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Wenzke v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 29, 2018

ADAM WENZKE, Plaintiff,
WARDEN METZGER, et al., Defendants.



         The plaintiff, Adam Wenzke ("Wenzke"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC") in Smyrna, Delaware, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. (D.I. 3, 11.) He appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. He has also filed a request for counsel. (D.I. 8.)


         The complaint alleges violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as breach of contract. Wenzke alleges that all defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and he was denied his right to equal protection when he was refused medical care, prison employment, and educational and computer classes.

         Wenzke alleges that thirteen years ago he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, depression, and anxiety. Over the years he has tried "just about every mental health medication" so he knows first-hand what works for him and what does not work for him. (D.I. 3 at ¶ 2.) On March 29, 2016, Wenzke was transferred from Howard R. Young Correctional Institution to VCC. When Wenzke arrived at VCC, he spoke to mental health and was told he would be seen by a mental health physician because his medication was causing side effects.

         Wenzke's main complaint is that each defendant mental health care provider will not provide him the type of medication he requests. Instead he is prescribed medication the mental health care providers believe is appropriate for Wenzke. The defendants include Dr. Tanya Wilson ("Dr. Wilson"), Dr. August ("Dr. August"), Dr. Padrell ("Dr. Padrell"), Dr. Susan ("Dr. Susan") and Dr. Moses ("Dr. Moses"). Wenzke alleges that the medication prescribed him cause side-effects to a greater extent than the medication he used to take. At one point, Wenzke stopped taking his medication due to the side-effects. He later resumed taking mental health medication. In many instances, Wenzke submitted grievances complaining that he was not provided with appropriate mental health treatment when he was not provided with medications that had worked for him in the past. Wenzke alleges that the defendant Judith Caprio ("Caprio") denied one of his grievances.

         The complaint further alleges that the defendant mental health director Paola Munoz ("Munoz") failed to respond his letters complaining of his mental health treatment and asking for help, although Munoz responded to Wenzke's request for an affidavit of merit. The complaint also alleges that Wenzke wrote to the defendant Warden Metzger ("Metzger") on at least two occasions explaining his situation, complaining that he was not receiving treatment, and asking for help.

         The complaint alleges that the defendant Connections ("Connections"), the contract health care provider for VCC, failed to train and supervise Munoz, its mental health directors, and its mental health physicians, that it has a policy of refusing to prescribe certain medication such as Wellbutrin, and has a custom, practice or policy of failing to provide a reasonable diagnosis and/or treatment for mental health problems.

         Wenzke alleges that he was refused employment in the prison kitchen after two interviews and undergoing physicals. Following the second physical, Wenzke was told he probably would not be hired due to a medical condition and because he was on the mental health roster. Since then he has submitted numerous job applications, but has received no replies to his applications. He also alleges that his requests for education have been refused. Finally, Wenzke alleges breach of contract because the defendants refuse to let him see a list of alternative medications and their side effects and refuse to discuss alternative treatment options.

         The defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities. Wenzke seeks compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief in the form of proper mental health treatment.


         A federal court may properly dismiss an action sua sponte under the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § l9l5A(b) if "the action is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § l997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Wenzke proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted).

         An action is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Under 28 U.S.C. § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(i) and § l9l5A(b)(1), a court may dismiss a complaint as frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or a "clearly baseless" or "fantastic or delusional" factual scenario. Neitzke, 490 at 327-28; Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989); see, e.g., Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1091-92 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding frivolous a suit alleging that prison officials took an inmate's pen and refused to give it back).

         The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(ii) and § l9l5A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions. Tourscher v. McCullough,184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, the court must ...

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