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Woody v. State

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

September 10, 2013

James C. Woody, Plaintiff,
v.
State of Illinois, et al. Defendants.

ORDER

PHILIP G. REINHARD, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, defendant Nedra Chandler's motion to dismiss [62] is granted. She is dismissed as a defendant in Counts I and II. The State of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Corrections are also dismissed as defendants in Counts I and II. The court finds the allegations with respect to the remaining defendant, Jill M. Wahl, insufficient to establish personal involvement under either Count, and thus, dismisses defendant Wahl from Counts I and II. In light of this ruling, plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice. The court grants plaintiff 30 days from the entry of this order to file an amended complaint. If plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint, the court will presume he does not wish to pursue his claims and dismissal will be final.

STATEMENT-OPINION

Plaintiff James C. Woody, an inmate at Dixon Correctional Center, filed a two-count complaint against the State of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Corrections, Nedra Chandler, (the Warden of the Dixon Correctional Center) sued in her official capacity, and Jill M. Wahl, (the Medical Director at Dixon Correctional Center) (collectively "defendants"). Count I of the amended complaint is a deliberate indifference claim under the Eighth Amendment. Count II is a state law claim which alleges defendants are liable because their actions were willful and reckless.

The basis for both claims is defendants' failure to provide Woody a "bottom bunk permit." Amend. Compl. ΒΆ 12. Woody claims he is entitled to such a permit because he suffers from a seizure disorder that periodically causes him to lose consciousness and physical control. He explains that he suffered from the disorder before he entered the Dixon Correctional Center and claims that while he was an inmate at the Madison County Jail in 2008 he received a bottom bunk permit because of the seizure disorder.

Allegedly, when Woody entered the Dixon Correctional Center, he informed the Illinois Department of Corrections and the appropriate personnel at the Dixon Correctional Center of his condition and requested a "bottom bunk permit." Id. Despite this request, Woody was assigned to an upper bunk.

Sometime later, Woody had a seizure while he was on his bunk The seizure caused him to lose consciousness and fall from the upper bunk onto a "stationary steel or wooden object" in his cell. Id. As a result, Woody suffered head injuries, memory loss, and permanent scarring.

Woody contends that defendants' failure to provide him a bottom bunk permit was the proximate cause for his injuries. He claims their failure to provide him this accommodation amounts to a deliberate indifference claim under the Eighth Amendment. Woody also alleges defendants' actions were reckless and willful. In his amended complaint, he seeks over $1, 000, 000.00 in damages.

On June 14, 2013, defendant Nedra Chandler filed a motion to dismiss both Counts against her pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). In the motion, she argues that Woody's claims against her fail because the complaint is void of any allegations which suggest that she was personally involved in the alleged constitutional deprivations. She also contends that the claims are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

On May 28, 2013, the court instructed Woody to respond to Chandler's motion by June 14, 2013. [61]. However, June 14th came and went without a response or a motion requesting additional time. Because of this, on July 23, 2013, the court struck the previous briefing schedule and granted Woody until August 5, 2013 to file a response. [65]. Woody again failed to file a response or otherwise communicate with the court. To date, neither he nor his counsel have communicated with the court at all.

Prior to turning to the merits of Chandler's motion, the court will briefly address the consequences of Woody's failure to respond.

"A plaintiff's failure to respond that delays the litigation can be a basis for dismissal for lack of prosecution." Bolt v. Loy et al., 227 F.3d 854, 856 (7th Cir. 2000). However, prior to dismissal, the court should "warn the plaintiff that [it] is considering the imposition of such a sanction, either explicitly or by making [it] clear that no further extensions of time will be granted." Id.

The court did so here. On July 23, 2013, Magistrate Judge Iain D. Johnston noted that plaintiff missed his initial deadline to file a response and graciously allowed him an additional month to respond. [65]. In the Order, Judge Johnston instructed Woody to notify the court if he did not intend to file a response and explicitly stated that "[n]o further extensions" would be granted. Id.

Pursuant to Bolt, this should have put Woody on notice that failing to respond or otherwise communicate with the court could result in dismissal. Bolt, 227 F.3d at 856. Indeed, other courts in this Circuit have found that a failure to respond to a motion to dismiss amounts to a forfeiture of claims. See Lekas v. Briley, 405 F.3d 602, 614-15 (7th Cir. 2005); see also Dillard v. Chicago State Univ., No. 11-C-3362, 2012 WL 714727 at *2 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 1, 2012) (Darrah, J.). Accordingly, the court could, in its discretion, dismiss Woody's claims without analyzing the merits of Chandler's motion. See County of McHenry v. Ins. Co. of the West, 438 F.3d 813, 818 (7th Cir. 2006) ("[w]hen presented with a motion to ...


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