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Heard v. Walker

August 28, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Judge


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, correctional officials and health care providers at the Stateville Correctional Center, violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights by: (1) acting with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs (inguinal hernias); (2) discriminating against him on the basis of his race; (3) refusing to treat his tooth decay; and (4) subjecting him to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement (both by exposing him to unreasonably high levels of environmental tobacco smoke and by double-celling him in an inhumane manner). This matter is before the court for ruling on pending motions.

Certain defendants, supervisory officials, have moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. For the reasons stated in this order, the motion is granted in part and denied in part. It is well established that pro se complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); see also McCormick v. City of Chicago, 230 F.3d 319, 325 (7th Cir. 2000). They can be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Haines, 404 U.S. at 521; Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). Fact pleading is not necessary to state a claim for relief. Thompson v. Washington, 362 F.3d 969, 970-71 (7th Cir. 2004). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to " 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, (1957)). To satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), the plaintiff need only state his legal claim and provide "some indication . . . of time and place." Thompson, 362 F.3d at 971. While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1964 -65 (citations omitted).

In addition, when considering whether to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true, viewing all facts--as well as any inferences reasonably drawn therefrom--in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Marshall-Mosby v. Corporate Receivables, Inc., 205 F.3d 323, 326 (7th Cir. 2000); Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1955 (citing Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n. 1, (2002). Dismissal should be denied whenever it appears that a basis for federal jurisdiction in fact exists or may exist and can be stated by the plaintiff. Norfleet v. Vale, No. 05 C 0926, 2005 WL 3299375, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 5, 2005) (Zagel, J.). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965. Nevertheless, the factual allegations in the complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1973-74 & n.14. Furthermore, a plaintiff can plead himself or herself out of court by pleading facts that undermine the allegations set forth in the complaint. See, e.g., Kolupa v. Roselle Park Dist., 438 F.3d 713, 715 (7th Cir. 2006). The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide the merits. Weiler v. Household Finance Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 524 n. 1 (7th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).


The plaintiff is a state prisoner, confined at the Stateville Correctional Center at all times relevant to this action. The plaintiff is an African American. Defendant Roger Walker is the former Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant Willard Elyea is the IDOC's Medical Director. Defendants Kenneth Briley and Deirdre Battaglia were, successively, wardens at the Stateville Correctional Center during the period of the plaintiff's confinement at that facility.

In his second amended complaint, the plaintiff alleges the following facts, which must be accepted as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss: While imprisoned at the Stateville Correctional Center, the plaintiff was afflicted with two inguinal hernias. The hernias were "potentially life-threatening" and caused painful lumps to bulge in the plaintiff's left and right groin. On account of allegedly inadequate medical treatment and the delay of needed surgery, the hernias grew progressively larger and more painful. The hernias grew so large that they descended into the plaintiff's scrotum, causing pain in his testicles, restriction of the flow of urine, and "excruciating" pain whenever the plaintiff coughed, sneezed, or attempted to exercise.

Elyea overruled another doctor's recommendations for surgery. Elyea approved surgery for a Caucasian inmate who had a single hernia that was not nearly as serious as the plaintiff's condition.

Walker, Briley and Battaglia had a policy of housing smoking and non-smoking prisoners together. The environmental tobacco smoked caused "immediate harm" to the plaintiff's body and poses a substantial risk of future harm. Double-celling also presented a threat to the plaintiff's health and safety.

In retaliation for the plaintiff's grievances and lawsuits, defendant Battaglia "banned" him from the Stateville Correctional Center, transferring the plaintiff to the Menard Correctional Center. The plaintiff is currently confined at the Pontiac Correctional Center.


Accepting the plaintiff's allegations as true, the court finds that he has articulated colorable claims against defendants Battaglia, Briley, and Elyea in their official capacities. It is not the case that Plaintiff could prove "no set of facts" showing that he is entitled to relief against them under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Haines, 404 U.S. at 521; Zimmerman, 226 F.3d at 571. The second amended complaint is dismissed only as to defendant Walker, as well as insofar as the remaining defendants are sued in their official capacities.

I. Personal Involvement

A. Wardens Briley and ...

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