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Armour v. S. A. Godinez

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

March 10, 2014

DEMETRIUS ARMOUR, #M06329, Plaintiff,
v.
S. A. GODINEZ, RICHARD W. HARRINGTON, SUSAN HILL, J. WITOFF, WALTS, UNKNOWN PARTIES, DR. TROST and WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Demetrius Armour, an inmate who is currently incarcerated at Menard Correctional Center ("Menard"), brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). In the complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was assaulted on March 14, 2013, by several members of the "orange crush tactical team, " a special security team ("SST") at Menard. Plaintiff now sues these unknown defendants ("Defendants SST") for the use of excessive force. He also asserts numerous constitutional and state tort claims against seven other defendants. Plaintiff seeks declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and injunctive relief (Doc. 1, pp. 17-19).

This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, the Court is required to promptly screen prisoner complaints to filter out nonmeritorious claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). The Court is required to dismiss any portion of the complaint that is legally frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or asks for money damages from a defendant who by law is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).

An action or claim is frivolous if "it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). An action fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The claim of entitlement to relief must cross "the line between possibility and plausibility." Id. at 557. Conversely, a complaint is plausible on its face "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although the Court is obligated to accept factual allegations as true, see Smith v. Peters, 631 F.3d 418, 419 (7th Cir. 2011), some factual allegations may be so sketchy or implausible that they fail to provide sufficient notice of a plaintiff's claim. Brooks v. Ross, 578 F.3d 574, 581 (7th Cir. 2009). Additionally, Courts "should not accept as adequate abstract recitations of the elements of a cause of action or conclusory legal statements." Id. At the same time, however, the factual allegations of a pro se complaint are to be liberally construed. See Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009).

The Complaint

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was assaulted by several members of Menard's special security team ("SST") on March 14, 2013 (Doc. 1, pp. 5-8). On that date, SST members escorted Plaintiff and several other inmates to the chapel while their cells were searched (Doc. 1, p. 5). Plaintiff was ordered to walk in line with his head down. He complied with the orders.

While standing outside of the chapel, Plaintiff was approached by an unknown SST member, who repeatedly pushed Plaintiff into the prisoner standing directly in front of him. During this incident, Plaintiff received several blows to the back of his head. Multiple SST members then grabbed Plaintiff by his handcuffs and forced him to walk into the chapel in a forward bent position (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). Once inside, two SST officers forced Plaintiff's head down toward his knees, so that he could not identify his attackers (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff was hit in the rib cage and kicked in the groin. His head was forcefully shoved into Bibles on a bookshelf. A male SST member threatened to sexually assault him. At the same time, Plaintiff could hear another inmate being beaten nearby. Plaintiff's assault ended soon after an officer, who is not named in this action, intervened (Doc. 1, p. 7).

While escorting Plaintiff back to his cell, the SST members continued to make sexually explicit remarks. One officer shoved the tip of his wooden baton into Plaintiff's mouth. Other officers pushed an unknown inmate's face into Plaintiff's rear end (Doc. 1, p. 8). As he entered the west cell house, Defendant Witoff slapped Plaintiff in the face with an open hand six times.

Plaintiff reported the assault to the first officer he saw after returning to his cell. He requested medical attention and a meeting with internal affairs. The officer agreed to get help but never did (Doc. 1, p. 8). Plaintiff did not name this officer as a defendant in the action.

When medical personnel made their rounds that evening, Plaintiff again requested medical care. He was told to submit a sick call request, which he did. The following morning, Plaintiff met with one of Menard's medical providers, Defendant Walts (Doc. 1, p. 9). Defendant Walts gave Plaintiff ibuprofen and a voucher to cover his $5 copay. Plaintiff was treated for a bloodshot eye, an eyebrow abrasion, a sore jaw, sore genitals, and a sore rib cage. When Plaintiff told Defendant Walts how he received the injuries, she became verbally confrontational and was told to leave the area. Before doing so, Defendant Walts stated "[A]t least they didn't kill you, you will survive [sic]."

The remainder of the complaint outlines Plaintiff's efforts to exhaust his administrative remedies within Menard prior to filing this action (Doc. 1, pp. 10-14). Defendant Hill is named in connection with these attempts. In the process, Plaintiff was placed in protective custody on July 29, 2013, while internal affairs investigated the matter (Doc. 1, p. 11). He was denied a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, face/bath towels, and shower for his first nine days in segregation (Doc. 1, p. 12). It is not clear whether Plaintiff has returned to the general population.

Plaintiff now sues Defendant Godinez, the Illinois Department of Corrections' ("IDOC") director, and Defendant Harrington, Menard's warden, for allowing Defendants SST to engage in the routine practice of assaulting inmates without provocation, in violation of the Eighth Amendment (Doc. 1, p. 15). Plaintiff sues Defendants Witoff and SST for using excessive force against him on March 14, 2013, in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Illinois tort laws (Doc. 1, pp. 15, 17). Plaintiff names Defendant Hill for failing to process his March 2013 grievance, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights (Doc. 1, pp. 16-17). Defendant Walts is named for failing to follow proper treatment protocol and for destroying Plaintiff's medical records (Doc. 1, p. 17). Wexford Health Sources, Inc. ("Wexford) and Dr. Trost ("Trost") are named as defendants, based on their failure to implement policies ensuring proper medical care for inmates and their negligent supervision of employees (Doc. 1, p. 16).

Discussion

After reviewing the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the complaint into six counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer of this Court.

Count 1: Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Defendants Godinez, Harrington, Witoff, and SST for the March 14, 2013, assault.

Count 2: Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim arising from Plaintiff's denial of hygiene products for nine days.

Count 3: Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Wexford, Trost, and Walts for displaying deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs.

Count 4: Fourteenth Amendment claim against Defendant Hill for ignoring and/or delaying ...


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