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Delano Gamble, # B-42952 v. Dr. Nwaobasi

January 11, 2013

DELANO GAMBLE, # B-42952, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DR. NWAOBASI, J. SCHOENBECK,
LT. LASHBROOK, UNKNOWN PARTY TOWERS 4, 5, & 16, IA OFFICERS, AND
WARDEN ATCHISON, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff, currently incarcerated at Pontiac Correctional Center ("Pontiac"), has brought this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. His claims arose while he was confined at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"). Plaintiff is serving a life sentence for murder, in addition to two 30-year sentences for other offenses. Plaintiff alleges that various Defendants failed to protect him from an assault by other inmates, improperly disciplined him as a result of that assault, and then were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.

Specifically, Plaintiff explains that on February 24, 2012, a gang-related fight broke out among inmates on Menard's West yard (Doc. 1, p. 4). Plaintiff got up to use the phone and was attacked by several inmates who kicked, punched, and stabbed him. He yelled for help, and guards fired warning shots in the air. Defendant Schoenbeck wrote the incident report charging Plaintiff with being involved in "dangerous disturbances," gang activity, and fighting (Doc. 1, p. 37).*fn1 He was found guilty after a hearing, and his punishment included one year in segregation. However, he maintains he was not involved in the fight and that he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time when he was attacked (Doc. 1, p. 5). The basis for the disciplinary committee's decision is that Plaintiff is a "known affiliate of the Black Disciples STG" and that he "self admitted to fighting on the West yard" (Doc. 1, p. 37). Plaintiff's complaint, however, denies both his participation in the fight and his involvement with the Black Disciples, stating he left that gang in 1999. He wrote to Defendant Atchison and an assistant warden, explaining that he had been wrongly punished because he was not involved in the fight, but they did not respond (Doc. 1, p. 5).

On July 7, 2012, Plaintiff visited Defendant Nwaobasi (the Menard doctor) for a check of his stab wounds. Despite Plaintiff's complaint about still experiencing sharp pains where he was stabbed, Defendant Nwaobasi refused to treat him for this ongoing pain (Doc. 1, p. 5).

Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages, and injunctive relief to clear his segregation record (Doc. 1, p. 6).

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is required to conduct a prompt threshold review of the complaint. Accepting Plaintiff's allegations as true, the Court finds that Plaintiff has articulated a colorable claim against Defendants Schoenbeck, Atchison, and the IA (Internal Affairs) Officers for deprivation of a liberty interest (one year in disciplinary segregation) without due process (Count 1), that merits further review. Plaintiff's challenge to the evidence underlying the disciplinary action raises a question as to whether the decision of the disciplinary hearing board has any factual basis. See Webb v. Anderson, 224 F.3d 649 (7th Cir. 2000); Black v. Lane, 22 F.3d 1395, 1402 (7th Cir. 1994). This possible denial of due process, coupled with the length of Plaintiff's disciplinary segregation, indicates that a factual inquiry into the conditions of his segregation may be required. See Marion v. Columbia Corr. Inst., 559 F.3d 693, 697-98 (7th Cir. 2009).

Further, Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Nwaobasi for deliberate indifference to medical needs (Count 2) shall be allowed to proceed. However, the complaint fails to state a constitutional claim for failure to protect Plaintiff from the assault in the yard (Count 3). Therefore, this claim and the remaining Defendants shall be dismissed from the action, for the reasons to follow.

In Count 3, Plaintiff contends that the Unknown Party Defendants in Towers 4, 5, and 16 should have fired shots directly at the inmates who attacked Plaintiff, rather than merely discharging warning shots into the air (Doc. 1, pp. 4-5). Aside from the fact that such an action seems as likely to have injured Plaintiff as to have deterred his attackers, this scenario does not amount to a constitutional violation. Not every harm caused by another inmate translates into constitutional liability for the corrections officers responsible for the prisoner's safety, particularly in the case of a random and unprovoked attack such as Plaintiff describes. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994).

In order for a plaintiff to succeed on a claim for failure to protect, he must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm, and that the defendants acted with "deliberate indifference" to that danger. Id.; Pinkston v. Madry, 440 F.3d 879, 889 (7th Cir. 2006). A plaintiff also must prove that prison officials were aware of a specific, impending, and substantial threat to his safety, often by showing that he complained to prison officials about a specific threat to his safety. Pope v. Shafer, 86 F.3d 90, 92 (7th Cir. 1996). In other words, Defendants had to know that there was a substantial risk that those who attacked Plaintiff would do so, yet failed to take any action. See Sanville v. McCaughtry, 266 F.3d 724, 733-34 (7th Cir. 2001). Furthermore, a defendant's willingness to take affirmative steps aimed at stopping the situation is relevant to whether that defendant showed deliberate indifference. See Guzman v. Sheahan, 495 F.3d 852, 858 (7th Cir. 2007); Shields v. Dart, 664 F.3d 178, 181 (7th Cir. 2011) (defendant "took other steps to intervene by promptly calling for back-up and monitoring the fight from the secure area until other officers arrived").

Under the above precedent, Plaintiff fails to state a claim that the Unknown Party Defendants of Towers 4, 5, and 16 failed to protect him from harm. They took the step of firing warning shots to try to break up the fight, which does not suggest they were deliberately indifferent to his plight. Similarly, he has no claim against Defendant Atchison for "failing to react to the safety problems" when the Unknown Party Defendants did not shoot at his assailants. Count 3 shall be dismissed with prejudice.

Finally, although Plaintiff lists Defendant Lashbrook as a party (Doc. 1, p. 2), he fails to include any allegations against her in the body of his complaint. Plaintiffs are required to associate specific defendants with specific claims, so that defendants are put on notice of the claims brought against them and so they can properly answer the complaint. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). Where a plaintiff has not included a defendant in his statement of the claim, the defendant cannot be said to be adequately put on notice of which claims in the complaint, if any, are directed against her. Furthermore, merely invoking the name of a potential defendant is not sufficient to state a claim against that individual. See Collins v. Kibort, 143 F.3d 331, 334 (7th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, Defendant Lashbrook will be dismissed from this action without prejudice.

Pending Motion

Plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. 3) shall be referred to United States Magistrate Judge ...


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