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Middleton v. Rooks

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

August 29, 2019

JASON MICHAEL MIDDLETON, Plaintiff,
v.
ROOKS Officer, SHELTON Officer, Defendants.

          ENTRY SCREENING COMPLAINT, DISMISSING INSUFFICIENT CLAIMS, AND DIRECTING SERVICE OF PROCESS

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.

         I. Screening of Complaint

         A. Legal Standards

         Plaintiff Jason Michael Middleton is currently an inmate at the Putnamville Correctional Facility. Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), the Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) to screen his complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to § 1915A(b), the Court must dismiss the 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 Cesal v. Moats, 851 F.3d 714, 720 (7th Cir. 2017). 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 the plaintiff are construed liberally and held to “a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Cesal, 851 F.3d at 720.

         B. Allegations

         The complaint names two defendants: Officer Rooks and Officer Shelton. For relief, the plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         The plaintiff alleges that on October 10, 2018, after being transported from the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center (the Jail) back to prison, he slipped and fell out of the back of the transport van while shackled and handcuffed, injuring his back and neck. He alleges that it had been raining and the bumper on the van was wet. He alleges that it was Officer Rooks’ job to assist him when getting out of the van, but he made no attempt to do so. Officer Rooks allegedly did not want to stand in a puddle of water so he did not help the plaintiff. Officer Rooks allegedly knew that it had been raining and that the bumper was wet and hazardous. The plaintiff alleges that the fall caused permanent nerve damage in his neck.

         The plaintiff further alleges that on November 28, 2018, when he was transported back to the Jail, Officer Rooks refused to give him his pain medications for the nerve damage in his neck. Officer Rooks put the medication in the plaintiff’s property rather than giving it to medical staff “knowing it would take medical a couple days to figure it out,” leaving the plaintiff in pain. Dkt. 1 at 3.

         The plaintiff further alleges that Officer Rooks placed him in segregation, kept the light on in segregation, denied visits, and did not let him go to recreation, all out of retaliation and in violation of Jail policy because of “the stunt [he] pulled” on October 10, 2018, meaning when the officer let him slip and fall out of the van. Dkt. 1 at 3.

         As to Officer Shelton, the plaintiff alleges that he refused to give him a bottom bunk and made him sleep on the floor even though the plaintiff had a bottom bunk pass. Officer Shelton also refused to give the plaintiff “a boat” (something that would allow him to not sleep on the floor). The plaintiff does not allege how many nights he had to sleep on the floor.

         C. Analysis

         To the extent the plaintiff brings retaliation claims against Officer Rooks, to succeed on such a claim he would have to show: (1) he engaged in protected activity; (2) he suffered a deprivation likely to deter future protected activity; and (3) his protected activity was a motivating factor in the defendants' decision to retaliate. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 783 (7th Cir. 2015). Here, the plaintiff does not allege that he engaged in any protected activity. Rather, he alleges that Officer Rooks was not happy ...


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