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Johnson v. Lappin

October 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R Herndon Chief Judge United States District Court


HERNDON, Chief Judge

Plaintiff, formerly an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Illinois, brings this action for alleged violations of his constitutional rights by persons acting under the color of federal authority. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). 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 subject to summary dismissal.


The complaint and supporting memorandum do not clearly identify Plaintiff's medical condition, but voluminous exhibits of grievances, responses, and medical records provide the necessary details. Sometime in 2004, Plaintiff underwent surgery for removal of kidney stones. Since then, Plaintiff has been monitored by a urologist through regular urinalysis tests and physical exams.

Plaintiff states that he is afflicted with lymphocytosis, an illness or infection that causes him "unbearable pain and suffering." Specifically, he refers to "burning in the stomach area, sides, back and chest." He believes that he requires a bone marrow transplant, but that treatment has been denied. He claims that Defendants have collectively been deliberately indifferent to his condition by failing to provide the treatment he requests, by accusing him of feigning his symptoms, by their inability to diagnose the cause of his pain, by not providing adequate responses to his grievances, and by not maintaining a sufficient budget to provide him with the range of expensive treatments he believes he requires.


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). A deliberate indifference claim requires both an objectively serious risk of harm and a subjectively culpable state of mind. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994); Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005).

The Seventh Circuit considers the following to be indications of a serious medical need:

(1) where failure to treat the condition could "result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain"; (2) "[e]xistence of an injury that a reasonable doctor or patient would find important and worthy of comment or treatment"; (3) "presence of a medical condition that significantly affects an individual's daily activities"; or (4) "the existence of chronic and substantial pain". Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1373 (7th Cir. 1997). At this point, the allegations in the complaint support a claim that Plaintiff has, objectively, a serious medical need.

The real issue is whether the defendants acted with deliberate indifference, which is a subjective standard. See Boyce v. Moore, 314 F.3d 884, 889 (7th Cir. 2002). To be deliberately indifferent, the defendants must have acted with "a sufficiently culpable state of mind." Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653 (quoting Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834). They must know of the serious risk to the prisoner's health, i.e., the serious medical need at issue, and they must also consciously disregard that risk so as to inflict cruel and unusual punishment upon the prisoner. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837-38; Higgins v. Correctional Medical Services of Illinois, Inc., 178 F.3d 508, 511 (7th Cir. 1999).

In his supporting memorandum, Plaintiff organizes his claims by discussing the actions of each Defendant. For simplicity, the Court will follow this format, but in reverse order.


Long is an associate warden at Greenville. Plaintiff alleges that on one occasion in November 2006, he spoke with Long about the inadequate medical treatment he was receiving. Long told Plaintiff that based upon the reports of medical staff, Plaintiff did not have a serious medical problem. He advised Plaintiff to file a grievance if he was unhappy with his medical treatment, and then Long told Plaintiff to get back to work.

This one isolated conversation does not support a claim that Long acted with the requisite mental intent. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Long will be dismissed from this action.


On or about November 16, 2006, Plaintiff went to the medical unit, but he does not state why he went on that particular occasion. There he spoke with Obriner, who said she did not know why Plaintiff was at sick call. She told him that nobody ...

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