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SUMMERS v. SHEAHAN

April 25, 1995

WALTER SUMMERS, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL SHEAHAN, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RUBEN CASTILLO

 Plaintiff, Walter Summers, an inmate at Cook County Department of Corrections, has filed a civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the Executive Director of the Cook County Department of Corrections, James W. Fairman; the Cook County Sheriff, Michael Sheahan; and the Superintendent of Division V, Ernesto Velasco. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, motion is granted.

 FACTS

 The facts recited below are taken from plaintiff's pleadings, which the court assumes to be true for purposes of this opinion. Plaintiff Walter Summers ("Summers") is and was at all times mentioned herein, in the custody of the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC"). Currently, he is still confined in the CCDOC. Plaintiff sues Michael Sheahan, Cook County Sheriff; James W. Fairman, Executive Director of the Cook County Jail; and Ernesto Velasco, the Superintendent of Division v. Plaintiff is proceeding against defendants in their individual and official capacities.

 Plaintiff claims that the defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment. In support of his claim, plaintiff alleges that he was forced to live in overcrowded, dirty and unsanitary living conditions, while he was a pretrial detainee at the CCDOC. Plaintiff further alleges he had to endure insects, roaches and rodents in his cells and also in his food. Plaintiff also alleges that the CCDOC staff denied him proper medical attention. Plaintiff argues that the totality of these conditions violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

 DISCUSSION

 When considering a motion to dismiss, the court views all facts alleged in the complaint, as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom, in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Mosley v. Klincar, 947 F.2d 1338, 1339 (7th Cir. 1992). A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). Since plaintiff appears pro se, his complaint, however unartfully pleaded, must be construed liberally and held to less stringent standards than those applied to complaints drafted by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972). However, although a plaintiff's pro se complaint is to be liberally construed under Haines, the plaintiff is still required to meet some "minimum standard of particularity." Tarkowski v. Bartlett Realty Co., 644 F.2d 1204, 1207 (7th Cir. 1980). Finally, if a plaintiff does plead particular facts, and these facts show he has no claim, then he has pleaded himself out of court. Thomas v. Farley, 31 F.3d 557, 558 (7th Cir. 1994).

 The Supreme Court recently held that to recover under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the inmate must show the existence of "conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm," and that the prison official's state of mind was one of "deliberate indifference." Farmer v. Brennan, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 1977 (1994). To demonstrate deliberate indifference, the inmate must show that the prison official knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to inmate health or safety. Id. at 1979. Finally, the Court expressly held that the "Eighth Amendment does not allow cruel and unusual 'conditions'; it outlaws cruel and unusual 'punishment.'" Id.

 When considering an Eighth Amendment challenge to conditions of confinement, the court must examine the totality of the conditions. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 363, 69 L. Ed. 2d 59, 101 S. Ct. 2392 (1981). In order to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment, an inmate must show that the conditions were objectively serious enough to be considered cruel and unusual. Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 299, 115 L. Ed. 2d 271, 111 S. Ct. 2321 (1991). Second, if the plaintiff has satisfied the first element, he must know from a subjective point of view that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference. Id. See also Farmer v. Brennan, 128 L. Ed. 2d 811, 114 S. Ct. 1970, 1977, 1979 (1994) ("deliberate indifference" requires that "the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety..."). Conditions of confinement violate the Eighth Amendment when the conditions result in "unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic human needs" or "deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 112 S. Ct. 995, 1000, 117 L. Ed. 2d 156 (1992); Rhodes, 452 U.S. at 347; Jamison-Bey v. Thieret, 867 F.2d 1046, 1048 (7th Cir. 1989). Further, the plaintiff must allege more than a mere discomfort or inconvenience as a result of confinement. Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 601 (7th Cir. 1986).

 A. Medical Attention

 Plaintiff claims that CCDOC's employees failed to provide him with proper medical attention in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 105, 50 L. Ed. 2d 251, 97 S. Ct. 285 (1976). In particular, plaintiff alleges that he was denied adequate medical attention because the CCDOC employees failed to regularly provide him with medication for his heart conditions. In one instance, the delay in receiving medication lasted for a period of twenty days. Plaintiff alleges that this inconsistent provision of medication resulted in a high fever, severe lower back pains, and bronchitis. Plaintiff further alleges that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated when CCDOC staff refused to allow plaintiff to remain overnight at Cook County hospital for treatment of his fever and bronchitis, even though a Cook County physician recommended this action.

 Every claim by an inmate that he has not received adequate medical attention does not constitute a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105. In order to file a proper claim, an inmate "must allege acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 105; Salazar v. City of Chicago, 940 F.2d 233, 239 (7th Cir. 1991). "Deliberate indifference" to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain proscribed by the Eighth Amendment." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103 (citing Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173, 49 L. Ed. 2d 859, 96 S. Ct. 2909 (1976)). "A pretrial detainee must be provided with medical treatment if a reasonable officer would have considered the injury serious." Murphy v. Walker, 51 F.3d 714, 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 7542, 1995 WL 144242 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing Davis v. Jones, 936 F.2d 971, 972 (7th Cir. 1991)). However, only intentional or reckless injury amounts to a violation of a pretrial detainee's rights. Negligence is not sufficient. Brownell v. Figel, 950 F.2d 1285, 1290 (7th Cir. 1991). "Reckless conduct" includes "conduct that is so dangerous that the defendant's knowledge of risk can be inferred." Id. Moreover, to state a claim for the denial of essential medical care, the plaintiff must allege that the purported denial resulted in some actual harm. Gibson v. McEvers, 631 F.2d 95, 98 (7th Cir. 1980); Burns v. Head Jailor, 576 F. Supp. 618, 620 (N.D. Ill. 1984).

 Although plaintiff alleges that he contracted bronchitis because he did not receive his heart medicine, this claim of harm is not sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment claim by itself; plaintiff must also allege that the defendants knew that plaintiff had not received his medication. In the complaint, plaintiff does not allege that the defendants were aware of his condition or that the defendants intentionally withheld his medication. Consequently, the defendants could not have been deliberately indifferent to plaintiff's medical needs if they were not notified of plaintiff's condition. Without these allegations, plaintiff has at most alleged negligence, which is insufficient to support a Section 1983 action for violation of an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights. Brownell v. Figel, 950 F.2d 1285, 1290 (7th Cir. 1991); Hughes v. Joliet Correctional Center, 931 F.2d 425, 428 (7th Cir. 1991). Moreover, the CCDOC's failure to authorize plaintiff's overnight stay at Cook County Hospital does not amount to a constitutional violation, because plaintiff was placed at the CCDOC facility, Cermak Hospital, where he was observed overnight, as recommended by the Cook County physician. These factual allegations indicate that plaintiff was given adequte food and medical treatment. ...


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