The opinion of the court was delivered by: James E. Shadid United States District Judge
Tuesday, 10 May, 2011 02:31:01 PM
Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD
The plaintiff, currently incarcerated in Danville Correctional Center, proceeds pro se on claims arising from the alleged denial of a nutritionally-adequate religious diet during his incarceration in Hill Correctional Center. On February 28, 2011, Judge McDade granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims except for the First Amendment claim against Defendant James Rundle, the purported dietary manager at Hill Correctional Center during the relevant time. (d/e 62). In that order, Judge McDade also directed Defendant Rundle to "file a supplemental summary judgment motion addressing whether the plaintiff suffered a physical injury for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e)." (d/e 62, p. 13). In March, the case was reassigned to this Court. (3/18/2011 text order).
Now before the Court is Defendant Rundle's supplemental summary judgment motion. For the reasons below, the Court grants the motion and extends the trial date in order to allow for possible mediation.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Summary judgment is required "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating that no disputed material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This burden may be met by demonstrating "that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. The non-movant must then "set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial," rather than resting on allegations and pleadings. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). Evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and material factual disputes are resolved in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Beraha v. Baxter Health Corp., 956 F.2d 1436, 1440 (7th Cir. 1992).
The plaintiff alleges that his religion requires him to eat a vegan diet. He alleges that the vegan diet provided by Hill Correctional Center from 2008 up to his transfer to Danville Correctional Center in September, 2010, was frequently not vegan and/or nutritionally inadequate to sustain his health. The plaintiff avers that he suffered "sever[e] mental anguish" by "the thought of being compelled to consume meat and animal byproducts." (d/e 70, p. 18, ¶ 5).
I. Compensatory Damages for Mental/Emotional Suffering 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) states:
(e) Limitation of recovery No Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.
Thus, if there is no evidence that the plaintiff suffered a physical injury from the alleged inadequate diet, he cannot recover compensatory damages for his mental or emotional injuries arising therefrom. However, nominal damages would still be available, and possibly punitive damages if the record supported them (but see discussion infra). Pearson v. Welborn, 471 F.3d 732, 744 (7th Cir. 2006)(affirming award of nominal damages on First Amendment retaliation claim, and affirming denial of damages for mental injury under § 1997e(e)); Calhoun v. DeTella, 319 F.3d 936, 942 (7th Cir. 2003)(nominal and punitive damages are available for Eighth Amendment violation, even if compensatory damages for mental suffering not available under § 1997e(e)); Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 781 (7th Cir. 1999)("A prisoner is entitled to judicial relief for a violation of his First Amendment rights aside from any physical, mental, or emotional injury he may have sustained.").
The plaintiff does not dispute that his medical records show that his weight fluctuated between 180 and 185 pounds from the year 2000 to September 2010, the date he was transferred from Hill Correctional Center to Danville Correctional Center. This is evidence that he suffered no significant weight loss. The plaintiff points out that there are no weight measurements from the period after August 26, 2006(when he weighed 183 pounds) to May 7, 2008 (when he weighed 185 pounds), or from May 8, 2008, to the date of his transfer. That, however, is not evidence that he suffered any weight loss. His bald assertion of "periodic weight loss" (d/e 70, p.7) is not a sufficient showing of physical injury under § 1997e(e), even assuming weight loss is considered a physical injury under that section. See Pearson, 471 F.3d at 744 ("unelaborated claim" of depression and 50-pound weight loss not enough to sufficiently prove physical injury under § 1997e(e)). He also does not dispute that he testified in his deposition conducted in April, 2010, that he ...