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Lunsford v. Briddick

February 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


Plaintiff Tyrone Lunsford, formerly an inmate in the Madison County Jail, brings this action for deprivations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.


Lunsford states that on December 1, 2008, he hit his head and lower back on the raised edge of the concrete slab in his cell. He tried to get up but fell again as he winced from the pain. He struck his head against the toilet and knocked himself unconscious. He awoke some time later to Defendant "Sergeant Bob" checking on him. Lunsford was taken to the hospital for examination and then discharged. Defendant Briddick told Lunsford to get up, but he was unable to do so due to the pain. Lunsford advised Briddick of this, so Briddick grabbed him by the neck and pulled him off the bed. Briddick and Defendant Court then dragged Lunsford through the parking lot, then dropped him on the cold, wet pavement. Briddick kicked him and directed him to get into the vehicle. When Lunsford was unable to get up, Defendants essentially threw him into the back seat.

Back at the jail, Lunsford requested a grievance form. He was told there was no such form, but that he could write his grievance on a plain piece of paper. Lunsford did so, only to have it confiscated by Defendant Bob. Lunsford was then confined to an attorney-visitation cell over night. The next day, he was moved to an isolation cell with only a mat and blanket, where he was confined for two or more days. No medical attention was provided to him, and a few days later he was released to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections.


Two potential claims are suggested by these allegations. The first is a claim of excessive force against Briddick and Court.

The intentional use of excessive force by prison guards against an inmate without penological justification constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and is actionable under Section 1983. Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 6-7 (1992); DeWalt v. Carter, 224 F.3d 607, 619 (7th Cir. 2000). "[W]henever prison officials stand accused of using excessive physical force in violation of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, the core judicial inquiry is . . . whether force was applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, or maliciously and sadistically to cause harm." Hudson, 503 U.S. at 6-7. An inmate seeking damages for the use of excessive force need not establish serious bodily injury to make a claim, but not "every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action. . . . [the] prohibition of 'cruel and unusual' punishment necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition de minimis uses of physical force, provided that the use of force is not of a sort 'repugnant to the conscience of mankind.'" Id. at 9-10; see also Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837-38 (7th Cir. 2001).

Under these standards, the Court is unable to dismiss this excessive force claim at this time.

See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

The second claim is a denial of medical treatment against Defendant Bob. Lunsford first states that after his initial fall in his cell, Bob allowed him to lie on the floor unconscious for an hour before summoning medical help. The second part of the medical claim against Bob is the confiscation of Lunsford's grievance, followed by confinement to an ill-equipped cell without further medical treatment for several days..

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.

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). A deliberate indifference claim premised upon inadequate medical treatment requires, to satisfy the objective element, a medical condition "that has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or one that is so obvious that even a lay person would perceive the need for a doctor's attention." Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653. The subjective component of a deliberate indifference claim requires that the prison official knew of "a substantial risk of harm to the inmate and disregarded the risk." Id.; Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Mere medical malpractice or a disagreement with a doctor's medical judgment is not deliberate indifference. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976); Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653; Estate of Cole by Pardue v. Fromm, 94 F.3d 254, 261 (7th Cir. 1996). Still, a plaintiff's receipt of some medical care does not automatically defeat a ...

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