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Hanks v. Ramos

September 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wilkerson, Magistrate Judge


This action comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Ramos, Mueller, Moore, Waller, Walker, Murray, Goforth, Miller, Vasques, Meek and McDaniels (Doc. 53). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED and the action DISMISSED.


Plaintiff filed his complaint in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action on March 3, 2006 (Doc. 1). Upon threshold review, the Court dismissed all claims but one: that various Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") officials denied Plaintiff his constitutional rights by exposing him to environmental tobacco smoke ("ETS"), which caused medical problems.

Material Facts

The Court finds the following facts to be material: Plaintiff, an inmate in Stateville Correctional Center, was housed in the North 1 protective custody unit at Menard Correctional Center from February 2002 to January 23, 2008 (Plaintiff's. Deposition. pp 10-11, 15-16). Plaintiff alleges that while housed in that unit he was exposed to ETS that caused him to suffer, headaches, chest pains, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, and a stroke. (Complaint; Pl. Depo. pp. 44-54). Plaintiff stated in deposition that no doctor has ever diagnosed ETS as the cause of his headaches, chest pains, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and nausea (Id. at 52). No doctor has diagnosed that Plaintiff suffered a stroke; Plaintiff self-diagnosed the stroke (Id.). He claims that the stroke causes him pain in his right kidney (Id. at 45). Plaintiff further claims that exposure to ETS exacerbated his hypertension (Id. at 55). Plaintiff was diagnosed with hypertension in 1999 (Id. at 54). No doctor has instructed Plaintiff to avoid ETS because it would aggravate his hypertension (Id. at 55). No doctor has ordered that Plaintiff be celled with a non-smoking cellmate (Id. at 53). No doctor has told Plaintiff that he faces an increased risk of future harm as a result of exposure to ETS at Menard (Id. at 62).

Plaintiff does not smoke (Pl. Depo. p. 61). Between 2005 and 2007, Plaintiff made approximately six requests for placement in a non-smoking cell (Id. at 15-22). Plaintiff submitted with his complaint a letter from Ronald J. Meek, IDOC Deputy Director, dated July 28, 2003, which indicated that the IDOC had performed an investigation regarding Plaintiff's complaints of poor ventilation and determined that ventilation in the North Cell House was adequate (Doc. 1-2, p. 6). A second letter from Ronald J. Meek, dated September 29, 2003, states, "Our records indicate that since you arrived at Menard Correctional Center on February 14, 2002, you have not signed a non-smoking request slip. However it is noted that as of September 23, 2003, you are already celled with another offender who is listed as a non-smoker" (Doc. 1-2, p. 8). On August 29, 2005, the Administrative Review Board denied an appeal of a grievance regarding smoking in protective custody. The letter denying the appeal stated: "This office contacted the Menard Administration and was informed that every effort is made to place with a non-smoking cellmate when requested. It is noted that you are currently housed with a non-smoker" (Doc. 1-2, p. 5).

Despite the requests, Plaintiff was not assigned a non-smoking cell between 2002 and 2008 (Pl. Depo. p 19). Instead, Plaintiff was housed with inmates he considered heavy smokers (Id. at 50). Plaintiff reports that since January 1, 2008, when smoking was banned at Stateville, his medical complaints have improved (Id. at 61).

It is disputed whether Plaintiff was directed by a doctor or other medical professional to avoid second-hand smoke. Plaintiff states in deposition more than one doctor told him to avoid smoke and avoid being around smokers (Pl. Depo. p. 49, 53-55). Plaintiff submits with his response to the motion for summary judgment medical progress notes indicating that between 2002 and 2008 Plaintiff complained of headache, dizziness, chest pains, difficulty breathing, and nausea. He complained to doctors that second-hand smoke caused his symptoms, but he also attributed the symptoms to his cell being too hot (Doc. 56-2, p. 7) and dust (Doc. 56-3, p. 1). His hypertension was described as "well controlled" in August 2001 (Doc. 56-2, p. 2), under "fair control" in August 2002, and under "good control" in October 2002 (Doc. 56-2, pp.4-5). The medical records also indicate that Plaintiff was treated with medication for his hypertension (Doc. 56-2, pp. 1-7). On March 21, 2005, Plaintiff complained of chronic chest pain which worsened when his cellmate smoked (Doc. 56-2, p. 7). On January 29, 2007, Plaintiff complained of dizziness and coughing due to dust and ETS. He was encouraged to avoid smoke (Doc. 56-3, p. 1).

Motion for Summary Judgment

On August 14, 2008, all Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that they are entitled to judgment in their favor because Plaintiff has not demonstrated a serious medical need or deliberate indifference thereto, has not demonstrated evidence of future injuries, that Defendants Walker and Moore cannot be held liable for any constitutional violations because they were not personally involved in any deprivation, and that the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity (Doc. 53). In response, Plaintiff argues that he has sufficiently demonstrated both present and future constitutional injuries, that Defendants Walker and Moore were personally involved in denying Plaintiff's grievances, and that Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity (Doc. 56).


Summary Judgment Standard

A party is entitled to summary judgment if it can show that no genuine issue as to any material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The movant must meet an initial burden of production to show material facts that are not genuinely disputed. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). It is not necessary to introduce facts to make an initial showing; "the burden on the moving party may be discharged by 'showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant meets its initial burden, the non-movant must respond and show a genuine issue for trial to survive the motion. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). The non-moving party may not rely on the allegations of the pleadings, but must make a showing by discovery and disclosure materials on file and affidavits. Id.; 477 U.S. at 324. There is a genuine dispute "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving ...

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