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Coleman v. Nicholson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

November 18, 2019

ROBERT COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER NICHOLSON, [1]COBB, DALTON RHINEHART, IVY, Defendants.

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

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         I.

         Screening Standard

         The plaintiff is a prisoner currently incarcerated at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Because the plaintiff is a “prisoner” as defined by 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(c), this Court has an obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) to screen his complaint before service on the defendants. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 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 formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Perez v. Fenoglio, 792 F.3d 768, 776 (7th Cir. 2015).

         II.

         The Complaint

         The complaint names four defendants: 1) Christopher Nicholson; 2) Sgt. Cobb; 3) Correctional Officer Dalton Rinehart; and 4) Correctional Officer Ivy. The plaintiff alleges that on August 2, 2019, he was refused recreation time and a shower by Officer Rhinehart. Later that same day, he felt an abnormal sharp tingle in his throat while eating from a kosher tray that had been delivered to him while he was meeting with his attorney. He checked his food tray and discovered pieces of razor in his food. He yelled for help but it took nearly two hours for staff to respond. He showed Sgt. Cobb and Officers Rhinehart and Ivy the tray. Sgt. Cobb sprayed the plaintiff with OC spray without prior warning and removed him from his cell. The plaintiff threw up blood later that day.

         The plaintiff claims that these events all occurred in retaliation for the plaintiff's prior alleged assault on Officer Rhinehart. Lt. Nicholson knew of the situation between the plaintiff and Officer Rhinehart, yet Lt. Nicholson allowed Officer Rhinehart to continue to work around the plaintiff and serve the plaintiff his food trays. He also alleges that Lt. Nicholson was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical condition when he waited five days to take him to medical for an x-ray even though Lt. Nicholson knew that the plaintiff had ingested a piece of razor. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

         III.

         Discussion of Claims

         Applying the screening standard to the factual allegations in the complaint, certain claims are dismissed while other claims shall proceed as submitted.

         First, all claims of retaliation are dismissed for failure to state a claim because the plaintiff does not allege that the retaliatory acts were motivated by the plaintiff's First Amendment activity. To state a First Amendment retaliation claim, the plaintiff must allege that: (1) he engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment; (2) he suffered a deprivation that would likely deter First Amendment activity; and (3) the protected activity he engaged in was at least a motivating factor for the retaliatory action. Archer v. Chisholm, 870 F.3d 603, 618 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009); Mt. Healthy City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. ...


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