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Charles Donelson v. Jose M. Prado

March 16, 2011

CHARLES DONELSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSE M. PRADO, CHRIS DEVER, MARK COLE, KARL KIRK, JUSTIN BRYANT, SEAN HAYDEN, CORRECTIONS OFFICER HARRINGTON, SERGEANT WILLIAMS, LIEUTENANT MALKOWSKI, FRANK SHAW, P. TOLLEY, LIEUTENANT MICHELLE, SHAUN BASS, LIEUTENANT JOHNSON, W. BRONZWIK, CORRECTIONS OFFICER NORMAN, ASSISTANT WARDEN REID, CINDY LYNCH, WENDY NOVARRO BLANK, CHARLES WOODS, WAYNE FINK, KEITH FRAINEY, SHIFT COMMANDER JOHN DOE, AND JOHN DOES 1-10, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Feinerman

#R02279,

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Charles Donelson filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against twenty-two named defendants and eleven John Does, alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment and Illinois tort law. Nineteen of the twenty-two named defendants have moved to dismiss Counts II-V of Donelson's five-count complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). That motion (Doc. 86) is granted in part (as to Count III and Defendant Shaw) and denied in part (as to Counts II and IVV). Defendants Lynch and Tolley have filed their own motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment (Doc. 78), which is granted in part (as to dismissal) and denied as moot in part (as to summary judgment). And Defendant Bronzwik has filed a separate motion to dismiss (Doc. 101), which is granted.

Background

The facts alleged in the amended complaint (Doc. 45) are assumed true on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See Reger Dev., LLC v. Nat'l City Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). Donelson is an inmate serving lengthy sentences in the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") for murder, home invasion, and aggravated criminal sexual assault with a weapon. All Defendants are employed by IDOC: Correctional Officers Jose Prado, Chris Dever, Mark Cole, Karl Kirk, Justin Bryant, Sean Hayden; Officers Harrington, Bronzwik,*fn1 and Norman; Lieutenants Malkowski, Michelle, and Johnson; Sergeant Williams; Assistant Warden Reid; Warden Frank Shaw; Cindy Lynch, Wendy Novarro Blank, Charles Woods, Wayne Fink, P. Tolley, and Keith Frainey, all employees in the IDOC mental health department;*fn2 and Shaun Bass, an IDOC employee with an unspecified portfolio. The complaint also names a John Doe Shift Commander and ten other John Does.

At the behest of Lynch, Blank, Woods, Fink, Tolley, and Frainey, Donelson was designated a "sexual predator" for internal IDOC purposes. The designation, which resulted in signs being posted outside his cell identifying him as a sexual predator, placed Donelson at substantial risk of harm from other inmates. The designation also resulted in Bass assigning Donelson to share a cell withone Davenport, another sexual predator at Stateville Correctional Center, on March 27, 2009. Davenport told Donelson that he was sexually attracted to men, that he could not control himself around Donelson, and that he was going to rape Donelson. Davenport told Harrington the same thing, and also informed Johnson that he wanted his own cell because he was a sexual predator who could not control his urges.

Between March 27 and March 30, 2009, Donelson wrote "kites" to Malkowski, Michelle, Bronzwik, Williams, and Norman explaining that he did not feel safe living with Davenport and requesting a cell transfer. Donelson did not receive a response to his kites. On March 30, 2009, while Donelson and Davenport were in their cell, Davenport tried to cut off his own penis. Covered in blood and wearing only a t-shirt and boxer shorts, Davenport yelled, "I had to cut it off," "got to get rid of it," and "I'm a sexual predator." Davenport was removed from the cell for the night.

On March 31, 2009, Donelson told Johnson that he did not wish to live with Davenport, explaining that he could not sleep because he feared being raped or killed. An "extraction team" including Prado, Dever, Kirk, Bryant, Coles, and Hayden soon arrived to remove Donelson from his cell. Although Donelson was compliant, the officers sprayed him with pepper spray, punched him, knocked his head against the wall ten times, kicked him in the chest and stomach, banged his head against the cell bars, and hit him with their protective shields. The officers then handcuffed and shackled Donelson and, as they dragged him from the cell, threw his head into the ground twice. As the officers walked Donelson toward the showers, they continued to spray him with pepper spray, punch him in the head and body, and throw his head against objects protruding from cell doors. When they reached the showers, the officers slammed Donelson's head against the wall, pinned him there with extreme pressure, and again sprayed him with pepper spray. After being knocked to the ground, Donelson was dragged under an extremely hot shower, which burned his skin. He also was bleeding from his head and face.

A medical technician came to the shower, looked at Donelson in a cursory manner, but did not perform a real physical examination. The technician told the extraction team to let water run on Donelson's head. The officers held Donelson's head under running water, making it difficult for him to breathe. On the way back to his cell, Donelson's head and body were once again thrown into walls and cell doors. When Donelson reached his cell, he found that Davenport had returned. The two continued to live together until Donelson was transferred to another correctional facility in April 2010.

Donelson's five-count amended complaint alleges in Count I that he was subject to excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment; in Count II that he was denied adequate medical treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; in Count III that his sexual predator designation and being celled with Davenport subjected him to a substantial risk of harm in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and in Counts IV and V that he was subjected to an assault and a battery in violation of Illinois tort law. Donelson seeks compensatory and punitive damages, costs, fees, and an injunction requiring the lifting of his sexual predator classification.

Discussion

The principal motion to dismiss (Doc. 86) seeks dismissal of Counts II-V. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must overcome "two easy-to-clear hurdles": (1) "the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds on which it rests"; and (2) "its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has the right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level." Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1084 (7th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Where the well-pleaded facts "do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).

A. Count II: Denial of Medical Treatment

The Eight Amendment obligates state prison officials, through the Fourteenth Amendment, "to provide adequate medical care to incarcerated individuals." Boyce v. Moore, 314 F.3d 884, 888-89 (7th Cir. 2002). Prison officials violate this duty if they are deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of their prisoners. See Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 652-53 (7th Cir. 2005). Deliberate indifference requires actual knowledge of a serious risk to the prisoner's health. See Fisher v. Lovejoy, 414 F.3d 659, 662 (7th Cir. 2005). If a medical officer opines that no risk exists or that a certain course of medical treatment is sufficient, a layperson ordinarily cannot be deemed to know otherwise, and thus cannot be held to have been deliberately indifferent to a prisoner's serious medical needs. See Greeno, 414 F.3d at 656 ("If a prisoner is under the care of medical experts . a non-medical prison official will generally be justified in believing that the prisoner is in capable hands. . Perhaps it would be a different matter if [the non-medical officials] had ignored [the plaintiff's] complaints entirely, but we can see no deliberate indifference given that [they] investigated the complaints and referred them to the medical providers who could be expected to address [any] concerns."); McEachern v. Civiletti, 502 F. Supp. 532, 534 (N.D. Ill. 1980) ("[Defendants] are prison administrators, not licensed medical practitioners. Lacking the requisite expertise, they must necessarily place their confidence in the reports of prison doctors whenever an inmate disputes a medical opinion as to what treatment is necessary and proper."). An exception to this general rule applies, subjecting non-medical officials to liability, "in the unusual case where it would be ...


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