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LAVIN v. SNYDER

December 1, 2005.

JOHN LAVIN, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD SNYDER, JR., ROGER WALKER, MR. WALLS, OFFICER BAUER, LT. BENDINGER, LT. WALKER, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, DR. FEINERMAN, DR. ANYANWU, DR. KUMAR, G.T. BURROWS, R. SCHULTZ, DR. DOUGHTY, PAM GRUBMAN, LT. KEELER, and HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. MURPHY, Chief District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently an inmate in the Hill Correctional Center, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff previously was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and he has tendered his initial partial filing fee as ordered. The amended complaint consists of 33 enumerated paragraphs; the allegations in these paragraphs primarily relate to Plaintiff's medical treatment while in the Menard Correctional Center.

To facilitate the orderly management of future proceedings in this case, and in accordance with the objectives of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(f) and 10(b), the Court finds it appropriate to break the claims in Plaintiff's pro se amended complaint and other pleadings into numbered counts, as shown below. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court. The designation of these counts does not constitute an opinion as to their merit.

 
COUNT 1: Against Defendants Snyder, Walls, Feinerman, Anyanwu, Kumar, Burrows, Schultz, Doughty, Grubman, and Health Care Professionals for deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
COUNT 2: Against Defendants Snyder, Walls, Feinerman, Anyanwu, Kumar, Burrows, Schultz, Doughty, Grubman, and Health Care Professionals for subjecting him to inhumane conditions of confinement, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
COUNT 3: Against Defendants Keeler, Lt. Walker, Bendinger, and Bauer for use of excessive force, in violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment.
This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, which provides:
(a) Screening. — The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for Dismissal. — On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint —
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A. An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Upon careful review of the complaint and any supporting exhibits, the Court finds it appropriate to exercise its authority under § 1915A; portions of this action are legally frivolous and, thus, subject to summary dismissal. COUNT 1

  In March 2001, Plaintiff began suffering back pain and convulsions in his legs, resulting in frequent falls. In approximately July 2001, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a slipped disk. Despite that diagnosis, Plaintiff was not issued a low-bunk permit. As a result of being assigned to an upper bunk, Plaintiff frequently lost his balance and fell, causing further injury to his back, neck, and other joints. Plaintiff complained of his constant pain, and he was finally moved to the health care unit at the end of August 2001. On September 15, 2001, Plaintiff was returned to general population. Apparently he lost his balance and fell into another inmate, leading to an altercation between the two that resulted in further injury to Plaintiff's neck and spine.

  At some time in September 2001, Plaintiff had surgery on his neck. A spur was left pressing on his spinal cord, causing severe pain, which had not been remedied as of the filing of this action. Shortly thereafter, he was returned to general population, despite his difficulty in walking. On October 4, 2001, Plaintiff was made to walk in handcuffs and shackles; his legs began to convulse and caused him to fall, resulting in further injury to his neck and back. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants failed to provide him with pain medication and that he was not provided with adequate post-operative care.

  Plaintiff alleges that all these actions, or inactions, constitute deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. He further claims that Defendants Walls, Grubman, Feinerman, Anyanwu, Kumar, Burrows, Doughty, Schultz, Health Care Professionals, and Snyder are liable for this situation.

  The Supreme Court has recognized that "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners" may constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976); Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (1994). This encompasses a broader range of conduct than intentional denial of necessary medical treatment, but it stops short of "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition." Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106. See also Jones v. Simek, 193 F.3d 485, 489 (7th Cir. 1999); Steele v. Choi, 82 F.3d 175, 178 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 897 (1996).

 
A prisoner raising an Eighth Amendment claim against a prison official therefore must satisfy two requirements. The first one is an objective standard: "[T]he deprivation alleged must be, objectively, `sufficiently serious.'" Farmer, 511 U.S. at ___, 114 S. Ct. at 1977. As the Court explained in Farmer, "a prison official's act or omission must result in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Id. The second requirement is a subjective one: "[A] prison official must have a `sufficiently culpable state of mind,'" one that the Court has defined as "deliberate indifference." Id; see Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5, 112 S. Ct. 995, 998, 117 L.Ed.2d 156 (1992) ("[T]he appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited `deliberate indifference.'"); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104, 97 S. Ct. 285, 291, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976) ("[D]eliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the `unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.'").
Vance v. Peters, 97 F.3d 987, 991-992 (7th Cir. 1996), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1230 (1997). The Supreme Court stressed that this test is not an insurmountable hurdle for inmates raising Eighth Amendment claims:
[A]n Eighth Amendment claimant need not show that a prison official acted or failed to act believing that harm actually would befall an inmate; it is enough that the official acted or failed to act despite his knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm. . . . Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, 2026 and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 842.

  The Seventh Circuit's decisions following this standard for deliberate indifference in the denial or delay of medical care require evidence of a defendant's actual knowledge of, or reckless disregard for, a substantial risk of harm. The Circuit also recognizes that a defendant's inadvertent error, negligence, or even ordinary malpractice is insufficient to rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment constitutional violation.

 
Neglect of a prisoner's health becomes a violation of the Eighth Amendment only if the prison official named as defendant is deliberately indifferent to the prisoner's health — that is, only if he `knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.'
Williams v. O'Leary, 55 F.3d 320, 324 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 516 U.S. 993 (1995); see also Steele, 82 F.3d at 179 (concluding there was insufficient evidence of doctor's knowledge of serious medical risk or of his deliberate indifference to that risk; emphasizing that even malpractice is not enough proof under Farmer); Miller v. Neathery, 52 F.3d 634, 638-39 (7th Cir. 1995) (applying Farmer mandate in jury instruction). However, a plaintiff inmate need not prove that a defendant intended the harm that ultimately transpired or believed the harm would occur. Haley v. Gross, 86 F.3d 630, 641 (7th Cir. 1996).

  Based on these standards, the Court is unable to dismiss the claims against Walls, Grubman, Feinerman, Anyanwu, Kumar, Burrows, Schultz, Doughty, and Health Care Professionals at this point in the litigation. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  It appears, though, that Plaintiff's only theory of liability against Snyder is based upon Snyder's position as the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. "The doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply to § 1983 actions; thus to be held individually liable, a defendant must be `personally responsible for the deprivation of a constitutional right.'" Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 740 (7th Cir. 2001), quoting Chavez v. Ill. State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001). See also Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Eades v. Thompson, 823 F.2d 1055, 1063 (7th Cir. 1987); Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 699 F.2d 864, 869 (7th Cir. 1983); Duncan v. Duckworth, 644 F.2d 653, 655-56 (7th Cir. 1981). Further, a director of a state correctional agency is not personally responsible for constitutional violations within prison system solely because grievance procedure made him aware of it and he failed to intervene. Crowder v. Lash, 687 F.2d 996, 1006 (7th Cir. 1982).

  Accordingly, Plaintiff has not presented a viable claim against Snyder, and he is dismissed ...


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