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Reeves v. Doe

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

April 23, 2014

JOHN REEVES, #K-51425, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN KERR, KAREN HEAP, JOHN DOE, and JANE DOE, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.

Plaintiff, an inmate in Robinson Correctional Center ("Robinson"), brings this action pro se for alleged violations of his constitutional rights under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claims that four Robinson medical providers, including Defendants Susan Kerr, Karen Heap, John Doe, and Jane Doe, unlawfully denied him access to the medical yard and provided inadequate medical treatment for his genital warts in 2013 (Doc. 1, pp. 5-9). Plaintiff also claims that Defendants denied him any means of exhausting his administrative remedies prior to filing this action (Doc. 1, p. 8). He now sues Defendants for deliberate indifference to his medical needs, denial of equal protection, and negligence (Doc. 1, pp. 7-8). He seeks monetary damages, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11).

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

Plaintiff's complaint consists of a type-written summary of grievances he filed in 2013. These grievances primarily address two sets of claims. The first set of claims arises from Plaintiff's alleged denial of access to the medical yard in April 2013. The second arises from Plaintiff's treatment for genital warts in September and October 2013.[1] Each is addressed, in turn, below.

1. Medical Yard Access

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was wrongfully denied access to the medical yard and gym because of his race (Doc. 1, p. 6). Plaintiff is an African-American (Doc. 1, p. 7). He underwent heart surgery and now wears a pacemaker (Doc. 1, p. 6). Because of this, Plaintiff alleges that he should be allowed to exercise in the medical gym and yard, which are less crowded alternatives to the regular gym. He was denied the opportunity to do so, despite filing grievances to address this issue on April 10th and 27th.[2]

Plaintiff attributes this to his race. He claims that another inmate, who is Caucasian and has the same medical condition as Plaintiff, is allowed to exercise in the medical yard and/or gym. Still other Caucasian inmates, who have no medical conditions at all, are allowed to do the same. According to the complaint, Caucasian inmates are routinely granted the privilege of exercising in the medical yard, whether they need it or not, based on their race.

2. Genital Warts Treatment

Plaintiff also alleges that he was denied adequate medical treatment for genital warts in September and October (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6, 9). According to the complaint, Plaintiff was seen in Robinson's health care unit ("HCU") on September 19th, September 22nd, and/or October 1st, for treatment of genital warts or "tags" (Doc. 1, pp. 5, 9). A doctor[3] provided Plaintiff with a topical solution for application to the affected area. Plaintiff had no prior experience applying the medication, and he claims that medical staff should have done so. Instead of applying it once each week for six weeks, Plaintiff applied the medication daily for five days (Doc. 1, p. 5). Medical staff provided the medication to Plaintiff each day.

Plaintiff "claims that the medication was an acid and ate away at his skin" (Doc. 1, p. 9). By the fourth day, the "pain was unbearable and the smell was so bad, that the Plaintiff did'nt (sic) want to stay in the room with other inmate[s]" (Doc. 1, p. 5). He describes the pain as "very very intolerable" and claims that he could not move without crying (Doc. 1, p. 6).

The nurses were allegedly "indifferent to his situation" (Doc. 1, p. 5). When Plaintiff complained about the condition, Defendant Kerr would not listen to him. She allegedly slammed the door in his face. When he went to the medical line to request "ABA pads" on September 30th, the nurse told Plaintiff to come back the following morning (Doc. 1, p. 6). Although Plaintiff received a "medical lay-in" from October 1st-15th, he was told that nothing could be done (Doc. 1, p. 9). After October 31st, there was no additional follow up for the condition.

3. Access to Grievance Procedure

Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants acted in concert with one another to deprive him of his ability to exhaust administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit (Doc. 1, p. 8). They did this by processing his grievances as "requests, " which could not be appealed through the administrative channels prior to commencing this action.

Discussion

After carefully considering the allegations, the Court finds it convenient to divide the complaint into five counts. The parties and the Court will use these designations in all future pleadings and orders, ...


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