience ongoing pain and suffering for which he is not receiving treatment.

         Esparza has sued the defendants in their individual and official capacities, demanding $5 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages between $60, 000 and $100, 000, a declaration stating that the ...

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