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David Robert Bentz v. Brent Fischer

May 22, 2012

DAVID ROBERT BENTZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRENT FISCHER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED

Tuesday, 22 May, 2012 09:52:26 AM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se and currently incarcerated in Menard Correctional Center, pursues claims of excessive force and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The case is before the Court for a merit review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Court is required by § 1915A to review a Complaint filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer and, through such process, to identify cognizable claims, dismissing any claim that is "frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." A hearing is held if necessary to assist the Court in this review, but, in this case, the Court concludes that no hearing is necessary. The Amended Complaint is clear enough on its own for this Court to perform its merit review of Plaintiff's Complaint.

The review standard under § 1915A is the same as the notice pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Zimmerman v. Tribble, 226 F.3d 568, 571 (7th Cir. 2000). To state a claim, the allegations must set forth a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Factual allegations must give enough detail to give "'fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Serv., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007), quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)(add'l citation omitted). The factual "allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a 'speculative level.'" Id., quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged . . . . Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555-56. However, pro se pleadings are liberally construed when applying this standard. Bridges v. Gilbert, 557 F.3d 541, 546 (7th Cir. 2009).

ALLEGATIONS

On October 31, 2009, while Plaintiff was detained at the Adams County Jail, Defendant Smith allegedly struck Plaintiff's hand with a weapon, fracturing Plaintiff's hand. Jail officers delayed taking Plaintiff to the medical unit for three days, despite his pleas and obvious injury. The medical professionals working at the Jail allegedly failed or refused to prescribe pain medication and failed to treat Plaintiff's broken hand, even though x-rays showed a fracture. Plaintiff alleges that the Jail has an official policy of substituting cheap, ineffective treatment for needed treatment in order to save costs.

Plaintiff was taken to a doctor at Quincy Medical Group, Defendant Dement, who allegedly "erroneously" declared that the hand was not broken. (Complaint, p. 7). Dr. Dement did prescribe a splint and recommended a follow-up visit, but the Jail Defendants failed or refused to take Plaintiff to the follow up appointment. The Jail Defendants also delayed or denied Plaintiff his prescribed pain medication and generally conspired to keep Plaintiff from obtaining the medical care he needed.

The lack of medical care continued when Plaintiff was transferred from the Jail into the IDOC. Defendants at Graham, Stateville, and Pontiac Correctional Center all denied Plaintiff the medical diagnosis and treatment he needed to have his hand fixed. Additionally, Plaintiff's prescribed hand brace was confiscated and pain medication was not provided. Plaintiff appears to allege that he still has not received necessary medical treatment for his hand. He fears permanent disability.

ANALYSIS

I. Plaintiff states claims for excessive force and deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs resulting from that excessive force. The Court presumes that Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee when these incidents occurred, which means that his claims are analyzed under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. For Plaintiff's excessive force claim, the Fourteenth Amendment entitles Plaintiff to "at least as much, and probably more, protection against punishment as does the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment." Forrest v. Prine, 620 F.3d 739, 744 (7th Cir. 2010); Lewis v. Downey, 581 F.3d 467, 474 (7th Cir. 2009)(in an excessive force claim, due process clause prohibits all "punishment," providing "broader protection" than the Eighth Amendment, "[a]lthough the exact contours of any additional safeguards remain undefined . . . .").

Plaintiff states a constitutional excessive force claim against Defendant Scott Smith, who allegedly maliciously struck Plaintiff with a weapon, fracturing Plaintiff's hand. See Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 5 (1992)(Excessive force is force applied "maliciously and sadistically to cause harm," as opposed to force applied "in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline."). ...


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