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Johnson v. Randle

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

October 15, 2013

LARRY M. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL RANDLE, SUZANN BAILEY, S.A. GODINEZ, and RICK HARRINGTON Defendants.

ORDER

STEPHEN C. WILLIAMS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for New Trial filed by Plaintiff Larry Johnson. (Doc. 231), as well as several related Motions. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brought this ยง 1983 suit alleging cruel and usual punishment because impermissible substitutions, reduced portion sizes, and textured vegetable protein (TVP) in his lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet have caused him to lose weight, loss muscle mass, and suffer other symptoms related to his heath and fitness. (Doc. 5). The Court held a jury trial on Plaintiff's claims on March 18-20, 2013. At the close of trial, the jury found in favor of Suzann Bailey and against Plaintiff. (Doc. 217). Defendant Lloyd Hanna was granted judgment as a matter of law on March 19, 2013. (Doc. 214). After a bench trial, the Court found in favor of Defendants S.A. Godinez, Rick Harrington, Suzann Bailey, and Lloyd Hanna in their official capacities as to Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief. (Doc. 223). Plaintiff filed a Motion for a New Trial on April 18, 2013. (Doc. 227). However, he then also timely filed a Supplemental Motion for New Trial on April 26, 2013. (Doc. 31). Therefore, the Court finds Plaintiff's Motion for a New Trial (Doc. 227) MOOT and takes up the Supplemental Motion for a New Trial (Doc. 231) at this time.

Plaintiff's Motion raises multiple grounds for a new trial. Broadly construed they are: 1) Lloyd Hanna was erroneously granted judgment of a matter of law; 2) the court erred in dismissing the damages claims against Bailey and Hanna that pre-dated their admissions; 3) his appointed counsel was ineffective when he permitted Plaintiff to appear in court unwashed and unshaven; 4) appointed counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce the 2005 U.S.D.A. dietary guidelines into evidence; 5) appointed counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce the Menard Correctional Center Food Service Operation Manual into evidence; 6) appointed counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce the Menard Dietary Department Vegan/Lacto-ovo-vegetarian dietary records or question Hanna about them, specifically about how the records reflect that cheese was only served twice out of twenty six times and that Hanna would occasionally delete items, including peanut butter from the menu without substitution, and how Menard served powdered milk instead of skim milk; 7) Plaintiff's appointed counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce his medical records into evidence; 8) Plaintiff's appointed counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce his commissary receipts into evidence; 9) Plaintiff's counsel was ineffective for failure to question Bailey about Dr. Koops: Self Care Advisor, a book that emphasizes the importance of dietary nutrition to preventing health conditions, specifically cataracts; 10) appointed counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce Bowes & Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used into evidence as an authoritative text; and 11) the Court erred in denying Plaintiff's claims for injunctive relief.

Additionally, Plaintiff also filed a Motion to Supplement his Motion for New Trial on May 30, 2013. (Doc. 245). That Motion is GRANTED, although for reasons discussed below, it has little relevance here.

ANALYSIS

As an initial matter, although Plaintiff titled his Motion as one for a New Trial, he also asks the Court to reconsider several judgments entered by the Court itself. Therefore, the Court will also construe Plaintiff's Motion as one under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment

A Motion to Alter or Amend judgment may not advance theories or arguments that could have been made before the district court entered judgment against a party. Anderson v. Flexel, Inc., 47 F.3d 243, 247-48 (7th Cir. 1995). It also cannot seek to introduce evidence that was available at the time judgment was entered. King v. Cooke , 26 F.3d 720, 726 (7th Cir. 1994). Rather, a Motion under Rule 59(e) "must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence." FDIC v. Meyer , 781 F.2d 1260, 1268 (7th Cir. 1986). Essentially, the purpose of Rule 59(e) is to give the district court the opportunity to correct its own errors prior to burdening the appellate court. Russell v. Delco Remy Div. of General Motors Corp. , 51 F.3d 746, 749 (7th Cir. 1995). The district court has complete discretion when deciding a Rule 59(e) motion. Souter v. Int'l Union, United Auto., Aerospace & Agric. Implement Works Of Am., Local 72 , 993 F.2d 595, 599 (7th Cir. 1993).

1. Plaintiff's Claim that Judgment as a Matter of Law was improperly granted to Defendant Hanna

A Court may grant judgment as a matter of law when "a party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial and the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue." Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a). The legal standard for granting judgment as a matter of law is comparable to the summary judgment standard. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods. Inc., 530 U.S. 133 (2000). The Court must therefore construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and refrain from invading the province of the jury by making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (1986); Massey v. Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Ill. , 226 F.3d 922, 924 (7th Cir. 2000).

Plaintiff brought a claim against Hanna based on a theory of deliberate indifference. "A prison official's deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendent." Farmer v. Brannan , 511 U.S. 825, 828 (7th Cir. 1994). This claim has both an objective and subjective component. Roe v. Elyea , 631 F.3d 843, 856-58 (7th Cir. 20011). A successful plaintiff on deliberate indifferences shows that objectively, he suffered a serious deprivation, and that the defendants had a subjectively culpable state of mind at the time of the deprivation. Greeno v. Daley , 414 F.3d 645, 653 (7th Cir. 2005). Like criminal recklessness, the subjective prong requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that the defendants were aware of the plaintiff's serious medical need and were deliberately indifferent to it. King v. Kramer , 680 F.3d 1013, 1018 (7th Cir. 2012)

Here, the Court granted Hanna Judgment in his favor on multiple grounds. The Court considered Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claims under two categories based on 1) caloric intake and 2) the amount of TVP in the Menard diet. As to the caloric intake portion of the claim, the Court found that there was no evidence that Hanna knew that the caloric intake provided to Plaintiff was insufficient. Specifically, the Court found that Hanna relied on Bailey's expertise as a dietician and never performed an independent assessment of the calorie content of the menus. Therefore, the Court's ruling is based on a finding that Hanna did not have the sufficient subjective culpable state of mind with regards to Plaintiff's claim of insufficient caloric intake.

As to Plaintiff's claims against Hanna based on the amount of TVP in the Menard diet, the Court found that Hanna lacked the discretion to set the menus and that his role was limited to making substitutions to the best of his ability. Although there were admissions in the record related to the harmfulness of TVP in "large amounts, " Hanna also testified that he relied on Bailey's expertise as to what amount would be safe. The Court found that this fact went to both subjective mental state, and qualified immunity. The Court found that Hanna lacked a culpable mental state. It also found he was entitled to qualified immunity ...


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