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Rock Jordan (#S-04834 v. Donald Jones

August 15, 2012


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


A. Introduction

Confined at Centralia Correctional Center within this Judicial District, Rock Jordan filed the above-captioned lawsuit in this Court under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The complaint raises claims arising from Jordan's confinement in February 2011 at Franklin County Jail in Benton, Illinois. Jordan names three Defendants -- the Sheriff of Franklin County (Donald Jones), the "Head Jailer" of the Franklin County Jail (Lieutenant Chet Schaeffer), and a physician employed by the Illinois Department of Corrections working at the Franklin County Jail (Dr. Chabbra).

By prior Order, the undersigned Judge granted Jordan pauper status. The case comes now before the Court for threshold review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915A. Section 1915A provides that the district court must promptly review complaints in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or employee, must identify cognizable claims in the complaint, and must dismiss any complaint (or portion of the complaint) that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

A claim is factually frivolous if its allegations are bizarre, irrational, or incredible. Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d 827, 829-30 (7th Cir. 2007). A claim is legally frivolous "if it lacks an arguable basis in law or is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory." Edwards, 478 F.3d at 830. A complaint is malicious if filed for an improper purpose, such as when suit is "brought for purposes of harassment." Lindell v. McCallum, 352 F.3d 1107, 1109 (7th Cir. 2003). Jordan's complaint is neither frivolous nor malicious.

A complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim on several grounds. Edwards, 478 F.3d at 830. First, a plaintiff must satisfy the minimal federal pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim" sufficient to notify the defendants of the allegations against them, so the defendants are able to file an answer. Id. Second, a complaint must state a claim to relief that is facially plausible. Khorrami v. Rolince, 539 F.3d 782, 788 (7th Cir. 2008); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). Third, a complaint must avoid pleading too much -- i.e., a plaintiff may allege facts that preclude recovery, thereby unwittingly pleading himself out of court. Edwards, 478 F.3d at 830.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reminded that: "Plausibility is not an exacting standard." Jaros v. Illinois Dept. of Corrections, 684 F.3d 667, 672 (7th Cir. 2012). In determining whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, this Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accepting as true all well-pleaded facts alleged, and drawing all possible inferences in his favor. Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d 575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 1141 (2010). This Court also bears in mind that pro se complaints must be liberally interpreted and held to a "less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011).

Applying these principles in the instant case, as more fully described below, the Court concludes that Jordan's complaint articulates a colorable claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs as to Dr. Chabbra. The complaint states a claim surviving 1915A review as to Defendant Chabbra, but it does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted as to Defendants Jones or Schaeffer.

B. Analysis

Jordan alleges the following. While confined at Franklin County Jail in early February 2011, Jordan saw Dr. Chabbra. Chabbra prescribed the drug Thorazine to Jordan.*fn1 After Jordan was given the drug, he was returned to his cell. Jordan promptly lost consciousness and experienced a seizure, during which he badly injured his head and broke his hand. Jordan never had experienced a seizure before that date. Jordan was then placed in a segregation cell and left unattended for a period of hours, during which he had more seizures. Eventually he was transported to Franklin County Hospital and treated (receiving stitches on his head injury and an x-ray which verified that his hand was broken). The doctor recommended that Jordan immediately be taken to surgery but, when that was not allowed, released Jordan from the hospital with prescriptions for Cipro (an antibiotic) and Vicodin (a pain reliever).

After the hospital visit, Jordan was returned to a segregation cell with no medical observation. Jordan was in severe pain. Jordan asked repeatedly for his prescribed pain medication. Dr. Chabbra and a nurse repeatedly refused to give Jordan his prescription. When Jordan requested grievance forms, he was told by "the officers" at the jail that there were no such forms, and if he did not stop bothering the officers, they would break his other hand.*fn2 While in segregation after the hospital visit for 12 days, Jordan had additional seizures and suffered unbearable pain in his hand. On the twelfth day, Jordan was taken for surgery. A metal plate was surgically inserted by Dr. Joon Ahn of the Orthopedic Center of Southern Illinois. Post- surgery, Jordan continues to have constant pain in his hand and severe headaches. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages from Defendants for their deliberate indifference to his injuries and neglect of his medical needs (Doc. 1, p. 6).

As to convicted prisoners, the "constitutional source of a deliberate indifference claim is the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment." Cotts v. Osafo, -- F.3d --, 2012 WL 3240667 (7th Cir. Aug. 10, 2012), citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). See alsoGomez v. Randle, 680 F.3d 859, 865 (7th Cir. 2012). It is not entirely clear, but the pleadings before the Court suggest that Plaintiff Jordan was a pretrial detainee in February 2011 when housed at Franklin County Jail. The same general standard applies to pretrial detainees and convicted individuals, but the claims of pretrial detainees are analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, rather than the Eighth Amendment. Estate of Miller, ex rel. Bertram v. Tobiasz, 680 F.3d 984, 989 (7th Cir. 2012). Accord Smith v. Knox County Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1038 (7th Cir. 2012)(". the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment . affords pretrial detainees the same protection against deliberate indifference as the Eighth Amendment guarantees to the convicted.").

"A successful deliberate indifference claim is comprised of both an objective and a subjective element." Roe v. Elyea, 631 F.3d 843, 857 (7th Cir. 2011), citingFarmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). So, to state a deliberate indifference claim upon which relief can be granted, an inmate must allege both that, objectively, the deprivation he suffered was sufficiently serious and that, subjectively, prison officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind to support § 1983 liability. See Greeno v. Daley, 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005)(prison officials must know of and disregard a risk of serious harm to inmate health).

A medical need is deemed sufficiently serious if, inter alia, the inmate's condition has been diagnosed by a physician as requiring treatment. Greeno, 414 F.3d at 653. The condition need not be life-threatening to be serious. Roe, 631 F.3d at 857, quoting Gayton v. McCoy, 593 F.3d 610, 620 (7th Cir. 2010). Prolonged, unnecessary pain can support a deliberate indifference claim, as can delayed treatment; and even a short delay may suffice if a condition is severely painful and readily treatable.Smith, 666 F.3d at 1039-40 (7th Cir. 2012); Edwards v. Snyder, 478 F.3d ...

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