United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
January 28, 2004.
MARLON HAMMOND, #8-16387, Plaintiff,
KENNETH BRILEY, et al. Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN H. LEFKOW, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The plaintiff, a state prisoner, has brought this pro se
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff
claims that the defendants, two officers at the Stateville Correctional
Center, violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by subjecting him
to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement and by acting with
deliberate indifference to his medical needs. This matter is before the
court for consideration of the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
For the reasons stated in this order, the motion will be granted.
Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Prime Northgate Plaza Ltd. Partnership v.
Lifecare Acquisitions Corp., 985 F. Supp. 815, 817 (N.D. Ill. 1997).
In determining whether factual issues exist, the court must view all the
evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to the non-moving party. Walker v. Northeast Regional Commuter
Railroad Corp., 225 F.3d 895, 897 (7th Cir. 2000).
However, Rule 56(c) "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to
make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. "Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find
for the non-moving party, there is no `genuine issue for trial.'"
Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Group, Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 393 (7th
Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1118(1998).
The plaintiff is a state prisoner, confined at the Illinois River and
Stateville Correctional Centers at all times relevant to this action.
(Defendants' Exhibit 2, Inmate Occupancy History Sheet.) The defendant
Daniel Artl is a correctional officer at Stateville, assigned to the "F"
Unit where the plaintiff was assigned while housed at Stateville.
(Defendants' Exhibit 3, Affidavit of Daniel Artl, ¶ 2.) The defendant
Kenneth Agnew, now retired, was a captain in "F-House" at the time of the
events giving rise to this lawsuit.*fn1 (Defendants' Exhibit 4,
Affidavit of Kenneth Agnew, ¶¶ 1-2-)
The following facts are uncontested for purposes of this motion (or if
disputed are nevertheless not outcome-dispositive): On April 26, 2002,
while confined at the Illinois River Correctional Center, the plaintiff
saw an optometrist regarding blurred long distance vision. (Exhibit 5,
Affidavit of Willard Elyea, M.D., IDOC Medical Director, ¶ 6.) At the
time of the plaintiff's examination, his vision with the glasses he had
was 20/30 in the left eye, 20/25 in the right eye, and
20/25 with both eyes. (Id., ¶ 7; Plaintiff's Exhibit 7,
Medical Progress Notes dated April 26, 2002.) The optometrist ordered a
new pair of glasses for the plaintiff to correct his vision to 20/20.
(Elyea Affidavit, ¶ 7.) Eyeglasses are manufactured at the Dixon
Correctional Center; it usually takes between thirty and sixty days for
an inmate to get new eyeglasses. (Id. ¶ 8.)
Twelve days later, on May 8, 2002, the plaintiff was temporarily
transferred from the Illinois River Correctional Center to the Stateville
Correctional Center on a court writ. (Offender Tracker Sheet.) The
plaintiff remained at Stateville until May 29, 2002, for a total of three
weeks. (Id.; Exhibit 1, Deposition of Marlon Hammond, at p. 6.)
A medical screening was performed upon the plaintiff's arrival at
Stateville. (Elyea Affidavit, ¶ 9; Plaintiff's Deposition, p. 10.)
The examination revealed no significant medical needs or conditions.
(Elyea Affidavit, ¶ 9.)
The plaintiff claims that in mid-May 2002, he started experiencing
headaches and dizziness, (Plaintiff's deposition, p. 70; Plaintiff's
Affidavit, ¶ 12.) The plaintiff still gets the headaches, even with
glasses. (Id. at p. 69.) At his deposition, the plaintiff stated
that he believed that his headaches were triggered by fatigue.
(Plaintiff's Deposition, p. 70.) In response to the defendants' motion
for summary judgment, the plaintiff asserts that the headaches were
caused by having to strain to read in the dark. According to Elyea, the
plaintiff's allegation that he suffered headaches as a result of not
having an updated prescription for eyeglasses is "unfounded," as "there
is no medical relation between these complaints." (Elyea Affidavit, ¶
13.) Although it is possible that the plaintiff's uncorrected astigmatism
caused headaches at the time (Plaintiff's Exhibit 7, (unnamed) Medical
Treatise, p.2), Elyea further states that "there is no medical reason
that would support plaintiff's
claims that he is suffering any type of permanent injury" as the
result of the delay in receiving new eyeglasses. (Elyea Affidavit, ¶
The plaintiff did not see an optometrist or ophthalmologist during the
three weeks he was confined at Stateville. (Plaintiff's Affidavit, ¶
13.) Inmates who are temporarily transferred from one facility to another
are supposed to be given the same medical treatment as all other inmates.
(Elyea Affidavit, ¶ 11.) Inmates seeking medical care must follow
proper procedures. (Id.) Medical technicians and nurses perform
daily rounds in all of the living units and are available to tend to
inmates' health complaints and concerns. (Id.) If an inmate were
to request medical treatment, the medical staff is required to keep a
record of that request. (Id.) There is no record in the
plaintiff's files that he suffered from headaches or had any other
medical problems while housed at Stateville. (Id, ¶ 12.)
(The plaintiff nevertheless insists that he was denied medical treatment
when he complained of headaches and vision problems because his master
file had not been transferred with him to Stateville. (Plaintiff's Local
Rule 56.1 Statement, ¶ 32.))
The parties dispute whether the plaintiff's cell had hot water. The
plaintiff contends that only cold water came from the hot water tap.
(Plaintiff's Affidavit, ¶ 4.) The defendants maintain that because
all of the hot water in Unit F is heated at a central location, then
distributed to the cells, if one cell had no hot water, none of the cells
would have had hot water. (Griffin Affidavit, ¶ 16.) Regardless, it
is undisputed that the plaintiff was able to shower at least once a week.
(Plaintiff's deposition, p. 63.) The shower had hot water. (Id.)
Each cell in the "F* Unit has individual light fixtures inside.
(Plaintiff's Rule 56.1 Filing, ¶ 15.) Fluorescent light fixtures
around the guard tower illuminate the entire Unit F cellhouse. (Artl
Affidavit, ¶ 8; Plaintiff's Deposition, p. 21.) The ambient lighting
in the common areas of Unit F
is "akin to daylight twenty-four hours a day." (Artl Affidavit,
¶ 9.) The plaintiff's cell door had a security glass front.
(Plaintiff's Deposition, p. 13.)
The plaintiff's cell and the cellblock itself had windows to the
outside. (Artl Affidavit, ¶ 10.) During the daytime, the windows
allowed additional, natural light into cells. (Artl Affidavit, ¶
9(B); plaintiff's deposition at p. 13.) Sunlight provided "ample" light
to the individual cells. (Artl Affidavit, ¶ 9; plaintiff's deposition
at p. 21.) At least in the morning, the plaintiff had adequate sunlight
to read, although at other hours of the day, he had to "scoot off in the
corner" to catch the sun's rays. (Plaintiff's deposition at p. 22.)
Cell 253 was not a "condemned cell." (Artl Affidavit, ¶ 10.) (The
plaintiff's assertion to the contrary is unsupported by any competent
evidence, notwithstanding the hearsay of what anyone may have told him.)
On May 14, 2002, the plaintiff filed a grievance claiming that since
his arrival days earlier, his cell had been without lights and hot water.
(Plaintiff's Exhibit 4, Committed Person's Grievance.) The plaintiff
additionally asserted that when he complained to the defendant Artl, the
officer's only response was, "Lights and hot water is (sic) a privilege
in F-House." (Id.; Plaintiff's Exhibit 6, Affidavit of Marlon
Hammond, ¶ 5.) (Although Artl claims that he does not remember the
plaintiff, he denies that he ever would have made such a statement. (Artl
Affidavit, ¶ 5.)) The plaintiff did have blankets, sheets, pillows, a
mattress, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, towels, bath slippers, and a
working toilet. (Plaintiff's deposition, pp. 16, 22.)
The plaintiff asserts that he also complained to Agnew on May 9, 2002,
while the officer was making his rounds. (Plaintiff's Affidavit, ¶ 6;
Plaintiff's Deposition, pp. 34-35.) Agnew allegedly told the plaintiff to
speak to a gallery officer. (Id.) Although Agnew says that he
has no independent
recollection of the plaintiff, he agrees that if an inmate had a
complaint about his cell conditions, he would have directed the inmate to
follow the chain of command and let the gallery officer know about the
problem. (Agnew Affidavit, ¶ 5.) Agnew is not responsible for cell
repairs. (Id., ¶ 6.)
Upon the plaintiff's return to the Illinois River Correctional Center
on May 29, 2002, he underwent another medical examination and orientation
interview, (Elyea Affidavit, ¶ 10.) No significant medical problems
were revealed during the screening. (Id.)
The plaintiff was issued his new glasses on June 13, 2002, at the
Illinois River Correctional Center (about seven weeks after the
optometrist ordered them). (Id., ¶ 8.)
The defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted. The
plaintiff has no triable Eighth Amendment claim with respect to either
the conditions of his confinement or the alleged denial of medical care.
Although the court previously denied the defendants' motion to dismiss
the complaint for failure to state a claim, the court noted that the
plaintiff's claims were "borderline" and that denial of the motion to
dismiss was a "somewhat close call." See Memorandum Opinion and
Order entered April 4, 2003, at pp. 3-4. The more fully developed record,
in which the defendants address each of the various concerns articulated
in the prior Memorandum Opinion and Order, establishes that the
defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Even viewing the
record in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, no reasonable person
could conclude that the conditions of the plaintiff's confinement were so
barbarous as to amount to "cruel and unusual punishment."
The Eighth Amendment imposes on prison officials the duty to "provide
humane conditions of confinement . . ." Farmer v. Brennan,
511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (quoting Hudson v. Palmer,
468 U.S. 517, 526-27 (1984)). However, prison conditions violate the Eighth
Amendment only when
they exceed "contemporary bounds of decency of a mature, civilized
society." Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1579 (7th Cir.
1994), citing Jackson v. Duckworth, 955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir.
In order to establish Eighth Amendment liability, a plaintiff must meet
two requirements: first, he must show that the challenged conditions of
confinement were objectively so serious as to amount to the denial of a
basic human need; second, he must show that the defendant official
acted|with deliberate indifference. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. As
the Court of Appeals has explained, "the Eighth Amendment does not apply
to every deprivation, or even every unnecessary deprivation, suffered by
a prisoner, but only to that narrow class of deprivations involving
`serious' injury inflicted by prison officials acting with a culpable
state of mind." Snipes v. DeTella, 95 F.3d 586, 590 (7th Cir.
In this case, the plaintiff has not satisfied the objective prong
required for Eighth Amendment liability. The plaintiff's deprivations
simply did not cross the line from "inconvenience and discomfort" to the
level of a denial of basic human needs. See, e.g., Meriwether v.
Faulkner, 821 F.24 408, 416 (7th Cir.), 484 U.S. 935 (1987);
Neal v. Clark, 938 F. Supp. 484, 486 (N.D. Ill. 1996)(Alesia,
J.). "Cruel and unusual punishment" requires something more than
routine discomfort. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981).
Punishment in the constitutional sense requires allegations of extreme
deprivations over an extended period of time. Hudson v.
McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1992); Henderson v. Sheahan,
196 F.3d 839, 845 (7th Cir. 1999), cert. denied,
530 U.S. 1244 (2000).
A. Inoperative Light
Artl denies ever having said that lights in his cellhouse were a
"privilege;" Agnew does not recall the plaintiff but seems to admit that,
in general, he would have told an inmate to direct any
concerns about maintenance issues to a gallery officer. The court
may grant summary judgment if facts are in dispute, so long as those
facts are not outcome determinative. Matter of Wildman,
859 F.2d 553, 556 (7th Cir. 1988); Nash v. DeTella, No. 00 C 2784, 2001
WL 1160840, *2 n. 5 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 2, 2001) (Zagel, J.) The court will
therefore assume for summary judgment purposes that both Artl and Agnew
were aware of the plaintiff's need for repair of the light or new light
bulbs and that both failed to take any action.
It is inexcusable if Artl and Agnew refused to take the simple step of
getting the plaintiff new light bulbs, putting in a maintenance request
for him, or moving him to another cell. Nevertheless, the lack of a
working light in the plaintiff's cell did not exceed "contemporary bounds
of decency." While the cell itself had no working light, the evidence
shows that large overhead light fixtures (and, during the daytime,
natural light) illuminated the plaintiff's cell. Although the plaintiff
disputes just how much light passed into the interior of his cell, he
admits that he was able to read in his cell, at least in the morning;
furthermore, he has expressly dropped his claims that the lack of light
interfered with his First Amendment rights to read his Bible and work on
litigation. Moreover, after the first week (during which the prison was
on "lockdown," see Plaintiff's Deposition, p. 60), the plaintiff
was allowed to leave his cell at least to go to the yard for recreation
(Id., p. 64) and to meet with visitors (Id., p. 63).
Given that the totality of the plaintiff's conditions of confinement
were otherwise acceptable (the plaintiff concedes that, except for hot
water, his basic needs were met), the lack of an overhead light for three
weeks fails to fall so far below minimum standards as to violate the
Eighth Amendment. The matter does not rise to the level of cruel and
unusual punishment. Contrast Harris v. Fleming,
839 F.2d 1232, 1235 (7th Cir. 1988) ("inmates cannot expect the amenities,
and services of a good hotel"), with Jackson v. Duckworth,
955 F.2d 21, 22 (7th Cir. 1992) (objective component met where prison
conditions were "strikingly reminiscent of the Black Hole of Calcutta").
As an additional bar to recovery, because the plaintiff suffered no
real physical injury-only understandable frustration-he has no
compensable damages under the Civil Rights Act. The Prison Litigation
Reform Act dictates that "(n)o Federal civil action may be brought by a
prisoner . . . for mental or emotional injury suffered while in
custody without a prior showing of physical injury."
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e); see also Zehner v. Trigg, 133 F.3d 459, 461 (7th Cir.
1997) (upholding the constitutionality of 1997e(e)). See generally,
Robinson v. Page, 170 F.3d 747 (7th Cir. 1999). There is no medical
evidence to support an inference that poor lighting would have adversely
affected the plaintiff's health or eyesight. The plaintiff is not
entitled to damages for going without an interior cell light.
Even if it is assumed that the dizziness and headaches the plaintiff
claims to have suffered on account of the inadequate lighting amounted to
a physical injury, the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, state officials "are shielded
from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald,
457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982); Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 638
(1987); Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609 (1999). To evaluate a
claim of qualified immunity, the court must engage in a two-step
analysis. First, the court determines whether the plaintiff's claim
states a violation of his constitutional rights. The court then
determines whether those rights were clearly established at the time the
alleged violation occurred. See Wilson, 526 U.S. at 609;
Khuans v. Sch. Dist. 110
123 F.3d 1010, 1013(7th Cir. 1997). Only if the rights were clearly
established may the official be liable for monetary damages. See
Richardson v. McKnight, 521 U.S. 399, 403 (1997).
As recently as March 2002, a fellow district judge noted that the law
was "unsettled" and that "(n)o Seventh Circuit case has held mat
inadequate lighting can constitute a violation of a prisoner's Eighth
Amendment rights." Martin v. Snyder, No. 00 C 0983, 2002 WL
484911, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 28, 2002), Under the circumstances of this
case, where the plaintiff had ambient light and was able to spend time
out of his cell, the defendants' failure to rectify the plaintiff's
problem-while certainly no cause for commendation-did not constitute
conduct the unlawfulness of which would have been apparent in light of
existing law. Denius v. Dunlap, 209 F.3d 944, 950 (7th Cir.
2000). The defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on the
plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim because neither statutes nor case law
have established a right of inmates to proper lighting in their cell. The
defendants did not violate a clearly established right.
B. No Hot Water
Again, the court accepts as true, though contested by the defendants,
that the plaintiff's cell had no hot water. Nevertheless, the lack of a
functioning hot water spigot likewise fails to rise to the level of
constitutional magnitude. As noted above, the plaintiff's basic needs
were met; moreover, the plaintiff has conceded that he was able to shower
at least once a week. In light of the totality of the plaintiff's living
conditions, no reasonable person could find that the lack of hot water
caused him any compensable injury. The plaintiff's confinement in a cell
without hot water, while undoubtedly inconvenient, is not actionable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Compare Easter v. Cooper, No. 91 C
4520, 1995 WL 109343, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Mar, 10, 1995) (inmate placed in a
cell with graffiti and no running water for seven days had no cognizable
constitutional claim); contrast
Johnson v. Pelker, 891 F.2d 136, 139-40 (7th Cir. 1989)
(leaving a prisoner in a cell for three days without running water, dry
clothing, bedding, or cleaning supplies, and in which feces were smeared
on the walls, may fall below the threshold of decency set by Eighth
Amendment), In this case, the lack of hot water did not threaten the
plaintiffs physical or mental well-being.
C. Denial of Medical Care
The plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that he has a triable claim
with respect to the purported denial of needed medical care. It is well
settled that a prison guard's deliberate indifference to an inmate's
serious medical condition violates the Eighth Amendment. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 837 (1994); Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97, 103-04 (1976); Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 610
(7th Cir. 2000). As with conditions claims, deliberate indifference has
both an objective and a subjective element: the inmate must have an
objectively serious medical condition, and the defendant must be
subjectively aware of and consciously disregard a risk to the inmate's
health or safety. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; Sherrod,
223 F.3d at 610. Here, the plaintiff has satisfied neither prong.
The court need not resolve the parties' factual dispute as to whether
the plaintiff ever sought needed medical care while confined at
Stateville. It is undisputed that medical evaluations performed upon the
plaintiff's arrival at Stateville and his return to the Illinois River
Correctional Center revealed no significant health problems. Even if the
plaintiff did ask to see a doctor at Stateville, his condition was not
serious enough to be actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The plaintiff's eyesight with the glasses for which he was awaiting
replacement was 20/30 in one eye and 20/25 in the other, hardly a drastic
under-correction. Furthermore, the plaintiff has no evidence other than
his own layman's opinion that his poor eyesight caused his headaches. At
his deposition, the plaintiff admitted that he thought his
headaches were caused by fatigue and that he still gets them,
(Plaintiff's deposition, p. 69.), although in his materials opposing
summary judgment he blames the headaches on his astigmatism and the poor
lighting. In Dr. Elyea's expert opinion, any relation between the
headaches and the lack of new eyeglasses is "unfounded." (Elyea
Affidavit, ¶ 13.) Regardless, even if the plaintiff had seen a
doctor, he would have still had to wait to get his new eyeglasses, which
were being manufactured at the Dixon Correctional Center. In addition,
the plaintiff has retracted his claim that he was completely unable to
read his Bible or legal materials during the time period in question.
Even if the court were to assume that there was a link between the
plaintiff's need for new glasses and his headaches and nausea, the
plaintiff's symptoms were not serious enough to implicate Eighth
Amendment concerns. See, e.g., Bates v. Sullivan, 6 Fed. Appx.
425, 428 (7th Cir. 2001) (shortness of breath and headaches did not
constitute a serious medical need), citing Henderson v. Sheahan,
196 F.3d 839, 846 (7th Cir. 1999) (breathing problems, chest pains,
dizziness, sinus problems and headaches are "not sufficiently serious to
be constitutionally actionable"); Oliver v. Deen, 77 F.3d 156,
159 (7th Cir. 1996); Reed v. McBride, 178 F.3d 849, 853 (7th
Cir. 1999), citing Cooper v. Casey, 97 F.3d 914, 916 (7th Cir.
1996) ("a prison medical staff's refusal to "dispense bromides for the
sniffles or minor aches and pains or a tiny scratch or a mild headache or
minor fatigue . . . does not violate the Constitution"). The
plaintiff's alleged health problems were not sufficiently grave to
implicate the Eighth Amendment.
Finally, even if the plaintiff did have a serious medical need, nothing
in the record supports an inference that the named defendants were
responsible for denying him access to medical care. The plaintiff's
grievance and affidavits indicate that he asked (unidentified) "staff,"
medical technicians, and nurses to see a doctor. See also
Plaintiff's Deposition at pp. 40-45. Nowhere has the plaintiff said that
he made a request to Artl or Agnew for medical attention. The plaintiff
has failed to establish the defendants' direct, personal involvement in
the denial of medical care, as required by Gentry v. Duckworth,
65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995). "Section 1983 creates a cause of action
based on personal liability and predicated upon fault; thus, liability
does not attach unless the individual defendant caused or participated in
a constitutional deprivation." Vance v. Washington,
97 F.3d 987, 991 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1230
(1997) (citations omitted). Because the plaintiff has failed to show that
the defendants were personally involved in the alleged denial of access
to medical care, they cannot be held liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In sum, for all of the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion for
summary judgment must be granted. Even viewing the record in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff and resolving all factual disputes in his
favor, the court finds that the conditions about which he complains did
not approach the threshold of Eighth Amendment concern. Any temporary
hardships or deprivations the plaintiff endured for three weeks were not
of constitutional magnitude. The defendants, in short, are entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.
If the plaintiff wishes to appeal this final judgment, he may file a
notice of appeal with this court within thirty days of the entry of
judgment. Fed.R.App.P. 4(a)(4). A motion for leave to appeal in
forma pauperis should set forth the issues the plaintiff plans to
present on appeal. See Fed.R.App.P. 24(a)(1)(C); Hyche v.
Christensen, 170 F.3d 769, 771 (7th Cir. 1999). If the plaintiff
does choose to appeal, he will be liable for the $255 appellate filing
fee irrespective of the outcome of the appeal, Evans v. Illinois
Dept. of Corrections, 150 F.3d 810, 812 (7th Cir. 1998).
Furthermore, the plaintiff is warned that if a prisoner has had a
total of three federal cases or appeals dismissed as
frivolous, malicious, or failing to state a claim, he may not file
suit in federal court without prepaying the filing fee unless he is in
imminent danger of serious physical injury. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g). If
the appeal is found to be non-meritorious, the plaintiff may be assessed
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the defendants' motion for summary
judgment (docket # 36) is granted. The Clerk is directed to enter
judgment in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The case is terminated. The parties are to bear their